Dining in Buenos Aires & Mendoza
There we were seated at our dimly lit table at lively La Cabrera Restaurant in Buenos Aires. Ozdane and I were eagerly waiting for our dinner to arrive. If you know me then you know I LOVE food. I get excited about eating good food like it’s Christmas morning and that evening was no exception. It was almost as if the waiter had read my mind because when I glanced to my left I saw him gliding through the restaurant towards our table. “This is it,” I thought, “that steak is so ours!” I smiled with excitement at Ozdane who was too busy staring at the food to notice, not that I blame him. Our waiter set both plates down on the table. My steak looked exquisite! It appeared to be cooked to perfection, a gorgeous reddish-brown color with melted blue cheese spread across it like icing on a cake. I quietly thought to myself, “Ozdane has to have food envy right now!” I felt pleased about this outcome because usually the tables are turned and I’m the one with food envy. Just when I was about to pick up my fork and knife to cut into this beauty the waiter beat me to it except he had a spoon in his hand and proceeded to slice up the tender meat with a SPOON! Ozdane and I exchanged looks of confusion. Was he really cutting my steak with a spoon? Yes indeed he was and it seemed to cut like butter. Butter I tell you! Finally it was time to take my first bite and it was absolutely amazing! The tenderness of the steak combined with the rich flavor that exploded in my mouth was heaven to my taste buds. I knew at that precise moment this was the best meal I would have during our time in Buenos Aires.
Go ahead and take a minute to wipe the drool away after reading about that incredible steak experience. I guess if you’re a vegetarian you may be slightly repulsed but please don’t let that stop you from reading on. Each of the restaurants I’m highlighting in this piece about dining in Buenos Aires and Mendoza do have menu options other than steak. In a city like Buenos Aires you can find vegetarian dining, organic restaurants, healthier options and more. So keep that in mind if you have the impression it is a “steak or bust situation!”
Some of the most common things you’ll encounter while dining in Argentina:
- Late night dining – the norm is to eat dinner around 10pm or later so be prepared and don’t fall asleep face down in your steak. One night we literally ate dinner at 12:30am! It’s all just part of the fun experience!
- Parillas – grill in Spanish. This is part of the reason the steak tastes so amazing!
- Empanadas – stuffed pastries filled with chicken or beef or another type of filling. Some include onion, boiled egg, olives or raisin depending on the region.
- Dulce de leche – thick, creamy caramel-like milk based sauce or spread. Yummy over ice cream!
- Mate – an infused tea drink very distinct in flavor you drink from a metal straw.
- Malbec – every restaurant you go to will have a wonderful selection of Malbec, the red wine Argentina is known for.
I’ll admit not every, single meal we had during our trip was phenomenal but I definitely had more positive experiences than not. There is a plethora of dining choices in Buenos Aires like you have in any big city catering to tourists. We mostly went on recommendations from the rental agency we used for our house while in BA and also the amazing staff at the Mine Boutique Hotel. On a few occasions we did just pop into whatever looked good and enjoyed our choices. It can be overwhelming to decide where to eat when you’re visiting somewhere new. I tend to lean towards going on recommendations of where to go and Ozdane prefers spontaneity of just trying out somewhere that looks good at times. It makes for a good balance when we travel.
I’ve put together a list of my top three picks for dinner in Buenos Aires based off our experience and also some fabulous lunch spots. I’ve thrown in a couple of restaurants we enjoyed in Mendoza also. Keeping it short and sweet I’ve highlighted the five things to note about each place.
1. La Cabrera, Palermo Viejo (No surprise this is at the top of my list is it?)
- Hands down the best steak of the trip in my humble opinion!
- Large dinner portions
- Fun and lively yet cozy ambience at the same time
- Silver cow platter and a bottle of wine on your table when you sit down. Who doesn’t love a cow platter?
- You get lollipops after dessert. The waiter brings a “lollipop tree” to your table and you choose your own. Clever isn’t it?
- Takes second place in my book as a runner-up for best steak in Buenos Aires! Asado al Horno de Barro was magnificent!
- Generous size portions
- Trendy, swanky lounge vibe with a mostly white décor
- Cotton candy for the entire table to share for dessert on the house!
- Lounge area to enjoy cocktails and music
- Winner of third place for best steak for me!
- Good portion size and authentic Argentinian cuisine
- Fun, lively atmosphere without the frills. Great for groups!
- Long wait BUT the very friendly host kept our champagne glasses full while we waited – champers on the house!
- Extensive wine selection. We enjoyed our first Malbec of the trip at Don Julio’s.
- Both lunch and dinner were good
- Open-air restaurant, bit of a trendy scene but still had a chilled out quality to it.
- Great spot for cocktails too!
- Mixed cuisine including Western and local
- Perfect place to relax after hitting the boutique shops in Palermo Soho.
- Another prime lunch spot for couples or groups
- Lovely inside dining space and courtyard area
- Excellent menu with some delicious pasta dishes
- Centrally located in Palermo Soho
- Incredible dessert. Take a look at the photo below!
1. Azafran Restaurant, Mendoza city
- Warm and intimate ambience. Very creative décor.
- Wine cellar in the restaurant where you walk over and select your wine instead of picking from a wine list. Thought this was a clever way to do it!
- Very creative dishes in good portion size
- Camembert cheese in philo dough with figs and caramelized onions was an amazing starter.
- Pork tenderloin with blueberry and Malbec sauce was to die for! One of my very few non-steak meals.
2. Siete Cocinas, Mendoza city
- Argentinian food from seven different regions of the country highlighted on the menu hence the name “Siete Cocinas,” Seven Kitchens.
- Variety on menu from various parts of the country. Steak, sweetbreads, ravioli, risotto, pork and more.
- HUGE portions
- Very pleasant and welcome setting with attentive service
- Extensive list of teas from the various regions of Argentina
If you take a trip to Buenos Aires and/or Mendoza I hope this list comes in handy to give you some ideas of where to dine. Like I mentioned before if the staff is helpful and friendly where you’re staying they should be able to point you in the right direction. On the other hand you may choose to be more adventurous and ask a local or just pop into a place along the street. Whatever you do you must try a steak in Argentina at least once! If you don’t try one it would be like going to America for the first time and not eating a hot dog or going to Australia and not having a meat pie or visiting Tokyo and not trying sushi. In other words you just have to do it!
Do you have favorite restaurants you’ve been to in Buenos Aires or Mendoza? It’s always nice to add to the list please feel free to share!
I wish I could live inside your blog. The places you see, and meals you eat, are enough to satisfy me for an eternity.
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