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 which is traditionally topped with a white sauce, or my personal favorite for the grossest combination, a la Maryland, I’ve never eaten it but I know it has bananas and shoestring potatoes. Cheap, pretty delicious, found almost everywhere – no wonder it’s a staple in the diet of many. Tip: Order it a caballo with a fried egg on top.
Where to go? For the best milanesas in Buenos Aires, you can’t go wrong if you go to Don Ignacio (Rivadavia 3439, Almagro), El Preferido de Palermo (Borges 2108), Albamonte (Corrientes 6735, Chacarita), and El Obrero (Caffarena 64, La Boca). 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? Wine-beer-picada 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, cookies, crackers 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 offer mate table service.
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 food 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), La Brigada (Estados Unidos 465), Don Julio (Guatemala y Gurruchaga, Palermo) are other solid choices if you are looking to get your meat on at traditional restaurants.
Where to go? I can personally blame Jauja (Cerviño 3901) for a 5 pound weight gain. Rapanui (Arenales y Azcuenaga) is also the tops. And so are all of these of my favorite heladerías on my list. If I am trying to be super Argentine, I’ll order dulce de leche, and only dulce de leche (and then I do the most un-Argie thing and sprinkle it with salt). If I’m feeling a bit more adventurous, my top go-to flavors are chocolate suizo o amargo, marroc, frutos del bosque, and perhaps for the wild card, dulce de leche con brownie.