Café San Juan: The Best Restaurant in Buenos Aires

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Day 426: Buenos Aires, Argentina

I know this is such a bold statement to make but I don’t mince words.

I have eaten a lot of food in Buenos Aires, much of it has been mediocre and some of it has been really great but the only place I could rave about is Cafe San Juan.

For me it is the best restaurant in Buenos Aires – at least of all the restaurants I’ve visited.

The first night I arrived in Buenos Aires I went out with some people in the hostel to Cafe San Juan, someone heard from a friend of someone it was good but I had no idea it would be amazing.

We were lucky because we arrived when the restaurant first opened and saw them turn away dozens of people who did not have reservations, but despite their popularity they didn’t try to rush us through the meal.

Argentina is good that way.

I was on a high that night thinking I had reached a culinary capital and would feast like I did in Mexico and Peru.

Not so much.

Cafe San Juan busts my daily budget of $30/day but after a few weeks in Buenos Aires I had to throw all hopes on staying within budget out the window and was ecstatic when Stephanie and Jeff from Lengthy Travel said they also wanted to go.

Christopher Leandro is the chef of his family’s restaurant and has become famous after a reality series appeared on Fox Mundo about the opening.

It’s an interesting story as Leandro is a pro skateboarder and was abroad for a while before coming home to open the restaurant in Buenos Aires.

All of the restaurant guides list the food as “porteña,” which is ridiculous as his food is so much better.

Unless it is defined as food made by a porteño but I suspect he has been influenced by his travels abroad and his Hungarian grandmother.

Again I don’t mean to be harsh. I learned how to make chimichurri here. But Buenos Aires needs more.

rabbit stew cafe san juan

Tired of eating steak all the time I also ordered rabbit stew with polenta. I’m not sure it qualifies as a stew but as they gave us the English menu it could simply be a difference in the translation.

Regardless, I don’t want to complain as it was delicious.

pumpkin gnocchi

I was happy Stephanie ordered the pumpkin gnocchi, what I devoured my first night.

She liked it so much she considered coming here for her next birthday.

pork bandiolo

But the star of the lunch was Jeff’s pork bandiolo which was so unbelievably tender it was falling apart as I was trying to take food from Jeff’s plate.

They also served a bacon-wrapped onion which Jeff generously shared. It wasn’t the cheap bacon you see wrapped around steak but delicious, artisanal bacon.

I heart Leandro.

cafe san juan

When I returned home and looked at the photos I realized that when I took a shot of the kitchen Leandro peeked his head in.

It’s probably for the best that I didn’t realize it. I like his food so much if I had known it was him I would have wanted to meet him but then been like a silly, awkward groupie.

The only skater references I know are Pennywise and Tony Hawk – definitely would have been embarrassing.

Next time.

Join the Conversation

  1. Andi of My Beautiful Adventures says:

    Cafe San Juan is one of my most favorite restaurants in the entire world! Did you get a chance to dine at Sushi Club? Also one of my most favorite restaurants in the world haha! The restaurants in Faena are to die for good too. There are a couple of restaurants in Palermo Soho that I highly recommend.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      After all the expats told me how bad the sushi was I decided to wait for Canada and eat the real deal.

  2. Ohhh Café San Juan is freaking amazing! We went there last week and I was blown away by how good it was. I wish we had eaten every meal there! hahahaha Agreed that it definitely sets the bar high and future disappointing meals were to come after discovering that place.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I think they have a lot of regulars and I can see why, it could become a very expensive habit.

      What did you have there?

  3. Mmmmm! That looks delicious – all of it. I can’t wait to get down to Argentina. I’ll definitely keep this place in mind.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      It’s the one place I would say not to skip, especially after a feast of steak of need some other flavours.

  4. The Travel Chica says:

    Mmmm… good memories. It is always best to go to a restaurant like this with friends who don’t mind picking off each other’s plates 🙂

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      So true…

  5. Roy | Cruisesurfingz says:

    $30/day budget on just food or everything? I’m glad my tastebuds aren’t as fussy as yours. I’m in Paris now and happy to eat baguettes and cheese 😉

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      $30/day for everything!

