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Guest Article: In Buenos Aires, it’s a question of knowing where the good stuff  is, and it’s excellent when you find it. 

by Randy Lisle
(Randy is a well-traveled American currently living in Buenos Aires)

Take the food for  instance:  You’ll find great food throughout Buenos Aires, and undoubtedly one of your best memories will be of a street-corner café or parilla (or grill) that you’ll happen upon as you meander the backstreets of the city; but to find a great restaurant there are two destinations which you simply must include in your nighttime itinerary: Puerto Madero and Palermo, the popular upscale neighborhoods of Buenos Aires, Argentina.  In Puerto Madero you’ll find two of the city’s most famous parillas. The crown for the city’s best goes to the widely-acclaimed Cabaña las Lilas where in addition to melt-in-your-mouth steaks from the restaurant’s own legendary ranch, you’ll be served an enormous tabla of sundried tomatoes, olives, peppers, bread and much more by an army of solicitous waiters whose very raison d’etre it seems is to anticipate your every need.  It is this combination of great food and great service that keeps the restaurant in high demand with the porteños (as the locals are called) and the tourists alike,  and therefore I strongly recommend that you either go early or make reservations, or  you might find yourself in a salivating wait. The prices are high by Argentine standards, but well worth the price as you get more than you pay for.

If the price is simply too high or  the wait too long, you might consider another great restaurant in Puerto Madero, La Caballeriza.  Here too you’ll find delicious steaks amid a surprisingly pleasant stable-themed restaurant, although you’ll miss the exceptional service and exceptional quality meat of Cabaña las Lilas. In its favor, however, you will encounter a vegetarian parrillada (a rarity in Argentina, famous for its beef) of grilled summer vegetables.  If you’re not a vegetarian, and have had your fill of vegetables for  the day, you would be well advised to order the parrillada para dos, enough to feed a family of four, which arrives as an unadorned mound of  meat served on a miniature grill over hot coals.  If you’re not ordering the parrillada, you won’t find many cuts of meats you’re  accustomed to, so I recommend you indulge in something new and enjoy the mojellas, entraña, the matambre, or the vacio.  For the less adventurous, there exists meats more familiar: bife de ojo (ribeye steak), costillas (ribs) and bife de chorizo (steak).  To compliment the meat, a good red  wine  is in the order, and in Argentina you’ll find some of the best.  A few reasonably priced, brilliant Malbecs for which Argentina is famous are Terraza Roble, Finca la Linda, and Alamos.  Enjoy!

If for you it is the ambiance of a restaurant that makes it inviting, that turns a place to eat into a place where you can settle in to indulge a long suppressed desire that maybe you didn’t even know you had, or to linger over a late night dinner that lasts several hours into the day, then you simply must make your way to Palermo Viejo, colloquially nicknamed Palermo Soho, in Buenos Aires.  Here you can wile away an afternoon or a day wondering along the cobble-stoned, tree-lined streets, where you’ll discover amid the architectural splendor of the turn of the century residences, fashionable stores, and chic shops, a seemingly unending scattering of restaurants.

Many of the most visible among them are unfortunately nothing more than over-priced watering holes, and therefore to give a sense of purpose to the distractable tourist ambling hungrily through the barrio and to help guide him through the scruff to some of the best dining the city has to offer, I have compiled a short review of some of my favorite restaurants.

For a true Argentine experience in Palermo, Buenos Aires, nothing beats the parrilla La Cabrera located on the corner of Cabrera and Thames.  Here one meal for two people is more than enough, as  the meals are served with an enormous tabla of  tapas and breads.  You won’t go away hungry or disappointed as the  restaurant commands the reputation as the best parrilla in the neighborhood.

Macarena.  Gurruchaga and Coronel Cabrera, Buenos Aires  This is the best restaurant of true Spanish tapas we’ve found in the city.  Other restaurants offer what they claim is tapas, but this restaurant offers the real thing:  octopus salad, clams, gazpachos, and breads to die for served among a lovely, homey atmosphere with a  rooftop terrace.  This  is a must-try.

La Baita.  Thames and Honduras, Buenos Aires.  Legendary lamb in an intimate Italian restaurant.  You can’t go wrong.

Pastis.  Thames and Gorritti, Buenos Aires. Another great Italian restaurant (recall that half of the porteños are descended from Italians) in which you won’t be disappointed.

La Flor Azteca. Thames 1472 between Gorritti and Cabrera (4831-6627, lafloraztreca@hotmail.com), Buenos Aires. Argentine fare tends to be a bit bland for the palates of most visitors,  which has caused many a tourist to seek out the spice of ethnic restaurants located throughout the city.  One of the best is La Flor Azteca, a fine Mexican restaurant that offers great food and solicitous service with a great  atmosphere of soft music wafting over with tables set amongst the decor and strong colors of old Mexico: terracottas, reds, oranges, and yellows, muted with aqua marine.  You’ll be greeted by lovely waitstaff happy to assist you with descriptions of the dishes, or recommendations of their personal favorites.  The owner will ask you personally to fill out  a  comment card.  And the food is  wonderful. Here you won’t find Tex-Mex dishes drowning in cheeses, nor the spices overwhelming.  The food is spicy, but not so hot as to overpower the remaining flavors of the food.  We opted to sit outside in the rear patio and were not  disappointed: a peaceful garden of plants, vines and trees.





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