It’s a well-known fact that some die-hard vegetarians have returned to the dark side after scenting the meaty whiff of a perfectly seared Argentine steak. Caught between righteous beliefs and the urge to just, try, a, little sliver of lomo (because you’re only in Argentina once, right?), many have fallen at the first hurdle when faced with a parrilla. But for those beef eaters who have no such qualms, how do you choose from the hundreds of steakhouses in Buenos Aires? Here’s our indispensable guide to steaks in the city.
Buenos Aires is home to several big hitters, failsafe parrillas that will sear prime cuts in impeccable fashion time and again. Dining at one of these will tick that all-important Argentine steak box, but bear in mind that heaps of tourists make a beeline for these restaurants so it might not be the authentic experience you’re after.
Even if it is a party trick, minds are always blown when La Brigada’s waiters cut four-inch-thick steaks with a mere spoon. This San Telmo eatery started off small but thanks to its flawless cuts, has expanded upwards and outwards like a beef-filled belly over the years. The famished should opt for – and probably share – a kilo of baby beef. Tip: try the offal – La Brigada whips up some of the best kid and beef chitlins in town.
Although a man named Pablo runs Don Julio, there’s often a queue to get into this Palermo classic, so make a reservation. Kick off with a small yet tasty goat’s cheese provoleta before tackling the entraña, a thin and flavoursome cut that’s the house speciality. Service is A-plus, waiters know their wine and add to the interior décor by scrawling a loving message on your empty Malbec bottle. A highly dependable parrilla favoured by Argentines and foreigners alike.
Let it be known that La Cabrera is no ordinary steak house, in fact encompassing three restaurants located within 100 metres of each other. Its ego also received a significant boost recently with this acclaimed award. The buzz word in all things beef in BA, La Cab teeters between the best in BA and tourist trap. Believe the hype (or not) and share the extremely photogenic ojo de bife (rib-eye), accompanied by mash, caprese salad, creamed spinach and other tiny pots of deliciousness (no need to order other sides). The other buzz word associated with La Cab is its famous 7pm happy hour, an extremely inflexible 60 minutes of hurried eating with a comfortable 40 percent off the bill every night of the week.
Don’t be put off by the semen section on Cabaña Las Lilas’ website – it is, in fact, the complete package as Las Lilas raises its own cattle and also runs a cattle museum in gaucho town San Antonio de Areco. The enormous 400-seater restaurant overlooking Puerto Madero is known for its epic T-bone but the ojo de bife is equally tasty. A wine list easily mistaken for an encyclopedia backs up an impeccable menu. Tip: bring some diamond-studded gold plastic, this is the priciest joint in town.
Steaks with Style
Here’s the beef on where to get some decent cow tucker but in more unusual settings. Closed-door restaurants even have a foot in the door so depending on the experience you’re after, check out these eateries.
Led by an American-Argentine couple, Adentro Dinner Club is a grill gathering chez Kelly and Gabriel who open up their home, puerta cerrada style, once a week. Head out to their back patio for drinks and empanadas before gathering around the communal dining table for some of the most tender rump and beef short ribs in the city. You’re in more than capable hands with grill expert Gabriel, who used to work at El Mirasol, a classic porteño steak house.
Doing exactly as it says on the tin, The Argentine Experience not only sizzles up a most sumptuous and chunky fillet from grass-fed cattle but also offers a fun perspective into local food culture. Don a chef’s hat, learn how to make empanadas and also how to prepare mate during the course of an evening – steaks come pierced with a tiny flag reminding how you wanted it cook (medium rare is ideal).
For an authentic and boisterous experience at a tavern (read as “cherished dive”), check out Social La Lechuza (Uriarte 1980, Palermo Soho), a low-key, high-steak Palermo option adorned with owl memorabilia. Cash only, this cheap and sometimes cheerful (depending on the staff) joint is popular; a reservation is essential. Tuck into a vast bife de chorizo (sirloin strip steak), the cut on which this nation was built, or go crazy and order the porkalicious matambre de cerdo.
