There’s no denying that food is central to our existence, and not just in the sense that you die if you don’t eat it! For many of us, eating great food, talking about food, and bragging to our friends about the amazing restaurant we just discovered forms a large part of our weekly activities. Expat life in general and Buenos Aires in particular can be problematic on this front, because it’s sometimes hard to get your favorite foods here. In fact it’s not unheard of for expats who move here expecting to stay a long time cutting their stay short because of ‘the food issue’ (granted, they’re usually vegetarians).
Without further ado, here are five foods that you might miss while you’re in Buenos Aires, along with some suggestions for how you can get what it is that you want.
#1: Ranch Dressing
For many people, including myself, Ranch Dressing is a religion. We put it on our pizza, salads, french fries, buffalo wings, you name it. You are either a “Ranch Guy/Gal” or you aren’t. Living in Buenos Aires is an obstacle to the worship of this divine product when you can’t find a sacred bottle of Ranch to dump on whatever food item you are currently eating.
While you are not going to find Ranch in any restaurants, it can be found in some of the larger chain super markets across the city. At one of them I found “Paul Newman’s” ranch dressing and I probably payed about 30 pesos for it or more. A general rule of thumb here is any type of food you miss from back home that you can’t find widely available, check out a large supermarket. You can usually find over priced imported foods that aren’t popular with locals, like the common favorite, peanut butter.
#2: Spicy food
For people from the United States, it’s Mexican food. For Australians, it’s South-East Asian food like Thai and Vietnamese. And for English people, it’s Indian.
For Mexican food in Buenos Aires you have a couple of options, but the well-known California Burrito Company (CBC) located at Godoy Cruz 1781 in Palermo is a good choice. CBC is basically a direct rip off of Chipotle even down to the company’s branding and marketing artwork and it is definitely not as tasty, but when you are craving some spicy Mexican food, it is a great option.
South-east Asian restaurants are not unheard of in Buenos Aires, but they can be disappointing. Maybe that’s not surprising. Every Vietnamese dish, for example, has at least 487 ingredients (trust me; I made a Vietnamese-style salad once about four years ago), and some of them must be hard to get hold of here, half a world away. Luckily, your savior is at hand in the form of Gibraltar, the English style pub Perú 895 in San Telmo. Their Thai green curry is authentically flavored and HOT. And they have beer. Score!
Super-spicy Indian food was always going to be a problem in Buenos Aires due to the Argentine penchant for sweet and salty flavors as opposed to spicy/hot ones. Riding to the rescue however is The Bangalore Pub & Curry House at Humboldt 1416 in Palermo Hollywood. The food is good, maybe not great, but it’ll keep you going until you go somewhere with better Indian food (India, perhaps?). The other option is just to make your own Indian food at home using a jar of curry paste that you’ve smuggled through customs.
Another option is to head to Chinatown in Belgrano. Many stores there sell different imported hot sauces that you might know of from back home. These can provide a great spice to any homemade food you want to make.
Is it just a bun with a hole in the middle? No! Authentic bagels are of course boiled rather than baked, and particularly ex-New Yorkers can’t seem to go a day without one. The bagel-free zone that is Buenos Aires became such a problem that there’s now a business devoted entirely to providing expats with all the bagels they can eat, and by all accounts it’s doing well. They’re called El Bagelazo and they deliver bagelly goodness right to your door.
#4: Decent cheese
A French friend recently returned to Buenos Aires after a trip home to France with no less than five different cheeses in his suitcase. Yes, there’s a man who’s missing his cheese. Despite the fact that Argentina is among the top dairy-producing and consuming countries in the world, it’s annoyingly difficult to get a decent bit of fromage here. However, one option is Valenti, which is a premium cheese chain with stores at Feria de Belgrano on Juramento, in Patio Bullrich Mall, and at Soldado de la Independencia 1185. It’s not cheap, but their cheese is undeniably excellent.
#5: A really good baguette
The supermarkets and chinos in Buenos Aires certainly have what look like baguettes, but on closer examination (by eating them) they’re not even close. They’re sort of dry and flaky rather than crusty and fluffy like they should be, and they’re often tasteless as well. Bread. Such a simple pleasure, but annoying when you can’t get the good stuff. L’Epi Boulangerie at Roseti 1769 in Charcarita. It’s a French bakery (maybe the name gave it away), and not only do they have good baguettes, they also have pain au chocolat, and an excellent honey bread.