Sometimes I get attacked by a dark hole of self-induced extranjero depression, where just whipping out an old BA guidebook, glancing at an outdated travel article, or deciphering a decrepit pizzería menu gives me the uncontrollable urge to play the Inflations-A-Bitch pity party game. With restaurant costs catapulting skyward, like an Olympic pole-vaulter on a juicing binge, it’s difficult not to partake in the beloved pastime of price complaining. Soaring restaurant prices have become a city-wide phenomenon, where it seems like even the seediest bodegón has the huevos a caballo to charge a $10 cubierto. So how can we look beyond pizza and empanadas, to find winning restaurants where we can stuff our faces without unstuffing our wallets? If you are fond of eating out but don’t have the pesos to support it, look no further: I have searched far (and somewhat wide) to find you (and me) the best deals Buenos Aires has to offer for less than $30 $45 per person.*
Trending in food worldwide, Peruvian cuisine has made a real splash. A staple for those who like eating foods that have seasonings other than salt, the spiced up picante kick and tangy citrusy sauces disguise the not-so fresh fish of BA. Contigo Peru and Primavera Trujillana offer a banging midday menú with ají de gallina, lomo salteado, or grilled fish all available. Go with a group to Chan Chan, La Conga or Carlitos and gorge on massive towers of fresh ceviche, fried seafoody goodness, pollo a la brasa, all with ají-enhanced sauces. For Peruvian sandwiches try the Pollo Parrillero from El Peruanito Ray (make sure to ask for salsa de apio and picante sauce and substitute the mandioca fries for the traditional papas), or the balling bondiola oinking sensation Chicharrón Peruano from Peru Express.
Join the old men and sweaty football players at Club Eros for simple food that Argies do best: beef, fries and cheap wine. Crowded red chaired Las Cabras has Palermonites spilling out onto the corner of Costa Rica and Fitz Roy for a reason: patero wine in classic penguino pitchers, crayons to draw obscenities on the table, and a banging Parrillada Para Dos that can really feed five. A similar story rings true with sister restaurants Cumaná and Las Cabritas, they may not be the best restaurants BA has to offer, but at least you won’t cry in disappointment when the check arrives. For real deal seekers, head towards the meat action epicenter: the mobile parrilla carritos in Costanera Norte or Sur and stock up on chori or vacío pan that will leave you rolling happily into the Río de la Plata.
For a daily dose of MSG, the counter at Asia Oriental never fails; sesame peanut noodles and wonton soup will make the fishy close-yo-legs supermarket odor bearable. Da Dong Fan Dian in Villa Crespo is another one of those special places, go with a group and order two dishes minus the number of people eating for a Chinese food sharefest. The porky pan-fried dumplings and shrimp fried rice are essential.
Cusic doubles the cheap fun with their crazy affordable para llevar day menu, as well as Thursday nights a la gorra, where each week the menu changes and customers pay what they think the meal is worth. For delivery fans, Green Monster is not only a healthy vegan-friendly option, but the bill won’t top $25.
Comida arabe should always be a go-to affordable option: skip the over-hyped Sarkis and try others of the same breed: Falafel One for the falafel and tabbouleh, Al Zein’s babaganous, pita bread and yogurt sauce, shawarma from Demashk or fava bean pure at Alhambra. A staple only served on Friday and Saturday afternoons, the shawarmas from Medio Oriente are a must.
Kioscos are kicking it up a notch too with affordable healthy(ish) fast food. Check out the sandwiches or platos del día at Suckewer, meatball-cheddar toastie from BakingBA, custom-made wraps at Fitz Roll, veggie burgers from Marfa and the bagel with a KelinCake banana budín from Brocos Deli. Once an actual kiosco take away spot, Latino Sandwich has recently moved into a larger space in the Microcentro, making killer sandwiches that would cost nearly double at any Palermo café, yet probably has double the amount of deliciousness.
Other solid deals: Oui Oui breakfast promos like ‘The Tony’: eggs benedict, greens, potatoes and coffee or tea for $37, anything on the El Banco Rojo’s menu, La Puerta Roja’s Monday night $30 curry + beer special, Efimero Festin’s salad bar, and tapas from La Esperanza de los Ascurras. In the need to cleanse your stomach, check out Gengis’s House Mongolian BBQ – you make your own massive stir fry plate for $39. For Happy (food) Hours, La Cabrera offers 50% off the menu daily from 7pm-8pm (but get there early, there’s a line!) and Benihana offers half-off the appetizer and most of the sushi menu from 4-8pm daily. Other cheapo discount tips: sign up for Club La Nación and Guia Oleo Deals, where you can get up to 50% off in many restaurants.
*Disclaimer: You may notice that prices in Buenos Aires change awfully quick, so by the time you read this, it’s probably already out of date.