Challenge: To eat as a local Argentine. Consume the most typical porteño fare at the best places to do so. This is my day one rundown including breakfast, lunch, merienda, dinner and dessert. Disclaimer: It’s important to clarify that while most Argies do not eat like this daily, a lot of them still do. Also, this is based on an Argentine boy diet, because as we all know, most Argentine girls don’t actually eat.
*In Buenos Aires, breakfast is not the most important meal of the day since locals rarely eat it.
You can’t just hop into any old café and order medialunas; there is a science behind it. You need the soft doughy inside civilly unioned with the crusty flaky shell. Stale medialunas are a total turn off while warm medialunas are the added boner.
This super common Argentine lunchtime favorite may seem a bit heavy for a midday bite: meat (usually chicken or beef) battered and deep fried. The traditional napolitana has tomato sauce or tomatoes, ham and cheese, but there are many variations, such as in sandwich form, or other versions – like a la suiza (traditionally topped with a white sauce), or you can order it a caballo, with an extra fried egg on top. Cheap, pretty delicious, found almost everywhere – no wonder it’s a staple in the diet of many.
Where to go? For the best milanesas in Buenos Aires, you can’t go wrong if you go to El Preferido de Palermo (Borges 2108), Albamonte (Corrientes 6735, Chacarita), El Timón (Dorrego 1699, Palermo), Don Ignacio (Rivadavia 3439, Almagro). Careful with ordering a milanesa in a shithole, your stomach may hate you for it. Too many times I have gotten a big bite of tasteless and rubbery or pink and raw. Check out Proyecto Napola Tour, a genius of a blog that is on a quest to find the best milanesa napolitana in Buenos Aires.
Merienda: Galletitas and Mate (Cookies + Crackers, Mate tea)
The type of merienda you eat is very telling of what kind of porteño you are. Are you the mate and galletita type? Do you prefer a sweet merienda? Savory merienda? YANQUIS: Wanna know the secret to becoming semi-porteño? Merienda-ing.
Where to go? Put on some flowy, hempy striped genie pants, grab some mate, galletitas and a porro, and head over to Plaza Francia for an earthy merienda eating with the other hipteños (porteño + hippies). While most cafés don’t offer mate in house, Cumaná (Rodriguez Peña 1149, Recoleta) does serve special mate meriendas.
There’s no doubt that locals are serious about their meat and they keep it simple with just some salt, a grill and of course the carne. For a variety of meats, order the parrillada, a plate filled with various cuts. Chimichurri and salsa criolla are pretty much the only condiments allowed to put on top; you will be shunned as a blasphemous loco if you ask for any other sauces.
Where to go? While I might have attackers come stab me with a fork in the forehead if I reveal some of my favorite “secret” barrio parrillas (that really aren’t very secret anymore, but I don’t want to break their foodie trust), I can publicly endorse Parrilla Peña (Rodriguez Peña 682, Recoleta) because I like the old school bodegón neighborhood feel. There is still more Spanish spoken than English at the tables and the meat is always grilled to perfection. I order bife de lomo (tenderloin) and some french fries, and I iz japi. Lo De Paka (Congreso 2011, Belgrano), Pobre Luis (Arribeños 2393, Belgrano), and La Brigada (Estados Unidos 465) are other solid choices if you are looking to get your meat on at traditional restaurants. These may not be the best steaks in Buenos Aires, but still some of the best parrillas.
Where to go? Hands down, the best ice cream in Buenos Aires is from Jauja (Cerviño 3901, Palermo – check site for other locations). What makes it the best helado, I don’t know. But I do know I can personally blame Jauja for a 5 pound weight gain. If I am trying to be super Argentine, I’ll order dulce de leche, and only dulce de leche. If I’m feeling a bit more adventurous, my top 3 go-to flavors are chocolate suizo, frutos del bosque, and perhaps for the wild card, dulce de leche con brownie. My favorite neighborhood BsAs ice cream shop is El Capricci (Paraguay 5502) for the trifecta: chocolate suizo, dulce de leche con brownie and chocolate marroc.