  6. When I clicked on this and saw the rabbit pate, I thought: (1) CAFE SAN JUAN!! & (2) I was talking about this rabbit pate LAST NIGHT! It’s awesome. In fact, I have yet to get passed the “Tapas” onto the rest of the menu. Great restaurant & great review… w/attitude.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Well there’s never a shortage of attitude…

  7. I clearly need to go to this place. Also, I love the mild creepiness of the kitchen photo.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      And it wasn’t embarrassing at all when he caught me…

  8. Green pepper…really?

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I know but really is green pepper necessary, it’s a red pepper that was picked too early.

      1. I’m with you on that — green peppers are just vile…Let there be RED!

  9. YUM, YUM,Deliciousness!

  10. Those look delicious!

  11. Definitely a good memory and my best meal here. I will have to go back before checking out of BsAs. Thanks both of you for inviting me along!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      So glad you liked it, I knew expectations were high when I said it was the best food hands down.

  12. Michael Hodson says:

    Yum, yum. Like you, I was a little disappointed in the food in Argentina, but I’ll have to put this on my list for my next trip back down.

  13. Wow, this all looks so delicious! Definitely one for our list when we go to Argentina eventually!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      It will be the best thing you eat, guaranteed!

  14. Ooooh this food looks delicious!!!! Mmmmmmmmm.

    And Leandro…mmmmmmm.

    An attractive pro-skateboarder and traveler with mad cooking skills?

    Is he single?! 🙂

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Well after creeping his Facebook page I suspect he is married, or at least has a child with someone. There seems to be a lot of baby photos.

  15. P.S. I love rabbit pate, and the pumpkin gnocchi sounds to die for!!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I have never liked pate in the past but the sweet topping really balanced the flavour.

  16. Mmm! Your pictures are making me hungry!! I don’t know how I missed Cafe San Juan last time I was in the city. I’m going to make it my mission to hunt this place down and have the pork bandiolo next time I’m there…and maybe bat my lashes at Leandro, haha

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      He’s certainly worth the trip into San Telmo.

  17. The pate on the leading photo looks very tasty! I do love pates in all kind but I surely do not want to know what is inside them 😀
    Same applies to sausages.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Agreed I don’t often eat pate because I don’t love organs but this was really good.

  18. Justin Hamlin says:

    Ayngelina the groupie. Too funny!

    Food looks amazing!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Some people love rock stars; I love chefs.

  19. Love it when you find an exceptional place. You’re a much braver eater than I am, but the pumpkin gnocchi looks delicious.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Well there isn’t a lot that I don’t like…

  20. About how much was the bill per person?

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I’m pretty sure around $30 a person which is a steal.

  21. You should check this place out before you leave; AL – ZAIN. Address is Arce 488 (corner of Arce y Ortega/Gasset in Las Canitas). A very good middle eastern place, owned by a Syrian immigrant, who is also a very nice guy. He makes his own Shawarma from scratch and it is superb. Carne o Pollo. Also, most of the traditional sides; humus, baba ganoush, tabouleh, plus what-ever-else he has that day. All made from scratch on the site. Dirt cheap and a hole-in-the-wall. No wine, but try bringing in a mini-bottle or two. I eat there a few times per week.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Ooh I love dirt cheap, hole in the wall. Thanks for the recommendation.

  22. Agreed, it’s delicious. When we went, it was on a friend’s recommendation, but I had no idea just how popular it was until we mentioned having eaten there and everyone went “oh, that place is so good!”

  23. PUMPKIN gnocchi!!!
    I love it! never had it, but I want some.

  24. Natalie T. says:

    Buenos Aires has been on my list for a while and when I go, I will DEFINITELY be coming back to the blog for your recs. Your photos are the shizz. Thanks for making me hungry at 1:38 a.m. xo

  25. dtravelsround says:

    mmmmm. food and leandro. 🙂

  26. Sarah Wu says:

    wow Cafe San Juan looks so amazing. Their food makes me hungry now. Another to visit cafe on my list.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      You won’t be disappointed!

  27. Sarah G - From the World says:

    After living for 18 months in Buenos Aires, I can say this place is one of a kind. Together with Paraje Arevalo (my favorite spot), they are one of the most creative in town.
    The rest is meat…pasta…potato…empanada.

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