Top 15 Favorite Things I Ate & Drank in 2015
In years past, what excited me most about going home for Christmas was the eating (I love you, Mom). It became a ritual. Somewhere around September or October I’d begin working out again – not because of the approaching bathing suit season but more so to drop the five pounds I knew I was going to gain at home during a month of unbridled face stuffing and beer chugging. I’d purchase my flight carefully making sure I didn’t land too early in the morning so that we didn’t have to wait in the parking lot of the In N Out before they opened at 10:30am. My mom would get a food and liquor list a week before my arrival, and instructions to have my favorite cookies ready for the car ride.
But as I look back at my year of eating in 2015, the desperation to stuff myself with food and booze for an 11 month hibernation has almost completely disappeared. Buenos Aires, you’ve truly stepped up your food game, and 2015 has been an amazing year for my like minded gordis. From farm-to-table restaurants to an explosion of craft beer to the ‘modernization’ of porteño staples and fast food joints, here is my list of the best things I have eaten and drunk this year.
Pizza a la parrilla at 1893
Av. Scalabrini Ortiz 701, Villa Crespo
photo provided by 1893 Facebook
The Restaurant: There are few places in this city where porteños wait for a table, hanging around (semi) patiently for a spot. It is a risky move within a food culture that celebrates hours long meals with conversation that meanders long after the last drip of wine has been gulped. This is one of those places, and for good reason – so good that 1893 single handedly dictated the decision to list my favorite food of 2015 rather than my favorite new restaurants of 2015. Danilo Ferraz, the restaurants founder and self-proclaimed party animal, lunatic and vago opened this “simple bodegon” in 1994 on the same day Argentina was knocked out of the world cup. A losing day for fútbol, but a winning day for pizza – you can’t win them all. Twenty years later, and 1893 has perfected their paper thin and wonderfully crunchy grilled pizzas.
The Onda: Palermo decoration, Villa Crespo attitude.
The Gente: Pizza fanatics, pizza lovers who couldn’t get a reservation at Siamo nel forno, pizza lovers that don’t feel like trekking it to La Más Querida, pizza lovers that don’t want enough cheese to feed an entire province on a single slice of pie.
The Must-Have Platos: This is one of those restaurants that once you find a favorite, it’s hard to leave the bubble. The pesto pizza and pepperoni with pepperoncini are all I’ve tried, and probably all I ever will try – because why the hell is there not more pesto, pepperoni and pepperoncini in this city?
The Chili Chutney Burger at La Cresta
Bolivar 865, San Telmo; Bulnes 829, Almagro
The Restaurant: This tiny little take-out joint has long been an Almagro staple, as it was the only place to bring solid take-out to the neighborhood. Long gone are the days of eating your wraps on the sidewalk cause waiting until you get home gives you alta paja – granted you probably already waited forever (not really) to get your order because of an infinite line of people crowding at the door – as this last year La Cresta opened up a larger location in San Telmo. With the new local came a bigger menu, and the reason that La Cresta figures on this list: the Chili Chutney Burger. The best burger in San Telmo, and possibly the best in the city – only rivaled by Perez-H’s criolla especial (hamburger meat mixed with morcilla and chorizo, o tipo droolcentral) and la jamaica at Burger Joint.
The Onda: In Almagro, teeny take-out spot, overcrowded and humid and worth every bit of it. San Telmo, next level fast food joint.
The Gente: In Almagro, super excited neighborhood folk. In San Telmo, super excited neighborhood folk, folks with the munchies, folks with little shame and lots of appetite.
The Must-Have Platos: Go ahead and sing until the cows come home about the wraps (they’re awesome), but seriously, the big boy on campus is the Chili Chutney. Read it: guac, mango and passionfruit chutney, cilantro, hot sauce, cheddar, meat (obviously), and super fluffy toasted bun. SHABAM.
Molecular Ice Cream at Guilab
[Hopefully] coming to a food fair near you, somewhere in Capital
The Restaurant: Chemistry and phatties combine at Guilab Ice Cream Laboratory, a pop-up ice cream truck and catering company founded by chef and ice cream scientist for hire Diego Guillén. Guilab is a full sensory experience – from the lab coat, gloves and glasses to the rattling sounds of a churning mixer to the nitrogen smoke that bellies over the into the crowd as your ice cream is made in front of you. Guillab and his team are bringing new depths to a food that defines Buenos Aires dessert, with a product that tastes fresh – an adjective not commonly used to describe ice cream.
