…On a budget? Meat connoisseur? A bit of both?
When I was studying Spanish in Malaga I told my teacher I was a vegetarian but I was planning to live in Buenos Aires…. he laughed so hard a bit of spit flew out of his mouth and hit me on the face. Suffice to say, I lasted about 4 weeks before the smokey aromas dancing through Buenos Aires’ city streets made their way up my nasal passage and straight to my brain. My pupils dilated and my animal instincts took over. From that point on I have been ticking off all of the parrilla’s (grills) in Buenos Aires… starting with my home suburb, Palermo.
**Many animals were harmed in the making of this blog**
Here are your top 3 parrilla’s in Palermo, Buenos Aires.
$ – The Best Parrilla on a Budget – Don Niceto
Don Niceto ain’t no oil painting, I can tell you that much. The restaurant stands alone on a fairly quiet street and the door is just 3 flaps of clear plastic, floppin’ around in the chilly Buenos Aires breeze. I was half expecting to see a tumbleweed roll past the flimsy outdoor table settings out the front. But the moment I stepped inside, everything changed. All the tables were bursting at the seams with local Argentinians laughing and chatting, haphazardly passing different plates of meats, salads and bottles of red wine to each other. There was no music but I had to lean in close to my friend to be able to hear what she was saying over the buzz from the people. The cheerful, healthily plump woman at the counter shooed us (maybe even tapped me on the bum) to the seats at the counter, directly opposite the warm glow of the parrilla.
As soon as we sit down my Argentinian friend Delfi yells, “Chori!” to the chef in front of us, while he tosses and turns the array of sizzling meats in front of him, kind of like a passionate musician in front of a piano. He immediately yells back “Chori?” to which Delfi responds “Si! Chori!” and boom, tongs flying and our Chori was on the grill before my mildly assaulted bum was on our seat.
The meats that were churned out and dished to us directly from the chef were juicy and tender, plonked on our wooden chopping board styled plates and served with 3 different types of fresh, herby salsas. The wine was cheap but went well with the meats and just added to the atmosphere. The salad was as basic as they come, but if you’re reading this, you’re not going for the salad.
The total came to $20 USD and on a budget or not, this is a great Argentinian experience.
Address: Cnel. Niceto Vega 5255, C1414BEM CABA, Argentina
|Tuesday||8 PM–12 AM|
|Wednesday||8 PM–12 AM|
|Thursday||8 PM–12 AM|
|Friday||8 PM–12 AM|
|Saturday||11 AM–4 PM, 8 PM–12 AM|
$$ – The Best All-Rounder – La Cabrera
La Cabrera is a small and funky parrilla, a dark colour palate with exposed brick walls and low lighting, like almost every trendy restaurant in the world at the moment. It almost looks too new-age given the traditionalism of the cuisine.
There are two sittings at La Cabrera, the 6:30pm – 8pm sitting for the gringos and the 8:30pm to whenever for non-gringos (or the gringo’s that are trying to act like non-gringos). If you’re thrifty the best idea is to go to the 6:30-8pm sitting as you get 40% off your final bill. Our waiter greeted us by saying “I guess you’re here for the happy hour?”. If I wasn’t such a tight-arse I suppose I would’ve been offended, but instead I responded, “you bet your ass I’m here for the happy hour mate”.
As much as the financial incentive is great, it does detract from the whole experience. If you liken eating meat to making love, just picture someone in the corner of the room tapping their watch while you’re trying to do your thing. The waiter was pleasant but I could feel his agitation as we mused over our options, clearly because of the time pressure. Despite being hurried through dinner, the quality of meat was exceptional and the service was great.
Generally the prices are just slightly cheaper than Don Julio, meat cuts start around USD 25, but with the 40% off it is a lot cheaper, so that’s why La Cabrera wins best all-rounder. Moo.
Address: José A. Cabrera 5127, C1414BGQ CABA, Argentina
|Sunday||12:30–5:30 PM, 6:30 PM–12:30 AM|
|Monday||12:30–5:30 PM, 6:30 PM–12:30 AM|
|Tuesday||12:30–5:30 PM, 6:30 PM–12:30 AM|
|Wednesday||12:30–5:30 PM, 6:30 PM–12:30 AM|
|Thursday||12:30–5:30 PM, 6:30 PM–12:30 AM|
|Friday||12:30–5:30 PM, 6:30 PM–12:30 AM|
|Saturday||12:30–5:30 PM, 6:30 PM–12:30 AM|
$$$ – The Highest Quality Meat with the Best Atmosphere – Don Julio
Don Julio is a big fish in a little pond here in Buenos Aires. I haven’t seen this quality of service for months in South America. Naturally, the restaurant was booked out at 7pm and we were put on the waiting list, usually this would disappoint me but they gave us warm alpaca-woven blankets and free champagne while we waited for our table so I forgot VERY quickly about the wait.
When you walk into Don Julio the long parrilla warms the entire space. The walls are adorned, floor-to-ceiling with red wine bottles and the staff looked schmick and uniform. We were ushered to our seats and given our menus which were covered in beautiful soft, brown leather, probably the skins from past parrillas…
We were then asked to come up to the parrilla to be shown the many cuts of meats we could order, I had to stifle my laughter as the waiter very unashamedly presented a large sausage to two giggling women (the free champange had gone to my head).
The wine list is extensive and starts at around 400 pesos per bottle to infinity and beyond. We chose a mid-range Argentine malbec and it was so rich and tasty, the soul mate to a hearty steak.
The steak was that melt-in-your-mouth meat that you don’t find at any old restaurant. They know what they’re doing. The sides were plain but done really well, i.e. roasted vegetables seasoned with fresh herbs and warm nuts. The salads were fresh and didn’t deter you from the star of the show, the meat. We got a bitter leaf salad and it was crisp and watery and was a nice, fresh side to go with the juicy, hot steak.
All in all, there is a reason that Don Julio pops up as a must-do restaurant in Buenos Aires. Prices for meat cuts start at USD 60 pesos and wine starts at USD 80.
Service options: Dine-in · Takeaway · No delivery
Address: Guatemala 4699, C1425 CABA, Argentina
|Sunday||11:30 AM–4 PM, 7 PM–1 AM|
|Monday||11:30 AM–4 PM, 7 PM–1 AM|
|Tuesday||11:30 AM–4 PM, 7 PM–1 AM|
|Wednesday||11:30 AM–4 PM, 7 PM–1 AM|
|Thursday||11:30 AM–4 PM, 7 PM–1 AM|
|Friday||11:30 AM–4 PM, 7 PM–1 AM|
|Saturday||11:30 AM–4 PM, 7 PM–1 AM|