Italy, France, India and Thailand are world famous for their cuisines, but Argentina is world famous for its buttery, tender, melt-in-your-mouth steak. And where does one find this food of the gods? Why at the barbecue grill restaurants known as parrillas, of course.
Now, trying to name ‘the 5 best’ parrillas in Buenos Aires is actually a little insane. There are hundreds if not thousands of parrillas in Buenos Aires, and very few of them (by your author’s humble estimations) aren’t at least ‘quite good.’ So: I’m not even going to try. Yes, that’s right; the heading of this article is a total lie!
Instead of trying to nail the 5 best parrillas in Buenos Aires, the following list offers you some parrilla options that you might not have considered before. No La Cabreras or El Desnivels here. However, every parrilla listed here has a legion of devoted fans, and each of them would make a fine choice for your next meat feast fiesta. Enjoy.
This Puerto Madero institution is a tenedor libre, otherwise known as an ‘all-you-can-eat buffet,’ which makes it a nice option if you have visitors in town who want to sample a little bit of everything. Bife de chorizo, vacío, chicken, chorizo, bondiola, Patagonian lamb – it’s all here. There’s also an expansive salad bar and dessert options. The only problem with Siga La Vaca (‘follow the cow’) is that the lines can become very long after 9pm, so if you go, you might want to go a little earlier than usual.
This parrilla, really more of a street café with meat than a restaurant, gets mobbed daily by its hundreds of loyal customers. Many of them sit at the tables inside, but many more just line up at the street-facing grill for a takeaway choripan or vaciopan. It’s people-friendly rather than tourist-friendly (an important distinction), cheap and delicious.
Can you say ‘old-school’? Don Julio brings you the traditional parrilla experience that you probably imagined getting before you came to Buenos Aires: brown leather-topped wooden tables; ancient tiled floors; warm service; excellent meat, and all at a reasonable price. The cuadril (rump steak) is a particular specialty, so this is a good place to try it if you haven’t already.
Why choose El Trapiche? Well first off, it’s clean, well-lit and is packed with helpful waiters who know the menu backwards. Which is good, because the menu is vast. It also has a long and well-priced wine list, an often-overlooked feature. The matambrito de cerdo (grilled pork flank) here is famous, so if you can bear to order a cut of meat that doesn’t come from a cow for once, you might just be very happy you did.
Rodi Bar is located ‘in the heart of Recoleta’ (right near the cemetery), and it’s wildly popular, a real local favorite. It draws Argies and expats alike with its unique blend of grumpy waiters, paper-covered tables, great food and low, low prices. The desserts are unmissable, the wine is cheap, and if someone in your group is tired of meat (perish the thought!) they do some good fish and seafood dishes along with the bife.