The Onda: It’s a food truck.
The Gente: People who go to food fairs and instagram about it.
The Must-Have Platos: All of it.
Bondiola Sandwich at A completely random parrilla in San Telmo
Carlos Calvo 284 (I think) next to the Danish Church (this I know), San Telmo
The Restaurant: I’m mostly guessing the street number, and I don’t even know what the name of this place is. To be fair, I really don’t think this place has a name, and I’ve done my research (everything except asking the owners). As far as google, yelp and guiaoleo are concerned, I might as well be recommending you walk into some weird old dudes wardrobe and order a sandwich from a centaur. But hear me out. It was a day like any other, April 25th at 2:10pm to be exact when I ate what would become the best bondiola sandwich I’ve ever shoved into this food receptacle I call a mouth. And I wasn’t even drunk, that happened afterwards. If you think you’ve found the best sandwich the Costanera can offer, let me tell you my friend, YOU HAVEN’T LIVED. And here you can even order fries with your sandwich instead of having to go to two different stands! This family run absolute hole-in-the-wall is so tiny you wouldn’t bother to look up from your engrossing whatsapp conversation as you passed. But seriously, next time someone drags you to the Sunday fair, drag them here.
The Onda: Like every other neighborhood parrilla in this country, a meh looking place that looks acceptable enough to sit and eat.
The Gente: Locals who know what the hell is up.
The Must-Have Platos: Were you not paying attention? Get the sandwich de bondiola, papa! And ignore the weird side eye when you ask them to put both the chimi and the criolla on it!
All the fish at La Mar Cebicheria
Arévalo 2024, Palermo Hollywood
The Restaurant: When Astrid & Gastón closed its doors in Buenos Aires back in 2013, foodies across the city shed a tear and said a little prayer to the gordo demi-gods (what’s good, Ms. Childs). The return of a Gastón Acurio restaurant to a porteño kitchen was long awaited with the opening of La Mar Cebicheria earlier this year. Acurio isn’t any ole chef and restauranteur, he is a Peruvian food institution. His restaurants are situated all over the world, with nine chains that stuff bellies across three different continents. La Mar seeks to recreate traditional Peruvian seafood dishes with a flair for the gourmet and attention to choosing locally sourced, fresh ingredients. The result is a mixture of formal and street, with not so fancy ideas like a whole fish battered and deep fried served on designer dishes by an attentive and knowledgeable staff.
The Onda: A restaurant that can only exist within the small confines of Palermo Hollywood. An early 20th century mansion decadently decorated in bright blues and greens with fresh fish sitting in ice at the middle of the bar to pay homage to the beaches that flank the Peruvian capital.
The Gente: We’re far from the impromptu guitar solos, running children and candy salesman of Abasto. Due to its location and price point, expect to rub elbows with the local elite and trendy food lovers with deep pockets.
The Must-Have Platos: There is something so deliciously silly about ordering a deep fried whole fish, the pescado entero nikkei is the fish of the day battered and fried in a special nikkei sauce. The fish is delicate on the inside, with a wonderful crunch on the outside. I’m a sucker for arroz chaufa. Go for the chaufa aeropuerto, fried rice topped with egg and shrimp. Obviously you have to get some ceviches, the clásico both on the cebiche and tiraditos menus are classics for a reason.
The daily special at Vinotinto
Julian Alvarez 1602, Palermo
The Restaurant: Bars with a few stools each flank two walls of this triangular corner rotisseria. To call it a rotisseria – take-out place – is a grave injustice. Venezuelan born Moises Dagüi originally opened Vinotinto after years of working in kitchens in the US, Italy and Buenos Aires. It was never meant to open to the public, instead it functioned as a kitchen for his catering company. Neighbors took notice and asked him to open for walk-ins, and so now this minuscule space that seats 8 diners brings us one step closer to turning fast food into a gourmet encounter. Food is served quickly, but technique has not been lost on Dagüi and his small team who offer a handful of seasonal dishes and a main dishes that change daily and always seem to be tastier than the last.
