Buenos Aires isn’t particularly known as a mecca for foodies. When you think of Rome, it’s pizza and pasta; Paris, crepes and baguettes; Madrid, sangria and paella. Some people know that Argentina is known for good steak, but that’s about it.
I was in this same camp until I studied abroad in BA. During my four months there, I was enlightened and got to experience all that the Buenos Aires food scene has to offer, steaks included. If you’re planning a trip to Argentina, don’t miss these spots for some incredible South American cuisine.
Best Quick Empanadas: La Empanadaría
You can’t go more than a few hours in BA without eating an empanada. Empanadas are an uncontested staple of the Argentine diet, which is why it seems like there is an empanada restaurant nearly every block.
What are they? A little dough pocket stuffed with all kinds of fillings from chicken to tomato and cheese, AKA comfort food you can eat on the go. Eat one and it’s the perfect snack, eat three or four and you have yourself a meal. Empanadas are definitely something you will not want to miss and the Empanadaría has some of the very best in the city.
Best Steakhouse or Parrilla: Rio Alba
People inevitably associate Argentina with meat and they have every right to do that. Every kind of meat I had in Buenos Aires was above and beyond any I’ve had in the States. For one of the best of the best, try Rio Alba. With a regal, old-school vibe, Rio Alba takes its meat seriously. So seriously that the US ambassador frequents this place.
The steaks cut like butter and even the chicken is tender and juicy. And don’t forget to get one of their tasty sides like grilled zucchini, because vegetables are important too… right? While eating abroad can definitely be weird, getting comfortable with local classics can help you feel right at home.
Best Health Food: Hierbabuena
The staple foods in Buenos Aires are mostly meat, cheese, and carbs. This is, of course, amazing, but can also be a little rough on the body after a while. Enter Hierbabuena. Located in San Telmo, a hip and trendy part of the city, we wandered into Hierbabuena without even looking at the menu because the outside was so cute and inviting. Offering fresh and healthy salads, sandwiches, and juices, this cuisine was a much-needed detox.
Best Vegetarian: Buenos Aires Verde
In a place notorious for outstanding meat, it’s hard to avoid. But luckily for you vegetarians, there are more and more meat-free options popping up. Think beyond the usual boring vegetarian options of salad and tofu. Buenos Aires Verde offers delicious and creative vegetarian dishes for both lunch and dinner. Check out these other tips on being a vegetarian abroad.
Best Gluten-Free: Sintaxis Palermo
Whether you’re gluten-free by choice or by necessity, there are actually a surprising number of options for you. Buenos Aires is definitely becoming more gluten-free friendly, with new spots ranging from GF bakeries to entire restaurants.
Sintaxis has an extensive menu that includes all kinds of wraps, salads, pastas, and soups, and their desserts are what dreams are made of. Even gluten-lovers are sure to find something they like on this menu.
Best Ice Cream: Tufic
This was a tough one. Buenos Aires has a lot of choices when it comes to Argentine sweets, especially ice cream, but Tufic is my personal favorite. They have all kinds of flavors, both exotic (like dulce de leche cookie and pomelo) and traditional (vanilla, chocolate, coffee, etc.) They also have a bonus section devoted to ice cream cakes. Tufic is the perfect place to stop when that mid-afternoon ice cream craving hits.
Best American-Style Brunch: Magdalena’s Party
This is one of the first places I heard about from locals when I asked about a good brunch place. This cafe turns from club to brunch spot overnight. The omelettes aren’t anything that will blow you away, but everyone comes here for the bottomless mimosas.
Magdalena’s is the perfect place to come if you’re missing that American vibe. Grab a group of friends, sit down (preferably for more than three hours), and feel free to speak English without getting looks from anyone around you because chances are they’re from the States, too.
Best Argentine Brunch: Malvón
Malvón became kind of a Saturday morning (or early afternoon) brunch tradition. It’s a hip cafe where you can order to-go items at the front counter or sit down for a filling and leisurely brunch. Every dish comes with a drink, plus a couple little appetizers to save you from getting too hangry before the main dish comes out.
Malvón has amazing egg dishes, super tasty pastries, and amazing pancakes covered in toppings like berry compote and whipped cream. They also have good coffee, something that is surprisingly hard to find in Buenos Aires.
Best Coffee: Full City Coffee House
Speaking of coffee, it’s a big deal when you find a place that can brew a good cup. Buenos Aires has notoriously bad coffee (unless you’re a diehard fan of instant), so Full City is a hidden gem for coffee aficionados.
Full City is a great place to camp out and study or just chat and people watch. They make Insta-worthy lattes and serve iced coffee, an even rarer rarity in BA. They also have a solid food menu featuring egg dishes and paninis.
Best Asian Fusion: La Causa Nikkei
One of the more trendy new food scenes in Buenos Aires is Japanese-Peruvian fusion. I had no idea what this would entail, but I was intrigued. La Causa Nikkei was rated highly online and by locals, and it definitely did not disappoint. Even the interior of the restaurant is trendy and vibrant and it’s a great place to go with big groups.
Their menu is very fish-heavy, which is hard to find in BA. The sushi rolls, ceviche, and fish and rice bowls will make you forget that Buenos Aires is famous for meat and bread. Bonus: La Causa Nikkei has an extensive and super diverse drink menu.
Best Middle Eastern: Sarkis
If you’re craving hummus, pita bread, baba ganoush, or any other kind of Armenian or Mediterranean cuisine, look no further than Sarkis. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a longer line at a restaurant than I did here, so the key is to get there right when it opens.
A hummus plate with warm pita bread to share is a must and the falafel is super tasty. The food and service seems like a five star restaurant, but the prices say otherwise. A full meal plus leftovers will cost you about $10-12 US dollars.
Best Casual Bar: Esquina Libertad
There may not be anything better than a huge pizza after you’ve had a few drinks. Esquina Libertad not only has super tasty (and cheap) drinks, but their food is delicious as well. No matter what you order, they always bring a complementary bowl of popcorn for the table. They also have a lengthy food menu (a rarity at a bar) that includes all kinds of apps, pizzas, and other foods to eat with your hands.