Although there are plenty of Italian restaurants and pizzerias, food culture in Buenos Aires centers on the parrilla — literally the “grill.” You’ll find parrillas on any given corner across all barrios. The ambience may vary from mobile stands and hole-in-the-wall diners to fine dining, but the dishes are all basically the same cuts of meat, the same preparations, and the same sides and sauces.

In some ways, the parrilla is just a restaurant version of an asado, which is the quintessential family and social experience in Argentina. If you’re lucky, you’ll get invited to one of these hours-long grill-outs, with the parrillero, the “grill master,” cooking huge slabs of meats, organs, sausages, chicken, cheese and vegetables, on the backyard parilla. They typically happen on Sundays, and you can guarantee plenty of Malbec and beer will be flowing.

In the meantime, you’ll get close to the same flavors in the parrillas listed below.

What to order

Don’t know what to order? Most people get ojo de bife (ribeye steak), bife de lomo (tenderloin), or vacio (flank steak) as a main course. For sides? Lots of restaurants will pair meat with either french fries (papas fritas) or mashed pumpkin (puré de calabaza), while other places, usually higher end restaurants, charge extra for sides.

You will also find items like bife de chorizo (sirloin steak), morcilla (blood sausage), and cuadril (rump steak).

As far as how to order your steak:

  • Bien jugoso – very juicy or very rare
  • Jugoso – juicy or rare
  • A punto – medium
  • Bien cocido – well done. (Be prepared for an eye roll if you order steak well done in Argentina.)

A few simple salsas add some punch: chimichurri (a mix of spices in olive oil); salsa criolla; and provenzal.

If the variety of meat and ordering correctly in a busy restaurant is overwhelming and you don’t know where to begin, you can always start with: The Argentine Experience in Palermo Hollywood, which is an interactive way to learn the basics of food in Buenos Aires. You make empanadas, try mate and Argentine wines, all while chatting with other tourists in the group and finishing with a great steak. It’s perfect for a newbie to the steak scene.

Alternatively, if you want a meal filled with authenticity, head over to Feria de los Mataderos on a Sunday for an epic cultural experience filled with parrillas, street vendors, and entertainment. Be sure to try locro and humita while you’re there.

Recommended parillas in Buenos Aires

1. For cheap Malbec and homemade flan: Parrilla Peña

When you sit down, you are handed a fried empanada and a menu at this top beef eatery. Nothing special in terms of décor, but everything special when it comes to an ojo de bife, flan mixto and Malbec for a fair price. Come hungry. $$

Where: Rodríguez Pena 682
Neighborhood: Centro
Hours: Monday through Saturday 12 pm to 4 pm, 8 pm to 12 am

2. For an unlimited salad bar: La Escondida

If you are in the mood for a salad with your meal, La Escondida is one of the few places in the city with a great selection in the salad bar. But don’t let that fool you, the beef portions are still huge! Be sure to get your meal wrapped in bacon to offset that healthy salad of yours. Try the matambre de cerdo con panceta. $$$

Where: Av. Ángel Gallardo 601
Neighborhood: Palermo
Hours: 12 pm to 4 pm, 8 pm to 1 am daily

3. For a family outing: La Clotilde

La Clotilde is great for a family ambiance, in which children (and adults, too) are given a blank sheet of paper and crayons for drawing at the table. La Clotilde’s choices also work for families, because their menu extends further than meats. They have delicious sandwiches, pastas and more. $$

Where: Jerónimo Salguero 2692
Neighborhood: Palermo
Hours: Sunday 11 am to 12 am; Monday through Saturday 11 am to 1 am

4. For a lively atmosphere: Las Cabras

A vibrant atmosphere because this place is always busy, Las Cabras is a trendy restaurant with great food, but a long line. $$