The Onda: Compact, with just a few seats and lots of traffic expect a crowded but familial feeling lunch.
The Gente: Very happy locals that finally can grab something besides a milanga con fritas for lunch.
The Must-Have Platos: The menu changes daily, and it seems like each special is better than the last. Cross your damn fingers that the albondigón de cerdo is on the menu – ground pork on a skewer stick served with yogurt sauce and a fresh side salad, and maybe a touch of peanut butter somewhere – Dagüi is full of surprises.
Comfort food and tereré cocktails at Shout
Maipú 981, Retiro
The Restaurant: Long before opening the best thing to happen to Microcentro nightlife (rest in peace Le Bar, my sweet prince), Sebastián Maggi and Santiago Lambardi were already making waves in the Buenos Aires cocktail world. The two have been slanging drinks at the Pony Bar, Osaka, Sucre and Elena for nearly a decade. SHOUT brings together the best of all those experiences, and represents the exciting maturity of a burgeoning bar and restaurant scene. There is not an ounce of pretension in this trendy interior, where you can sit at the bar and gander into the open kitchen space where a dozen chefs work quickly to feed three stories worth of guests. Dishes are deceptively simple with a menu of mostly chargrilled fishes, beefs and porks and few seasonal specials; nearly all the dishes leave you with a taste you can’t quite put your finger on because of sneaky extra ingredients like camembert, fresh fruits or homemade sauerkraut.
The Onda: High style, low pretension.
The Gente: All of them. After office suits, couples, old and young, people overjoyed that there is something cool to do in Microcentro.
The Must-Have Platos: The tereré cocktail the boys introduced at Pony Bar is here and better than ever. Try the Malandra, tereré with pu-erh tea and hibiscus served in a tiki cup with a giant pitcher of orange juice and lemonade with two types of rum and angostura. The homemade chorizo and potato bread with saurkraut, the salad with watercress, plum, camembert and mushrooms, and for a main, the pork chop milanesa is just the right mix of homey and innovative.
Barbecue at El Tejano
Honduras 4416, Palermo
photo provided by El Tejano Facebook
The Restaurant: If owner Larry Rogers throws a roll of paper towels at you, it means he likes you. Or he doesn’t – but hey, you asked for napkins so it’s on you buddy. Just eat your damn food. At El Tejano, the Texas native brings an arsenal of cooking methods (and a Southern attitude) completely foreign to Argentina. Tapa de asado smoked for 12 hours, ribs that come clean off the bone, and the best damn french fries in this entire city – they are fried, frozen, and re-fried to crunchy perfection. All with a crisp craft beer, and if Rogers likes you (or maybe not) you may be surprised to have a bottle of Jack plunked onto your table.
The Onda: A delicious smokey smell, crowded bars mean you’ll be rubbing elbows with your neighbors.
The Gente: Expats, people who realize that the barbacoa crap sold at the grocery ain’t worth a damn, whiskey drinkers, drinkers.
The Must-Have Platos: Everything you can fit in your stomach. The deep fried brisket empanada puts every other empanada to shame. The pride and joy are the ribs which marinate for a few hours before being smoked until the meat falls right off the bone.
Pork Buns at Duo Fu
Angel Gallardo 75, Villa Crespo
The Restaurant: From the outside Duo Fu looks like any other neighborhood Chinese restaurant. A bare wood-paneled interior, dusty looking tables and chairs, an old woman with her hand glued to the telephone and a fish tank. It smells like grease, and it’s not particularly welcoming. And if you were to just look at the menu taped to the door, you are likely to roll your eyes at the 467 variations of salteado de insert meat/veggie here. But hidden away is the golden ticket: pork buns! It’s not on the menu and the Argentine waiter has no idea what you are talking about, so motion for the owner to come by the table and tell him you want the pan al vapor con cerdo.
The Onda: Old school family restaurant in a building redecorated once in 1986.
The Gente: Fools from the neighborhood who have no idea there is a secret menu, foodies who know there is a secret menu and don’t inform said fools, Chinese clientele that think we are all fools.
The Must-Have Platos: One order comes with about 10 buns, so I think about 5 orders of pork buns should be cool.