At the other of the spectrum, go warehouse chic at ultra-hip Miranda. As expected at a steakhouse for beautiful people, presentation is everything – try the asado especial ribs from the first floor for a bird’s eye view of the grill.
And all the way back up it, holding football memorabilia in spades is the Uruguayan El Pobre Luis (Arribeños 2393, Belgrano). A space-age grill burning quebracho wood takes centre stage, bringing to life Uruguayan classics such as the Pamplona de lomo, a slab of tenderloin enclosed in heartburn-inducing cheese, bacon, bell pepper and ham.
Cheap and Cheerful C(h)ow
Frills never made it to Parrilla El 22 but they certainly know their beef. The greasy spoon of steaks offers up perfectly grilled cuts on wooden tablas oozing with beef juice. Order the bife de chorizo, lomo and cuadril tabla from the blackboard – a veritable and tasty bargain that comes with chips or a salad and is ideal for sharing. El 22 also serves what is possibly the world’s biggest flan.
Fondly known as The Goat’s Head by long-term expats, there’s always, repeat always, a lusty, angsty queue waiting outside Las Cabras (Fitz Roy 1795, Palermo Hollywood). For a cheap and cheerful chowdown, the place is continually packed for those very reasons – plus the house wine comes in a kitsch penguin jug. Order the Gran Bife Las Cabras, a heart-attack-on-a-wooden platter stuffed to the gills with bife de chorizo, chips, a fried egg, pumpkin mash, rice… If you survive that, also check out Las Cholas (Arce 306) for a similar deal but in Las Cañitas.
In the same ‘hood, venture across the River Plate gastronomically speaking to La Gran Hollywood, a Uruguayan joint specializing in chivito sandwiches; filet mignon loaded down with salady bits to balance matters out.
San Telmo fave El Desnivel (Defensa 855) is one of the busiest parrillas around. Try to barge your way to the back room for a (slightly) less chaotic dining experience, before savouring a whopping great bife de chorizo accompanied with a round of greasy fries at inflation-busting prices.
And while not exclusively a steakery, Palermo sports hall favourite Club Eros (Uriarte 1609, Palermo Soho) whips up a limited number of bife de chorizos each day – get there too late and you could be out of luck. Perfect for a speedy in-and-out job.
Other notable mentions on the value-for-money front include Don Niceto (Niceto Vega 5255, Palermo Soho) and Parrilla Tito (Dorrego 2720, Las Cañitas), recently unveiled as the “secret” parrilla.
Best of the Rest
For a truly local dining spot filled with neighbourhood characters taking advantage of reasonable prices, look no further than the top-notch Rolaso (Julián Alvarez 600, Villa Crespo) and its succulent bife de chorizo ancho. In nearby Palermo Soho, Lo de Jesús is an Instagramtastic joint giving good grill for more than half a century. Despite appearances, Puerto Madero’s vast La Cabaña is a family-run enterprise that also offers barbecue classes. Pricey yes, thanks to its dockland view, the Kobe cuts are the real deal.
The Four Seasons doesn’t exactly scream “steak” at you but its Elena restaurant does an in-demand line in dry-aged beef, one of relatively few BA eateries to do so, while sister restaurant Nuestro Secreto hosts fabulous Sunday lunchtime barbecue sessions. Newbie Le Grill also has three 28-day, dry-aged cuts on its menu. Ultra-hip basement bar Florería Atlántico’s parrilla menu is short and sweet but the ojo de bife chunks are worth chomping down if the frogs’ legs don’t take your fancy.
For a spot of old-school glamour with a high price tag in Recoleta, head to Fervor. Meanwhile, Estilo Campo is one of the few establishments to grill asado al asador style, a religious experience given that a carcass or a rib strip is placed on a cross and cooked slowly over wood. For a more intimate setting, check out new closed-door dining spot Steaks by Luis. Former butcher Gran Parrilla del Plata is a San Telmo hotpsot serving tasty tira de asado ribs, though it’s slightly less cool since it ditched the cow-hide chairs and added on a tourist (ghetto) annex.