‘Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.’ So they say. Although here’s betting that ‘they’ aren’t Argentinian.
In Argentina, breakfast is a thoroughly simple affair. The options rarely, if ever, move beyond the two key staples: tostadas (toast) or medialunas. They’ll be served with coffee and orange juice. Anywhere serving anything extravagant – including yogurt or fruit – or any form of cooked eggs is catering to tourists.
Churros (left) and medialunas (right) – Photograph by Gorski
If you’re a newcomer to the country and speak limited Spanish, an Argentinian breakfast can be the most satisfying meal of the day. There will be no complicated menus to decipher and no taxing questions. Your waiter will probably only ask one thing and to this the answer will be either ‘manteca’ (butter) or ‘grasa’ (vegetable fat), in reference to the two styles of media lunas on offer. Preempting the question is a shortcut to feeling that you’re down with the local way of life. Other than that you need only know that manteca versions are sweeter and fatter, and manteca does not mean lard here as it does in other Spanish-speaking countries.
The best places to enjoy a true Argentinian breakfast are Buenos Aires’s most traditional cafes. Classic spots include La Biela in Recoleta, a former hangout of writer Jorge Luis Borges, or El Federal in San Telmo, which dates back to 1864. You could also sip your morning coffee on the stage of a converted theatre at the Ateneo Grand Splendid, which has been given an even more splendid second life as a bookshop.
Librerias de Buenos Aires – Photograph by Guillermo Tomoyose
At the weekends, breakfast in Argentina is just as quick and simple, presumably so as not to take up valuable asado space. If you crave a more substantial Sunday brunch, try Oui Oui, an exceedingly popular French café, or Olsen, where the menu takes Scandinavian twist and includes homemade bagels and a glass of champagne. Olsen takes reservations; Oui Oui doesn’t, so put your name on the list and kill the time with a stroll around the residential streets of Palermo Hollywood. In Palermo Soho, you’ll also find some more American-style cafes, such as Mark’s Deli and Baraká, which do a fine line in smoothies and muffins.
A selection of facturas – Photograph by Koluso
If you prefer to go DIY, you can stock up on media lunas and various other pastries at any bakery. Often filled with dulce de leche or drizzled with chocolate, they are known collectively as ‘facturas’ and they cost around a peso each. At home you can also go truly Argentinian and swap the coffee for yerba mate.
If you miss breakfast because you’ve been taking too much advantage of the nightlife, fear not. Merienda (afternoon tea) is basically a repeat run.
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