5 Best Lunch Spots in Microcentro
Article by Kevin Vaughn, owner and head chef of the Mexican supper club MASA.
There is something about having to walk around Microcentro on a weekday that makes me wish for a second bubonic plague. There are people everywhere. And we are all trying to transit the same foot wide slab of sidewalk while attempting to frogger our way around men that want to sell you socks or the stank of a freshly lit cigarette cloud blown directly into your mouth. The architecture is cool, I’ll give it that, but there is cool architecture all over the city so yeah, I hate Microcentro.
But to my great misfortune, the last two months I’ve been shuffling around Downtown while I try to get my visa and DNI in order and also help a friend get some documents apostilled. Sidenote, if you have a friend that is willing to sit in the hot mess they call the Ministerio del Interior for two hours to get a piece of paper stamped in a record 3.4 seconds and the only words that the lady utters at you is ¿quién sigue? you keep that friend forever. These various tramites were rewarded with food, my general band aid for all things bad or annoying. You can judge my level of irritability based on my food choices.
DOGG – San Martin 657
Woke up to a torrential rainstorm but I decided to power through and go get my fingerprints taken anyway. Arrive early to a nearly empty office (porteños hibernate when it rains) and am told that my appointment was actually the day before. I try to kindly debate with the man that there is no one waiting in line – an Argentine miracle – but me. No luck.
I can’t think of many things that are more uncomfortable than a kiosco pancho. Flaccid weiner puns aside, is anyone else disturbed by how soft they are? After sitting in water for the better half of a week you could cut one with a weathered wooden spoon. And the cotton ball bread doesn’t help alleviate the confusing texture situation either.
When I was first told about DOGG it sounded like major fruta. I’ve tried salchicas alemanas from even my most trusted carnicerias and always end up feeling lied to and abused. This is the real deal. An all beef hot dog made in house, grilled on the parilla and nestled in delicious homemade buns with your choice of three condiments and a wall of sauces from all over the world. Add fries and a lemonade and at 60 pesos this is easily the cheapest lunch you’re going to find in the zona. I used to tell myself I’d try different combos but I have accepted my fate and am comfortable with condimenting my dog with chili, nacho cheese and pickles every single time. Add some Louisiana Hot Sauce, or Tapatio, or oh my god I actually put Valentina hot sauce on one time, and you’ve got the perfect little lunch.
Murasaki – Viamonte 500
Another torrential rain storm. The subway smells like mildew and is delayed and I also got off one stop after my connection from the A to the C. I arrived a half hour late to my appointment and have to ask the guy to ‘please for the love of god don’t make me go home and make another appointment for a month from now.’ The entire system is down at migraciones and it takes four hours to be called while an old woman from Barcelona complains about everything to anyone within earshot. It’s the birthday of the lady who helped me and I told her that’s probably why she was glowing, she smiles and is nice to me and compliments my excellent spanish and (not so) casually flirts with me. Besides severe boredom, not a horrible afternoon and I’m told my DNI will be mailed to me (fingers crossed).
My feet were soppy from the rain and the pollen and dust in the air were making my sinuses act up. To warm myself up, I walked the 10 blocks to Murasaki for a bowl of ramen. I’d passed by Murasaki on a number of occasions and every single time I felt a bit sceptical. The pricing is on the higher end of the scale and I wasn’t ready to shell out a crisp 100 for lackluster teriyaki. That was until I walked by one day and saw a large group of very happy looking Japanese businessmen walk out of the front door. Done.
The ramen here was legit. I ordered the ramen picante and was warned that it was going to be spicy. Of course I didn’t believe them but I spent the next twenty minutes wiping my forehead and giving the thumbs up to the waiter who seemed a bit worried for me. The soup was a deep brownish red and had an intensity that warmed me right up. You can also choose from teriyaki, fried noodles or rice, and a smattering of sushi and nigiri which you can order by the roll or by individual piece. Además the service is super friendly and the owner was able to answer my annoying questions about all the different dishes.
180 Burger Bar – Suipacha 749
Got stuck in the instagram rabbit hole and mistakenly rushed myself off the bus at the wrong plaza, walked five blocks in the opposite direction and missed the 12:30 cut off to have my documents apostilled and returned in the same day. Guy tells me I forgot to sign the dotted line and instead of lending me his pen that is resting an inch from his stupid fat hands he tells me to find one and get back in line.