Brunch at La Alacena
Gascón 1401, Palermo
The Restaurant: Chefs Julieta Oriolo and Mariana Bauza are on to something with their stripped down cafe and restaurant situated in that triangled area east of Scalabrini that’s not quite Palermo, not quite Almagro. La Alacena is always packed on a weekend afternoon. They could easily rest on the laurels of their instagram-worthy handcrafted dishware or simple and minimalist decoration, but it’s the food that keeps this 14-table dining room packed. The restaurant pays homage to porteño classics – good coffee, pastries, pastas and tostadas – but with their own unique twists. The prensatti is a small selection of pressed sandwiches with ingredients that will put your favorite jamon y queso to shame. Brunches feel influenced by a more American flavor palate, with things like yogurt and granola, fried eggs and toast.
The Onda: A wonderful mixture of Palermo cool with relaxed Almagro tones. The dishware was designed specifically for the restaurant by ARDE ceramics, adding a delicate touch to the restaurants simple flair.
The Gente: A mixed bag. Neighborhood locals looking for a gourmet merienda, young families with baby strollers grabbing lunch on the weekends, freelancers with lap tops, hardcore foodies.
The Must-Have Platos: La Alacena means the cupboard, and this one is stocked like a good grandma’s. Pastries and breads are made in-house, which means that sandwiches taste extra delicious. Try the tagliatta prensatti, a slow roasted beef pressed sandwich. For chocolate fiends, both the torta and mousse de chocolate are cray.
Craft Beer at On Tap
Costa Rica 5527, Palermo Hollywood
The Restaurants: Support Local Beer is the motto of On Tap and that message is heard loud and clear in this small Hollywood pub. Just a few years ago would anyone have ever imagined a bar with 20 (yes, TWENTY) national craft beers on tap? Didn’t think so. But the craft beer explosion is under full affect and the guys at On Tap are on a personal mission to keep the good beer flowing. It helps that the bar’s co-owner Marcelo Terren is a sommelier and beer producer himself (he’s the other half of the beer bro duo behind Broeder’s); together with his small team of cerveza connoisseurs each beer is expertly curated by a panel of judges before being invited to occupy a pint at the bar. The result is the neighborhood pub we’ve all been waiting for: good prices, great brews and a joint that can very quickly turn into a second home.
The Onda: A small bar packed to the brim with like-minded beer lovers, laid-back California-ish attitude, actually good music.
The Gente: Young beer lovers equally shocked that there is finally something besides Quilmes, bike people.
The Must-Have Brews: I lean towards IPAs and the Cheverry is one of the best options in the city. The staff, however, is extremely knowledgeable and can point the greatest connoisseurs or light-beer loving newbies into the right direction
Down Home Peruvian at La Conga
La Rioja 39, Once
The Restaurant: Many moons ago I ordered a particular ceviche mixto at a restaurant whose name I care not to remember in deep Abasto, and the 24 hours that followed ruined all Abasto raw fish adventures forever. There was also the seco de carne episode and pork tamale debacle of 2013 in which actual meat was replaced with actual pork skin that I conceded to only eating pollo a la brasa in any eatery near Pueyrredon that fell between Av. Corrientes and Rivadavia. One faithful trip to La Conga and a little bit of arm twisting has changed that forever – or at least convinced me that the only place to get ace ceviche por la zona is at La Conga. This is as real as a Peruvian restaurant gets, with fried food flying to what feels like 100 family reunions under one roof. But why wouldn’t you go in an inappropriately large group? You can easily feast with the entire fam for $100-ish pesos a person.
The Onda: La Conga was described to me as Carlitos with a touch of elegance, and it’s mostly true. This restaurant is packed, noisy and hot, with what feels like 100 employees and a million patrons all eating fried chicken underneath shiny glass chandeliers.
The Gente: Families of 3 dozen people, more families, literally every person that lives in Once all at once
The Must-Have Platos: The ceviche clásico and ask for it picante, then insist that yes you actually want picante. Don’t be an animal, get a licuado de maracuya with your Quilmes.