Where: Fitz Roy 1795
Neighborhood: Palermo
Hours: 12 pm to 12 am daily

5. For a touristy spot that still offers good food: La Cabrera

Photo: La Cabrera

Start your meal with jamón crudo con burrata, and enjoy the evening at one of the most popular restaurants in Buenos Aires. If you get there before 8 pm you get 40% off the total bill, but the downside is you may have to rush your meal to get the check before happy hour ends. $$$

Where: José Antonio Cabrera 5099
Neighborhood: Palermo
Hours: 12:30 pm to 4:30 pm, 8:30 pm to 1 am daily

6. For an intimate, rustic feel: 1880

1880 is a parrilla located a little bit outside the tourist tracks of San Telmo. The restaurant is very cozy (it is an old house converted into a restaurant) and oozing with porteño culture. Try loss bocadillos de acelga with your meal. $$

Where: Defensa 1665
Neighborhood: San Telmo
Hours: Sunday 12 pm to 12 am; Monday through Saturday 12 pm to 3:30 pm, 8 pm to 12 am

7. For parrilla “to-go”: El Capitán

El Capitán is a neighborhood favorite, with a menu bursting with traditional options as well as variety like grilled fish or lamb. Try the Torre de Babel if you dare. And while you can most definitely dine in, El Capitan also delivers so you can have steak and mashed potatoes for dinner without ever changing out of your sweatpants. $$

Where: Av. Díaz Vélez 5401
Neighborhood: Caballito
Hours: 12 pm to 3 pm, 8 pm to 11:45 pm daily

8. For fine dining and an Instagram check-in: Don Julio

Picture-worthy food that actually tastes good, Don Julio is a high-end restaurant with an excellent staff and walls lined with empty wine bottles. Be sure to order a bottle of wine, sign it and ask to have it added to the wall. $$$

Where: Guatemala 4699
Neighborhood: Palermo
Hours: 12 pm to 4 pm, 7pm to 1 am daily

9. For a rustic hole-in-the-wall: Don Niceto

Located in an off-street in Palermo, Don Niceto can easily be overlooked. It’s by no means fancy, — locals come here for something quick, inexpensive and tasty. $$

Where: Av. Cnel. Niceto Vega 5255
Neighborhood: Palermo
Hours: Tuesday through Friday 8:30 pm to 12:00 am; Saturday 11 am to 5 pm, 8:30 pm to 12 am

10. For a hipster-chic vibe: La Carnicería

A very small, but very trendy restaurant that serves asado with a contemporary spin. Try chorizo for an appetizer, and a gin and tonic. $$$

Where: Thames 2317
Neighborhood: Palermo
Hours: Tuesday through Friday 8 pm to 12 am; Saturday and Sunday 1 pm to 3:30 pm, 8 pm to 12 am

11. For a sports-themed parrilla: La Brigada

Photo: La Brigada

Famous for steaks that the waiters cut with a spoon. A colorful interior decorated with fútbol memorabilia, La Brigada is a classic. $$$

Where: Estados Unidos 465
Neighborhood: San Telmo
Hours: 12 pm to 3 pm, 8 pm to 12 am daily

12. For late night eating: Las Cholas

With a few locations in the city, Las Cholas always has ample outdoor seating perfect for summer nights. The décor has bright red chairs and red outdoor paint, the ambiance is lively, and the menu well-rounded. $$

Where: Arce 306
Neighborhood: Las Cañitas
Hours: Saturday 12 pm to 4 am; Sunday 12 pm to 2 am; Monday through Friday 12 pm to 3 am

13. For sharing plates: Los Chanchitos

With the size of Argentine beef servings, you can share a portion at any place. But Los Chanchitos has super-sized nightly specials of bread, salad, ojo de bife and fries for two (and some leftover). $$

Where: Av. Ángel Gallardo 601
Neighborhood: Caballito
Hours: Sunday 12 pm to 4 pm, 8 pm to 12 am; Saturday through Friday 12 pm to 3:30 pm, 8 pm to 12 am

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