I needed a giant juicy burger with fries and a coke to forget everything and start my day fresh. 180 Burger Bar is a tiny space that only makes burgers, and they make them your way. You order the basic patty that comes with lettuce and tomato (there is also a veggie quinoa version) and add your choice of sauce and additional toppings for 5 pesos each. Choosing the sauce was difficult because it dictates the rest of what goes on the burger. Both the tzatziki and mayochimi were tempting, as was the barbacoa, but I decided on the salsa brava because I’m a yanqui and predictable and so of course I’m going to choose the hot sauce. The sauce had a decent kick to it but was definitely meant for the local heat palette, as evidenced by the rest of the menu. The topping options reminded me of a slightly more generous version of a costanera chori stand; think fried egg, provolone and ham. They are simple homey ingredients that will make even the pickiest of Argentines feel comfortable – I’m talking to the homies that go to Burger Joint and only order the basic bitch hamburguesa clásica ie lettuce, tomato and cheese. I threw pancetta, cheddar and grilled onions on mine. It was a juicy mess and it was glorious. The homemade bread was soft and slightly spongy. The fries were crispy. And the 180 grams (or nearly half a pound) of beef made the walk to the subway slightly uncomfortable but worth every single bite.
Green Curry – Tucumán 271
No more torrential rainstorms just that wonderful Buenos Aires humidity. Today was the day that I went to the Ministerio del Interior to legalize some school documents. I plan to go in the morning to rip the band-aid off as quickly as possible but a dinner with too much fernet the night before nips that in the butt real quick. So I arrive, right at noon which is clearly the best time because it’s when everyone goes on their lunch break and heads in to do their tramites. I pick my number – 842 – and check the ticker which is sitting pretty at 543, because there are that many people waiting and that few people helping that it doesn’t just start over at 100. Not a good sign. The room felt like an Ellis Island lice check. Everyone crammed into uncomfortable metal chairs looking absolutely miserable, impromptu paper fans waving, each person desperately hoping the one hundred people in front of them have given up all hope and left. It takes me about an hour and a half, and did I mention my Kindle ran out of battery?
Green Curry is my nostalgia center. It was the first good restaurant I found in Microcentro before it blossomed into a fast food (I use that term lightly) mecca that rivals some of the best quick eateries in Soho. With most of my regular places I have a hard time not ordering the same thing over and over again, but with Green Curry I struggle every time to decide. Shrimp Curry? Salmon Wrap? Korean Chicken Salad? Or one of their daily specials, like today’s Thai Curry Meatballs? It’s all too damn delicious to choose. I feel particular to the Korean Chicken and impress the owner when I ask if it’s made with gochujang chile paste. Mood lifted. Pro-tip: Nearby Thaisu (Paraguay 406) has a pretty killer Banh Mi Sandwich as well as a menu filled with other Thai food and Sushi dishes.
Latino Sandwich – Tacuari 185
Final tramite at the Apostille office is finally here and all it takes is my ticket to pick it up. No lines. No more fat fingered man with their special pens. I hand him the slip, and he hands it back. In a moment I’m feeling flushed and tingly. I skip up the stairs and launch out of that office like I’m in a Mika music video almost tempted to yell “You are beautiful!” at the door attendant. It’s a nice day out and I feel like walking and dancing and smiling at everyone I cross because I’M FINALLY DONE!
What began as a kiosco that sold little viandas has blossomed into one of the must have lunch stops for any Microcentro-er. The menu is big and reasonably priced – there are still options that border on $40 that actually leave you satisfied. This was my first visit and between the upbeat songs flowing through my head and the sheer joy of not having to go back to migraciones again I was completely overwhelmed.
It is called Latino Sandwich for a reason so I decided to hone in on the 6 sandwich choices – but my lord, between the BLT, the chicken grilled cheese, the pulled pork bbq and the fried chicken sandwich it wasn’t easy. I decided on the Club Sandwich because I am spoiled and make pulled pork and fried chicken on the regular but a good old chicken and pancetta sandwich sounded decadent. I continued to crazily smile throughout the entire meal and have vowed to return and try every single sandwich.