It was inevitable, as soon as I arrived in the city I needed to know the best Buenos Aires restaurant to eat steak.
If you thought a little grey poo would get in my way of eating steak in Buenos Aires you were so foolish. I have learned that veggies are my friend during daylight but steak is my night time lover.
When my friend Chris arrived for an eight-day visit I knew there would be a lot of meat eating. The great thing about Chris visiting is that we share a love of food – discussing it, cooking it and eating it. We wouldn’t be cooking but certainly talking and eating most of the time.
The neighborhood of San Telmo is known for its abundance of steak often to the demise of vegetables but friends don’t come to Buenos Aires for broccoli. So here’s a round-up of the three best parrillas (with prices in USD) we sampled:
I had eaten at Manolo’s two nights ago but as it was Chris’ first night in Buenos Aires I wanted to come back. There is such a great ambiance with old men dressed up to serve locals steak and red wine.
The walls are filled with cartoons, photos, soccer jerseys and Argentine humor from the last 20 years. This is a very popular neighborhood restaurant so if you show up after 9pm you may have to wait.
We started with garlicky sauteed mushrooms and parisian potatoes as our attempt to try to eat vegetables. It was so garlicky delicious that when the mushrooms were gone I continued to dip my bread in the garlic oil.
We then ordered bife de chorizo and I warned Chris that we should split it. It was a wise decision as it would be incredibly difficult for one person to eat.
Chris was surprised to see that the steak wasn’t seasoned like at home. I forgot to mention that Buenos Aires has all but forgotten black pepper, but then had his first taste of chimichurri sauce and all was forgiven.
With a bottle of red and a side of mashed potatoes and squash the bill came to $35.
A typical parrilla, although also controversial. Some claimed that Des Nivel was THE best Buenos Aires restaurant for steak although others said that the prices increased and quality decreased once it was named in Lonely Planet. It was a mid-week meal and we weren’t sure what to expect.
Before we ate anything we were impressed.
The service here is incredible and it seems to be because everyone is so happy. The waiters always seem to be laughing and having fun with the guests and while ours appeared to speak English he was willing to serve us in my beginner Spanish.
Better yet when I tried to order the steak in marsala sauce my waiter suggested I try the steak in pepper sauce.
It was amazing.
The peppery sauce was just what I wanted in a city that never puts pepper on the table. I’ve always been hesitant to put sauce on a steak because the steak should be good enough to stand on its own rather than be covered by sauce.
When I was finished I told Chris I could eat another one. My steak eating may be evolving into an addiction.
Chris also loved his lomo bife with the chimichurri sauce, and we both agreed at $45 it was well deserving of its recommendation.
As Chris was on holidays he wanted one big steak splurge. He was kind enough to foot our bills so I didn’t have to order salad and free bread while he feasted on steak but my job was to find the best steak house.
This is a very tough task in a city where everyone has an opinion but time and time again La Brigada was mentioned as one of the best in the neighborhood and also the city.
The menu is enormous and we had a tough time deciding what to order. Chris knew he wanted mushrooms again as the appetizer but also wanted to try chinchulines (intestines) a delicacy of the city.
So we got both.
I asked my waiter for a meat recommendation and was pleased he offered one up without hesitation and not the most expensive!
In a city where waiters usually act like you are an inconvenience, we had lucked out at all three parrillas.
The mushroom dish was okay but seemed to lack the garlic from Manolo’s, the veal chinchulines were pretty good but I thought my steak ojo de bife (rib eye) was the best here.
They say the meat is so tender here waiters cut it with a spoon. I didn’t think I would actually see this but I did. Yes technically they can cut it with a spoon but it feels more like a parlour trick and really not needed.
We had also heard that La Brigada was incredibly expensive but were surprised to see that with a bottle of wine the bill was only $65 which was considerably more but Chris still considered to be a bargain for the quality.
Normally I’m not shy to choose a favourite but here I don’t think I could do it! Although La Brigada was the best, it wouldn’t be a sacrifice to visit Manolo’s or Des Nivels.
But I do know one thing.
Before I even think about heading back to any of them I need to buy a pair of sneakers and start running because all this steak is making me chubby!