Fed-up of facturas? Sick of steak? If you’ve had your fill of Argentine cuisine, sometimes what you crave most is good grub from home, exactly the way your Mum/Mom/Mamma/Maman makes it. In a city packed full of restaurants boasting every type of cuisine from Peruvian to Japanese, hungry customers really are spoilt for choice. To help you, we’ve focused on British, North American, Italian and French restaurants and come up with these five favourites.
1. Gibraltar, San Telmo
Highly regarded as the most authentic British pub in Buenos Aires, Gibraltar has been bringing a piece of the UK to Argentines and ex-pats alike since 2001. The bar’s longevity and proximity to hostels makes for a good mix of tourists and locals. Bosses lived in England for a number of years and were keen to bring the pub concept back to BA with them. Located in San Telmo and fronted by a traditional sign, the interior is attractive dark wood, tables and booths throughout several rooms, a pool table and a small beer garden.
Food reflects the multicultural British cuisine – traditional pies, fish and chips and beefburgers are joined by Thai Green Curry and pizza. The chicken strips with wide chips are highly recommended. Tasty puddings include brownie with ice cream, banoffee pie and lime cheesecake. What’s nice is that you queue and pay to order rather than waiting for service at your table. Happy hour is from 6-9pm, where you can sample the beer and many varieties of whiskey.
Open daily midday-5am. Mains around $40. For more information, click here.
2. The Office, Las Cañitas
As you’d expect from classic American grub, The Office specialises in burgers. There are six varieties and, if you can’t decide between them, you can order mini versions of three or five of them. My personal favourite is the tantalising Californiana, a burger accompanied by guacamole, cheddar, bacon and rocket. The Clásica contains caramelised onions, mozzarella and pickles; the BBQ Bacon is what it says on the tin – bacon, barbecue sauce and an onion ring. Aside from burgers, Yankees pining for home will go nuts for chicken wings, fried mozzarella cubes (definitely worth a try!), cheesy fries and ranch dressing (an irresistible combination of mayonnaise and garlic, for those not in the know). Desserts include New York cheesecake, apple crumble and the most authentic brownie this side of Texas.
Owner Alan Epstein moved to Buenos Aires from Las Vegas in 2007 and opened the restaurant in December 2010, having noticed a lack of good American food. Customers consist of ex-pats and Argentines and Epstein sometimes invites friends to hang out, which adds to the friendly, informal atmosphere. Downstairs has more of a diner feel whilst the roof terrace has old movies projected onto the wall and a classy bar with an impressive drinks menu (Mojitos, Bloody Marys, Caipirinhas).
Open nightly from 7pm. Mains around $30. For more information, click here.
3. California Burrito Company, various locations
US-born chain manager Alec Hart took on the business a while back and believes CBC is one of the city’s few providers of quality Mexican food. The first restaurant opened in Microcentro, which was followed by another twelve over sixteen months. Now CBC branches can be found in lands as far-flung as Uruguay, Chile, Colombia and Panamá.
Far from being an ex-pat hangout, meal times in the restaurant are crammed with Argentines. “Young professionals come here because they’re discerning and care about what they’re putting in their bodies,” explains Hart. “We don’t cut corners – our food doesn’t contain lard, MSG or excessive salt.” Nothing is frozen (in fact, the site doesn’t even have a freezer!) and only sweet corn is canned. Even the sour cream is made from scratch.
The range comprises tacos, quesadillas and burritos, filled with lomo, chicken breast or pork. Argentines need not fear – Hart is a strong believer in leaving condiment-adding to the customer so the food can be as spicy as you desire. Accompaniments include nachos, beans, salads and homemade salsas. They also sell beer, soft drinks and cookies for dessert.
Offers include Taco Tuesday (three tacos and a small drink for $30), Margaritas para Mujeres ($10 between 8pm and 10pm) and two-for-one beers on a Friday. The Microcentro restaurant is fitted with a bell that can be rung on exit to show appreciation. Throughout my visit, the bell rings frequently – a sure sign of satisfied customers.
Open 11am-11pm, Monday-Friday; 12 noon-midnight Saturday and 2-10pm Sunday. Mains $22-$36. For more information, click here.
4. Sette Bacco, Recoleta
If you haven’t yet made the pilgrimage down Agüero to this Italian restaurant, you’re in for a treat. The brick walls and ceiling softly lit by candle-shaped bulbs make for a cosy atmosphere, combined with the class of crisp white tablecloths and immaculate glassware. Background music manages to be both unobtrusive and funky and a bread basket of little cheese-topped buns is brought to your table as you wait.
Owner and chef Daniel Hansen, originally from Jujuy, trained in New York and fell in love with Italian food, which he describes as “the best in the world”, on his first visit to il bel paese. He has since devoted himself to an authentic learning of the cuisine. Sette Bacco has been open in the evening for the last eight years and as of two weeks ago, by popular demand, now opens its doors also at midday.
The lunch menu is simpler and lighter but you certainly won’t go hungry: for $65 you can have a soup or salad starter, a main (either pasta-based such as tortellini, gnocchi or spaghetti, or a chicken breast), a dessert (such as apple strudel, lemon sorbet or homemade ice cream) and a glass of wine or soft drink. The evening menu is extensive. Starters include pizza and aubergine topped with parmesan, whilst the mains menu flaunts numerous kinds of pasta (even five types of risotto), fish, meat and polenta. If you still have room for dessert, try the panna cotta, homemade dulce de leche mousse or tiramisú. The pièce de résistance, in my opinion, is the Trilogy, a semi-frozen dessert involving layers of biscuit, dulce de leche, chantilly and chocolate ice-cream. Delicious!
Open daily 12.30-3pm and from 8.30pm. Mains $40-60. For more information, click here.
5. Brasserie Pétanque, San Telmo
Located on a quiet corner of San Telmo on the beautiful cobbled street of Defensa, this French brasserie oozes charm and class. The interior is large and uniform with white pillars and cheer brought by yellow-mounted windows and doors. The bar is beautifully presented and boasts an impressive wine list. In addition to the inside chairs, you can opt to sit on a cushioned bench or outside.
With the lunch menu, for around $65 you can have a glass of wine, starter, main and dessert. The evening menu provides more choice, however. Starters include quiche lorraine, gazpacho, pâté, oysters and onion soup, which comes highly recommended by owner Pascal Meyer. Follow this with a main of meat, fish or pasta. There are traditional options such as rabbit with Dijon mustard, boeuf bourguignon and steak tartare, as well as some surprises: champagne-soaked salmon ravioli and trout with almonds. This mix of the traditional and new rolls over to the dessert menu where nestled among classics such as fondant, profiteroles and apple tart, you’ll find lemon mousse laced with vodka and orange crème brûlée.
Open Tues-Sun 12.30-3.30pm and 8.30pm- midnight. Mains $45-$75. For more information, click here.