I take the subway, two buses, and a sketchy walk around the Veléz Sarsfield fútbol stadium to get to El Ferroviario. Then, down the dark, shady alleyway I go, passing through a parking lot until I make it to an abandoned rail yard directly under a highway ramp. Wafts of asado smoke fill the air, and once I spot the steam locomotive next to a barbecue pit covered in whole pigs and rib racks by the dozen, I know that I have entered serious carnivore terrain.
Argentines would categorize this parrilla in Liniers as popular, a steakhouse for the masses with everything many locals look for in a neighborhood spot: portions are super sized, prices are cheap, service is quick, television sets blast fútbol, and there’s enough meat to put any steak lover in an instant carne coma.
El Ferroviario started as a members-only mess hall buffet for socios and employees of the on-premise Club Ferroviario sports club. The huge space with ham legs, garlic wreaths, disco balls, and Argentine flags hanging from the ceiling was designed for parties and special events, but once they began loading the grills with meat, the crowds flocked by the hundreds and the asado palace of Liniers was born.
It’s the type of place you’d go with a group of friends, an entire soccer team, or the whole familia — tios, primos, and suegros included. The parrilla/bodegón serves the standard fare for its genre: all the grilled meats you can dream of, pastas, empanadas, milanesas, Russian mayo salads… something for the whole Argentine family. Drinks are served by the liter and most tables order a variety of communal grilled meats and sides to share.
I think all of the western provincias of Greater Buenos Aires come to El Ferroviario to celebrate their birthday. Every 30 minutes a mousy version of the “que los cumplas feliz” Happy Birthday Song blares over the loud speaker, and the 325-seat restaurant erupts in applause.
While the inside bustles with the rowdy and ravenous, the outside grills are where the real magic goes down. (Photo: El Ferroviario)
Three different grills abound in every cut of meat imaginable. First, the achuras, or offal, crisping in its designated section — the mollejas (sweetbreads) sizzle with lemon halves on top and chinchulines (chitterlings) dance and curly over the hot embers. Alongside are the sausages – morcilla and chorizo – which are placed in a meticulous vertical grilling line.
The big hunks of steak are plastered in every direction – on the grill, off the grill, on plates, on cutting boards, chewed up in the garbage, and even hanging from the rafters. (Photo by El Ferroviario)
Plus, the animals a la cruz – cooked asador style, like this suckling lil piggy. (Photo by El Ferroviario)
The grill is in full force. Let’s just all say a quick prayer for that pig with its tush in the air dangling over the roaring flames.
The waiters are total professionals. The kind of mozo masters who can memorize a huge table’s order and not write any of it down. They whip around the restaurant, each hand grasping two plates held together by their freakishly strong Thumb War Champion thumbs.
A lot of chinchulines leave a literal shitty taste in your mouth, but these were crunchy, creamy and delightful. The asado ancho ribs (cooked for 3-4 hours) are the house specialty and delivered to the table in a portion fit for a giant caveman. Best meat of my life? No. But a solid rendition.
Prices (in May 2016) stand still in Buenos Aires inflation time. US$12 for a sirloin? I’ll take two! And the Playboy salad as well, kind sir: chicken, hard boiled egg, ham, hearts of palm and pineapple, with extra salsa golf on the side, porfis.
There’s no need to bring your selfie stick here, the in-house photographer goes around the restaurant and takes photos of every table so you can buy the printed memory, which comes in a commemorative El Ferroviario frame. On the weekends live bands perform, because nothing says true Argentine experience like gnawing on a ginormous beef rib while listening to folklore or cumbia en vivo.
Snagging a table at El Ferroviario is a challenge. In fact, it might just be one of the more difficult reservations in the entire city. An enormous dining room means nothing when multiple Argie crews rolling 15 deep come in for a table. And forget the weekends with two hour+ waiting times. Basically calling ahead is essential, just hope they pick up the phone. My advice? Go during the week for lunch or early (or late) for dinner.
Reservistas Argentinos 219, Liniers
Tel. 4644-2360, Reservations HIGHLY recommended
Tues – Sunday, 12pm-4pm, 8pm-12am
Average price: 250 pesos, cash only
What to order: Empanadas, chinchulines, provoleta, chorizo, morcilla, papas provenzal, asado ancho, bife de chorizo, milanesa, flan con dulce de leche