Farm to Table Philosophy at Alo’s
Av. Almirante Blanco Escalada 2120, La Horqueta, San Isidro
The Restaurant: Cookbooks, spice jars and hanging pots and pans decorate the open kitchen layout of this small 11-table bistro. Light flows from the enormous windows that look into the garden and flowers hang from the ceiling. Alo’s is the definition of understated, but the immaculately imagined menu is anything but. Much of the produce is sourced from their own garden in the back, craft beer is made in the house adjacent, and the rest is bought as eco-friendly as possible. Owner and head chef Alejandro Féraud works closely with his creative team to construct dishes that demonstrate the beauty of the fresh ingredients in all their dishes. Take this season’s pescado con degustación de remolacha, which pairs white fish with beets prepared four different ways. Saddle up at the bar, and the chef that delicately plates your food with tweezers will also act as your waiter. It truly is a pilgrimage to get there, but good food is worth an all day excursion.
The Onda: Fresh and intimate, the San Isidro treatment with noses at sea level.
The Gente: Locals insane enough to live all the way in La Horqueta, foodies insane enough to take a bus-train-bus from Capital to La Horqueta, people from Capital with cars.
The Must-Have Platos: Alo’s is the only restaurant I’ve come across that will cook the same ingredients 2, 3 or 4 different ways and put it on the same plate. The asparagus salad features crunchy grilled asparagus with fried asparagus skin on top. The aforementioned fish with beets features a spongey beet brownie that will make you feel like the least creative cook in existence.
Contemporary Argentine Cuisine at Roux
Peña 2300, Recoleta
The Restaurant: Although much of his training came from nearly a decades work at renowned Mediterranean eatery Oviedo, chef and owner Martin Rebaudino has clearly stuck to his Cordoban roots. This small corner bistro is a breathe of fresh air in the mostly dead Recoleta food scene dishing out contemporary Argentine plates in a way that doesn’t make me want to roll my eyes for labelling food contemporary. Special ingredients are sourced from all over the country for this proudly Argentine restaurant – llama from the Jujuy altiplano, Andean potatoes, shrimp from Santa Cruz and goat from Mendoza. All artfully plated and prepared in a way that harnesses pure flavors, all the while strategically playing with color, texture, taste and temperature in a way that only a natural chef can.
The Onda: White linens, waiters in black vests and ties, and a general Upper East Side fancy pants bistro vibe. Have I ever been to Upper East Side Manhattan? No. Is this exactly what I imagine it to be? Yes.
The Gente: People that would fit in on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, foodies willing to eat spaghetti for a week for a multi-course meal at Roux cause go big or go home.
The Must-Have Platos: This felt like the year that the chef of every highend-ish restaurant wanted to show off their soft boiled egg skills. Roux’s huevo de campo heated to exactly 65 degrees ain’t fluff for the menu, it’s the real deal. The griviche – a mix of squid, shrimp and salmon over couscous – is out of this world, and I actually wrote home about the llama carpaccio.
Modern Asado at La Carniceria
Thames 2317, Plaza Italia
photo by Jessica Stewart
The Restaurant: Is it any surprise that one of the hardest places to grab a table at in Buenos Aires is a parrilla? Nope. The only surprise here is that it took until 2015 for someone to modernize classic asado dishes. La Carniceria is built on three tenets: good wood, a strong fire and excellent meat. That simple philosophy is echoed in every detail of the restaurant. From the tight 8-table dining room to the single page menu to the selection of just four mains. The restaurant’s beef is brought in from co-owner Germán Sitz’ family farm which together with his partner and chef Pedro Peña create innovative new dishes: like honey-glazed mollejas, goat cheese provoleta with peaches, morcilla served with fennel and bell pepper, and a grilled cabbage with yogurt sauce that will rival your best ensalada simple.
The Onda: Wall paper with images of cow carcasses, meat hooks and metal chairs make you feel like you are eating in the middle of a butchers fridge, and it couldn’t be any cooler.
The Gente: Tourists clamoring to get in to a restaurant featured in dozens of travel magazines, Palermo locals, steak lovers overjoyed that steak asked medium rare is cooked medium rare.
The Must-Have Platos: I’ve been to La Carniceria at least six times and have eaten everything (except the fish cause give me meat). The mollejas glazed in honey are wonderfully sticky and sweet, the smoked flank steak has a flavor unrivaled in BA (mostly; see El Tejano), and the bife de chorizo is absolutely massive and absolutely fabulous.