Go beyond the tourist hotspots to discover the vibrant, beating heart of the irresistibly authentic Argentine capital. From chic fine-dining options to historic milongas, these are our top picks…
Cow is king
If you’re of the carnivorous persuasion, you’ve come to right place. Buenos Aires is cheek to jowl with parillas (steakhouses) but, naturally, some are better than others. If you only go to one (a foolish move), Don Julio, La Cabaña (established 1935) and La Cabrera are probably the best traditional spots, while La Carniceria is the very impressive new kid on the block. Not quite as esteemed (but just as good) is La Cabra, which has a lovely outdoor seating area and very reasonable prices. Wherever you go, be brave and order a parrillada mixta – a mixed grill containing offal, sausage (regular and blood), and an array of beef cuts you may or may not have heard of. Argentina is famous for its steaks, but really the nation’s love affair is with the entire cow. Grilled chinculines (small intestines) taste a whole lot better than they sound or look.
Like the sophisticated, cosmopolitan capital it surely is, Buenos Aires does not disappoint on the fine dining front. Of course, preferences are subjective in the rarefied, closed-door market, but Tegui (number 49 in the world), Casa Felix, i Latina (if forced to choose, our top pick: the seven-course tasting menu with wine will blow you away) and Aramburu (molecular gastronomy tucked away in a San Telmo alley) have all thrown their hats in the ring. If you’re looking for something a little different, but no less mouthwatering, Osaka – a Peruvian/Japanese fusion spot with some of the best sushi we’ve ever tried, anywhere – will not disappoint.
Best of the rest
Most Argentine pizzerias are dismal but Siamo nel Forno (try the burrata and prosciutto ball) and Morelia (thin, crispy bases) buck the trend in a big way.
Las Pizarras Bistro doesn’t look like much from the outside but the seasonally-inspired fusion cuisine will blow your mind.
Proper Restaurant has the look and feel of a home kitchen but the inspired tapas menu is anything but. The calamari with cauliflower is superb.
Two to tango
It goes without saying that the birthplace of tango is home to the world’s most atmospheric and storied milongas or tango halls. Milongas are great places to eat, drink and generally be merry – whether or not you’re a dancer. It’s totally OK just to watch (many locals do), but many of the places below offer beginners’ classes if you’re feeling brave.
Club Grisel. Traditional milonga in the middle-class Boedo neighborhood. The (mainly-local) crowd dresses well and takes its tango seriously, but is also accepting of newcomers. Basic food menu, with classes and Milongas Mon – Sat.
La Catedral. Quirky, under-the-radar spot with daily classes and great food. Housed in a renovated grain silo, it’s one of the more laidback (verging on hippy) milongas in town.
Villa Malcolm in the Almagro ’hood is another chilled option with a basic food menu and a great live orchestra. Classes and milongas Mon, Wed & Fri.
Club Almagro. Old club with a decadent but lively ambiance. Infrastructure is basic but the regulars– who range from young to old – all share a passion for tango. Basic food menu, classes and milongas every day.
Sunderland Club in Villa Urquiza (well outside the main tourist areas) has been around since 1919! It’s the place to go on Saturdays (expect exhibitions from famous dancers) but also hosts classes and milongas on Mondays and Wednesdays.
No-one’s quite sure why, but speakeasies are all the rage in Buenos Aires. Featuring hidden doors, secret codes, beautiful people and great cocktails, what’s not to like?
Nicky's Sushi/The Harrison Speakeasy. Theoretically you can't get in without partaking of dinner in the (very good) adjoining sushi restaurant first, but foreigners seem to be exempt.
Florería Atlántico. This hidden gem beneath a florist is one of our personal favorites. Delicious, creative drinks and a super cool vibe.
JW Bradley features a funky entrance (via a little train), cool vibes, good drinks, and fairly awful service!
Franks. Strictly speaking you need a password to get in via the phone booth entrance, but this is nothing some really broken Spanish can’t solve.
Uptown, accessed via a NY-style subway stop, is the hottest speakeasy in town. We’d advise arriving early (before 9.30) to ensure you get in.
Have we convinced you yet? Check out our luxury Buenos Aires tours or speak to a Destination Expert about crafting the bespoke eating, drinking, jiving itinerary of a lifetime.
Credit to Yael Szmulewicz / La Catedral's Facebook page for the cover image of this blog.