The food of Buenos Aires is hearty, heavy on the animal proteins and patatas, and light on anything you might like to consider a vegetable. It seems that the most common restaurant type is the parilla, which range from very casual and raucous, with chalkboard menus, to elegant palaces of beef with punctilious service.
A wonderful appetizer to try at a parilla is the provoleta, a disk of rich provolone cheese basted with oregano and other spices, and thrown on the grill until it just begins to melt. We tried this many times, and it was done with varying levels of success. El Obrero's was the best.
Just look at that perfectly crisp crust. Mmm, gooey center...
After that, we usually had a plate of achuras. I went into more detail about these in the Mendoza post (LINK), but they pretty much always consisted of riñones (kidney), chinchulines (small intestine) and mollejas (sweetbreads). Don Julio did achuras very well.
Then, the meat! And a side dish of potatoes, of course. Here we have bife de chorizo and papas españoles.
If you're in Argentina, though, you have to try the costillas, or ribs - they're sliced thin across the bone and cooked quickly, a preparation I've never seen before. The meat can be very chewy but is extremely flavorful.
Another really traditional snack in BA is a slice of pizza topped with a slice of faína, a chickpea pancake familiar to us from Liguria, where it's called farinata (here's a writeup of our 2006 visit). Here is where Buenos Aires's large Italian community makes itself felt. We liked the faína atop a slice of fugazza or fugazzetta, a thick pizza topped with lots and lots of onions. Washed down with a glass of moscato, this made for a very tasty lunch!
Of course, if you're still hungry you can always order yourself a pizza; here's a fairly common combination, with ham and cheese and green olives and hearts of palm… and salsa golf. This was surprisingly good - we'd ordered for the shock value and hilarity and ended up actually kinda enjoying it. Odd.
If you want to try this, or maybe just the fugazza and faína, definitely head to the centro to El Cuartito. We'd heard their empanadas were great; perhaps I was just empanada-ed out, because they didn't seem like anything special. But those were some darn fine examples of Argentine pizza!
Speaking of hilarity and shock value, this is what happens when you order a snack platter at teatime at Salon de Té La Biela… we ate dinner extremely late that night.
Luckily for us, Buenos Aires is a very late-night town; showing up for dinner at most places at 11 PM, even on a weeknight, is not considered outre. And there are lots of lovely places for pre- or post-dinner drinks; we enjoyed Home Hotel's bar and their inventive beverages - we hadn't been in a cocktail culture (with the exception of Fernet & Coke) since Lima's pisco sours!
And then there's Frank's, the crazy fun speakeasy-style joint where you walk in an unmarked door, enter a code into a phone booth inside, then push your way through the back wall into a ritzy '20's style bar with plush upholstery and cocktails ranging from the classic to the fanciful. (My only complaint would be that many of them are served in huge stemless wineglasses and are heavy on the ice, probably to make the drink look less lost in the bottom of these bowls.)
When we weren't able to finish our enormous steaks, they came home with us and were magically transformed by Husbear's wiles into… BREAKFAST! Turns out Argentina is also really into polenta, so that plus steak plus a golden egg made a quite fine morning.
Logan even bent under constant wifely pressure and made me biscuits and gravy, without the help of a measuring spoon or being entirely certain whether what we had was baking powder or baking soda! Oh, happy day!
We're still in the south- just the way south.
So, now that I've tempted you with the food and the culture of Buenos Aires… who wants to go in on an apartment with us? Mmmm?
Seriously, email me.