While Buenos Aires’s mouthwatering Malbecs and savory steaks require no introduction, uncovering the city's best spots for culinary indulgence demands some well-vetted guidance, unless you want to end up eating at humdrum tourist spots. Armed with the right tips, you can sink your teeth into this city’s thriving, if somewhat hidden, food-and-wine scene on a series of gastronomy-inspired tours, tastings, and classes, or seek out quintessential Buenos Aires dining establishments, like authentic parrillas (traditional steakhouses), for lip-smacking feasts. For the foodie in Buenos Aires, here are five essential epicurean experiences to help ensure a palate-pleasing trip.
1. Food Tours
Tap into BA's culinary culture with an in-the-know food pro as you taste your way through the city with like-minded bons vivants. Fuudis is a front-runner for city food tours, with outings that combine good eats, top-rate establishments, and unique social encounters. Book mobile dinner tours in assorted Buenos Aires nabes, which take in three different restaurants, one for each course (appetizer, entrée, and dessert), or sample four-course lunches highlighting Argentinian fare at a quartet of venues in the bohemian San Telmo quarter. For cocktail connoisseurs, try Fuudis's new upscale "Aperitour" bar crawl, complete with tapas and aperitifs that highlight favorite Argentinian liquors.
Dedicated carnivores might also look to Parrilla Tour, which offers guided outings that bring small groups to an authentic, off-the-beaten-path parrilla in Palermo or San Telmo to sample classic cuts of beef. Other stops are made at local culinary haunts for Buenos Aires staples like empanadas, choripán ((a chorizo sandwich), and gelato.
2. Cooking Classes
Enjoy the Argentinian culinary tradition long after your trip ends, courtesy of a pair of hands-on cooking classes. The Argentine Experience offers interactive guided group dinners built around Argentinian cuisine and culture—participants have a hand at making Argentinian-style empanadas, tuck into a well-prepared steak, taste local Malbec, prepare alfajores (Argentina's national dessert—a cookie brimming with dulce de leche), and sample maté, a popular tea-like beverage.
For a more traditional cooking course, Argentine Cooking Classes is helmed by psychologist-turned-cooking instructor Norma Soued, who leads small group cooking classes at her home kitchen in the residential Belgrano neighborhood. Attendees whip up empanadas, typical Argentinian stews (like locro or guiso), and baked-from-scratch alfajores. You'll then dig into the lunch you prepare, accompanied by Argentinian wine, and be sent home with the recipes for good measure.
3. Wine Tasting
Perhaps Argentina's most well-received export on the world culinary scene is its fine wines. While your visit to Argentina might not include time to for travel to popular wine regions like Mendoza, rest assured that the capital keeps plenty of the country's best varietals in ample stock. For an introduction to Argentinian vines beyond the ubiquitous Malbec, consider a hosted wine-tasting event. Our favorite options include the posh Park Hyatt Buenos Aires's downstairs wine-and-cheese cellar, where pairings of the two are doled out under the guidance of an in-house sommelier and accompanying "cheese master." Another solid bet is Anuva Wines, where group tastings, held in the wine distributor's sleek Palermo Soho showroom, highlights five Argentinian wines that are unavailable in the U.S., including velvety Malbec, sparkling wines, and Torrontés (a native white varietal), accompanied by small plates and a casual review of Argentina's vino-centric history.
Of course, no foodies visit to Buenos Aires would be complete without turning up hungry to at least one of the city’s classic parrillas, or steakhouses. Here, choice cuts of well-cooked beef and pork are fired up on a grill, and typically served up in a casual yet lively atmosphere that encourages hearty chowing down. For some of the most coveted carnivore-catering tables in the city, look to popular parrilla options like La Cabrera, Don Julio, or La Brigada. Think outside the steak and try other parrilla favorites, too, like chorizo (pork sausages) and morcilla (blood sausage).
5. Puertas Cerradas
A fast-expanding Buenos Aires culinary trend, the puertas cerradas, or closed-door dining experiences, invite guests into chefs' homes for small-group, reservations-only dinners. Averaging about a dozen or so participants, the intimate multicourse meals are prepared by either established chefs or nonprofessionals with a simple passion—and talent—for cooking. The under-the-radar dining events (usually found via word of mouth or listed on sites like TripAdvisor.com) typically require advance booking and are offered with limited availability. Booking a reputable one is a nice way to meet with like-minded travelers, catch an insider's glimpse into Buenos Aires residential life, and savor a delicious home-cooked meal—at affordable prices, to boot.
Three standouts include Casa SaltShaker, highlighting Andean-Mediterranean fusion as whipped up by American chef Dan Perlman and his Peruvian partner; Jueves a la Mesa, a flavorful vegetarian option run by the owner of the Buena Onda Yoga studio; and NOLA Buenos Aires Beer Night, which pairs Southern US-inspired fare (whipped up by New Orleans chef Liza Puglia) with homemade brews.
Modern-day explorer, perpetual seeker, and diligent travel scribe Elissa Richard is a contributing editor and journalist for numerous American travel publications, including Fodor's, Condé Nast Traveler, Travel + Leisure, Yahoo, and more. Based in Brooklyn, NY, she has traveled to and reported on some 55 countries and 20 cruise lines around the globe, and has resided in Argentina, France, England, Denmark, and the Netherlands. Contact her at TravelSpiritWriting@gmail.com.