Buenos Aires is the type of place where you can watch tango dancers twirl in the streets and the air smells like a permanent wood-fired grill. Here you can stroll down wide avenues with palm trees and then two blocks away find colorful winding streets covered in street art. While there’s plenty of history, art, and architecture to soak up in this breezy, tree-lined city, don’t leave without sampling these 10 essential types of Buenos Aires food along the way.
Medialunas at Salvaje Bakery
Argentina’s answer to the croissant is the perfectly fluffy way to start your morning. Grab a few before sightseeing around Palermo, a hip neighborhood full of loud murals, lush gardens, and delicious food. Take some time to people watch at Salvaje Bakery—a favorite spot for porteños, the nickname for the citizens of Buenos Aires—before taking in all the sights.
Empanadas at La Cocina
Every country does empanadas a little differently, and Argentina is no exception. La Cocina is an institution in the Recoleta neighborhood only a few blocks away from its famous cemetery. You’ll have plenty of empanadas to choose from, mainly in the style of Northern Argentina, but you can’t go wrong with carne picante.
Wine at Palermo’s Wine Bars
Head to Palermo for a string of cozy wine bars that wouldn’t be out of place in Paris. Schedule yourself a tasting at Pain et Vin, known for simple and delicious sourdough, or take a tour of the extensive wine cellar at JA! Lo de Joaquin Alberdi. Both spots offer tours and tastings in English, allowing you to sample malbec from Mendoza, juicy pinot noirs from Patagonia, and many more of Argentina’s excellent wines.
Food and Drink at Recoleta’s Bares Notables
There are 72 bares notables, or historic bars and cafes, in Buenos Aires. You’ll find many of them in the well-heeled Recoleta neighborhood. Cafe Tortoni is the oldest and most famous. Stick around Cafe de los Angelitos for a tango show, order a house negroni at Los Galgos, and marvel at the detailed interior at El Federal.
Milanesa at Don Ignacio
More than 60 percent of Argentines claim Italian ancestry, and that means one thing: delicious food. Start with milanesa, a decidedly South American take on the Italian milanese that comes across more like Austrian schnitzel (or really, really good chicken fingers) pounded, fried, and served with potatoes. You can find it at any cafe, but Don Ignacio knows best.
Argentine-Style Pizza at Guerrin
Italian influence means you can always find a great slice of pizza, though a New York slice this is not. Argentine pizza has a slightly thicker crust and is covered with a solid layer of cheese, sometimes topped with caramelized onions, olives, or chorizo served at classic downtown spots like Guerrin. You can find traditional Neapolitan in Buenos Aires if you look—San Paolo Pizzeria is the best-known—but most porteños would tell you it’s not the “real” pizza they know and love.
Tasting Menus Across the City
Buenos Aires has one of the most exciting food scenes in fine dining today, and it’s also one of the most accessible. Whether you have a long, rambling lunch in the Instagram-chic Casa Cavia or nab a coveted reservation at Travelers’ Choice winners Aramburu or iLatina, you’re sure to discover innovative tasting menus with top-notch service in Buenos Aires restaurants for a fraction of what it would cost in Europe.
Steak at a Classic Parrilla
Whether you head to a local joint like Parrilla Peña or a fine dining powerhouse like Parrilla Don Julio, nothing is more synonymous with food in Argentina than steak. Most parrillas offer a menu of different cuts of beef (some even have handy diagrams), but you won’t go wrong with a simple ojo de bife (rib-eye) or bife de lomo (tenderloin). The best part? You’ll have the most tender, delicious steak you could possibly imagine for only about $20 USD.
Choripan at Mercado de San Telmo
Choripan is a glorious not-quite hot dog, not-quite ciabatta sandwich of chorizo topped with a bright chimichurri. It’s a great way to fuel up while wandering through the extensive Feria de San Telmo every Sunday. Pop into the Mercado anytime for spreads of tapas-style Spanish food, wine tastings, gourmet coffee, and, of course, the choripan—or find your way through the white tents spilling across the neighborhood in search of street vendors selling grilled meats of all kinds.
Dulce de Leche for Dessert
Make sure to leave room for dessert! You’ll find dulce de leche dripped onto pretty much anything after dinner in Buenos Aires. Try it wrapped in chocolate or with gelato at Rapa Nui or pick up one of the ubiquitous Havanna-brand alfajores, a shortbread cookie with a dulce de leche filling. You can find freshly made alfajores in bakeries all over the city—experiment with different kinds, like a Nutella/dulce de leche hybrid at the adorable La Panera Rosa, across the street from Recoleta Cemetery.
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Always in search of adventure, Kayla Voigt hails from Hopkinton, Massachusetts, the start of the Boston Marathon. You can usually find her at the summit of a mountain or digging into a big bowl of pasta. Say hi on Instagram @klvoigt.