The Best Buenos Aires Food Experiences
It is getting to be crunch time for our move to Italy, so I've asked some lovely ladies based all around the globe to share their travels with us over the next few weeks! Every Monday until mid-July, I'll have a travel writer/blogger/tour guide extraordinaire share an awesome destination with us. I'm super excited about these destinations and I hope you will be too!
This Monday I'm happy to host Allison Yates, a freelance travel writer. Allison has lived all over the world including in Spain, Australia, and Argentina! Today, Allison has shared her tips on where to eat in Buenos Aires -- I'm seriously drooling over the article and food pictures!
Buenos Aires, Argentina’s capital, has long been considered the ‘Paris of South America’ (though locals are beginning to tire of this comparison). A bursting urban center with a population of almost 3 million, the city rests on the banks of the Rio de la Plata. A city of neighborhoods, it also has 9 de Julio, an avenue that stretches as wide as 14 lanes, and stunning gardens, parks and plazas. Unlike many South American capitals, Buenos Aires lacks the distinctive Spanish colonial architecture: during Spanish colonization, it was a forsaken port with high taxes, much to the chagrin of local traders. As such, porteños, as the people of Buenos Aires are referred to, identified more with the French Revolutionaries than their colonial government.
The effects of the shift from Spain to France can still be seen today, mostly in the city’s characteristically French architecture and vision towards Europe. Buenos Aires experienced several waves of European immigration, most notably Italian, which gives Argentine Spanish its unique intonation and rhythm.
Some Argentines notoriously consider themselves foreigners in South America –- their immigration patterns, culinary tendencies and habits are seen as more European than Latino –- but this mentality has been slowly changing for many years.
When it comes to eating in this highly multicultural city, travelers can find everything from Korean barbecue to Peruvian ceviche and Colombian arepas, as well as a strong café culture. Weekends are filled with organic markets and food festivals. Buenos Aires may be the beef capital of South America, but there is an increasing demand for health-conscious foods, so vegetarians and vegans shouldn’t fear.
Even so, many of my favorite food experiences are the unhealthiest, greasiest and most meat-centric the country has to offer. When I lived in Buenos Aires as an exchange student, I indulged in so many of their irresistible dishes that I ended up gaining ten pounds. It was worth it.
Picking my favorite food experiences was a challenge, but amidst the sizzling asados, robust red wine and tooth-achingly sweet dulce de leche, there are some foods that taste like the city. I bite into a choripan and I can hear cumbia music. I can make empanadas and feel like I’m 20 years old, studying for an exam with the balcony door open, distracted by the honking horns and loud radios on the street below.
As travelers, it’s hard to separate nostalgia from the flavors we grew to love. The following on the short list isn’t exhaustive, but these experiences taste like Buenos Aires.
Get Greasy with Choripan
The word choripan is a combination of chorizo, the sausage and the Spanish word for bread, pan. Choripan is a chorizo sandwich, accompanied by chimichurri (an oily sauce of cilantro, parsley and oregano that doubles as a marinade) or salsa criolla (chopped onions, red peppers and tomatos in olive oil). It’s greasy, fatty, accessible and terribly cheap. That’s a bad combination.
The best place to buy a choripan is at a parilla, or grills found on many street corners. It’s best eaten on the street while drinking a Quilmes beer and talking to strangers.
Stuff Yourself with Milanesa Napolitana
The Milanesa napolitana is essentially a version of the Italian chicken parmigiana or Australian parma/parmi. Thin slices of meat (either chicken or veal) covered in bread crumbs, topped with red sauce, melted cheese and a slice of ham, this dish will leave you bursting full. Often served with fries or a side salad consisting of lettuce, tomato, onion and sometimes carrot, squeeze the provided lemon over the dish for contrast.
You can find Milanesas napolitanas at almost any classic Argentine bar –- and by ‘bar,’ I mean a café or bistro, not just our concept of bar as an alcohol vendor. Try a bar along the Microcentro’s Corrientes Avenue. If you’re looking for the experience rather than authenticity or quality, try the chain El Club de las Milanesas, whose menu lists a series of Milanesa variations, including la napolitana.
Try to Eat as Many Empanadas as You Can
Empanadas are everything. Each region has it’s take on the empanada. You can eat empanadas filled with ground beef, cheese and onion, chicken, tuna and more. A snack or starter, they were always on my dinner table like a basket of bread. Smaller than other Latin American varieties, the Argentine empanadas can be fried or baked, and the crusts have different patterns: often, they are codes to signify the filling. For example, if the empanada’s edges are like a braid, it is filled with ground beef. If it’s twisted like it has two arms, it’s filled with cheese and onion.
The renowned Buenos Aires food blog Pick Up The Fork has an ultimate empanadas guide, but my favorite place to eat them was the chain La Continental, where I embarrassingly used to eat almost daily (there’s something so tempting about delivery to your door).
Visit a Bar Notable
Bares Notables are designated as having cultural or historical importance to the city of Buenos Aires. At these bars, literary giants, political legends or great personalities met and debated. These bares are elaborately decorated with wood panels, signs written in the fileteado style, and marble counters. You’ll see elderly men in suits and professional waiters.
Here, you can drink a café con leche (or a cortado, lágrima, americano. Read this guide for how to order the coffee you want) and read a newspaper, journal, or simply people watch. The bars have a wide selection of classic desserts. Make sure to try the most famous, the alfajor (pronounced al-fa-WHORE [emphasis on last syllable]. I know, it took me a while to say it correctly) essentially, a cookie sandwich.
Pick Which Fernet Team You’re On
This isn’t a food experience, but you can’t leave Buenos Aires without trying this (as long as you consume alcohol, of course). Fernet Branca, the Italian herbal liquor, is one of the most popular alcoholic drinks consumed in the city. In Buenos Aires, people at boliches, or clubs, drink Fernet con coca. You hate or you love it (I think it tastes like gasoline), but there is nothing that feel more Buenos Aires than this sour taste in your mouth.
Going to Buenos Aires?
Get the insider’s advice on food, markets, restaurants and all things food in Buenos Aires on writer Annie Bacher’s tiny letter, What Are You Eating This Weekend?
Read Buenos Aires foodie legend’s blog Pick Up The Fork for restaurant reviews, food explanations and mouth-watering photos and videos of food.
The Bubble is an English language publication about Argentine life and politics, and also covers food.
For cultural events around the city, visit the government’s page Disfrutemos BA for listings of theatres and music.