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May 25, 2009 10:22 PM

Un estudiante en Buenos Aires-7 weeks

Hello South America board!

I just posted in a thread, but thought I would introduce myself to the board. I am a student studying abroad in Buenos Aires for 7 weeks. I've been here 5 days thus far and sadly, throughly unimpressed with BA for food. I had such very high expectations and likely, because I've been running around with a large group of American students, my expectations have fallen very, very short.

I need someone to teach me to love BA, because thus far, I am very home sick and I'm pretty sure the food could wow me if I weren't simply stopping by whereever I can go whenever I'm lost. I'm looking for mostly student budget places, but I will definitely want to blow some pesos before I leave so best of the best is great to. I spend most weekdays in San Nicolas, but welcome ideas all over. Colectivo suggestions for getting there would be fabulous as well, but I'll scour a Guia T if needed.

In exchange, I hope to post reviews of places when I can. I'm horrid at posting in my own blog, but I know if i put some work into it, I'll learn to love BA. The last 5 days of food have been so sad. Please help me enjoy the next 6 weeks!

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  1. Sox, you mentioned Italian food in the other post that you put up, and honestly, most Italian food here will likely underwhelm you. I've lived here for 4-1/2 years now and there's little in that vein other than at the expensive end that's particularly good. You'd think there would be more given the 40-some percent of the population that's Italian descent, but keep in mind they came here generations ago - the food changed, much of it based on what was available here, and alot of what's now on offer is simply a mere ghost of what it probably once was. There are a few places for casual Italian food worth eating at, none near to you in San Nicolas - Don Chicho out in Villa Ortuzar (Plaza 1411) and Salgado, Velazco 401, Villa Crespo, which is a bit closer to you. If you want to spend a little more, Filo, off of Plaza San Martin is quite good.

    For the rest of it, local lunch cuisine tends to consist of things like empanadas, milanesas, pizza, hot dogs and sandwiches - not that much different from any big city's quick eats, and nothing particularly impressive about them. Even the pizza is a mixed bag - BA has its own style, tending towards medium thick crusts and a whole lot of cheese, with only a little bit of anything else, but you can find spots here and there that are better - Guerrin, Las Cuartetas (deep dish), Pirilo - come to mind off-hand that aren't far from you.

    For the most part, outside of really good parrillas (steakhouses), the style of restaurant in which Buenos Aires abounds, if you want to eat well, you're going to have to spend or go to the more outlying barrios, it's just the way it is here these days - BA is not the "cheap eats" place that it was 8 years ago after the economic crash - 35% or more inflation a year is steadily bringing prices back towards the point they were prior (still a long way to go, but BA was one of the most expensive cities to live in in the world before that). That said, if you're willing to spend more or head out to the west or north part of town, there are many places to eat and eat well, lots of them reviewed here, lots on my own blog and other sources.

    1. Just out of curiosity, why did you choose Buenos Aires? Although most of the traffic on the chowhound boards for "South America" concern Argentina or Buenos Aires, if I could select anywhere in (all of) Latin America to both study and to eat, it would be Mexico, Peru, Guatemala, Brasil, or Bolivia - in that order. Not being rude, just curious.

      I really liked the Italian food 30 years ago in BA.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Sam Fujisaka

        I really chose this program base on my interest in public health. It just happened to be in Buenos Aires. I didn't know that much about the country other than having seen Evita on Broadway and hearing all about the steak. I came expecting fabulous steak and an intensive 7 week public health program working in clinics. The intensive public health classes I have experienced. The steak not so much.

        I did finally have a decent empanada as snack en Palermo on the corner of Santa Fe and Scalabrini Oritz. It's a relatively nice cafe. 4.50 is a little more than the usual empanada, usually around 3-3.50, but I was happy to have a nice warm empanada with flavorful filling. The chunks of carne are nicer than minced meat.

        I have family in Peru and have visited twice. Peruvian food is so amazing. Argentina just so happened to be my second South American country. I heard they had a lot of Italian influence, but I think I understand the history a bit more after today's class actually.

        1. re: sox_foodie

          Well, good luck! Here in Cali, Colombia, the only good steak house is a rustic open air restaurant at the foot of the hills open on weekends and with an Argentinian grill team.

          I too have family in Peru (and Brasil).

      2. Hi Sox. I can understand your frustration which tends to happen when you don't know a place well just yet and expect to find amazing food at every corner. I am from Buenos Aires myself but I currently live in the UK. I spent almost a year back home recently so I am pretty familiar with the food scene as it it right now although I tend to avoid trendy places as I much prefer traditional ones (with a few exceptions). The food tends to be better, more honest and the prices far more sensible. Two excellent sites to check out with fantastic recommendations and restaurant reviews are:

        Two of the most typical, cantina-style, fantastic pizzerias are 'Guerrin' and 'El Cuartito' both for the delicious pizzas and fainás as for the atmosphere. For good empanadas and Northwestern regional food, try 'La Querencia', 'El Sanjuanino', 'Na Serapia' (close to El Botánico on Av. Las Heras and Paunero) and 'La Tucumanita'.

        In my opinion, Italian food in Buenos Aires can be outstanding if you don't fall for the 'fashionable' places. Some excellent ones in my view are 'Il Matterello' (in La Boca), 'Guido's Bar' (opposite the zoo. There is no menu but they bring you a taste of several dishes freshly prepared...brilliant atmosphere too), 'Pierino' in Almagro, 'Sette Bacco' (this is more pricey and modern but totally worth it), 'Pinuccio & Figli' (with a great display of antipasti that you help yourself too and if you guess the plate's weight, you get it for free). There are many excellent nighbourhood cantinas. Ask the locals.

        One of my favourite New-York style places is 'Voulez Bar', around the corner from the zoo and a couple of blocks away from the Botánico. They serve fresh salads, sandwiches, delicious pastries and cakes and a more refined menu in the evenings. It's so full you generally need to wait to be seated but if you're in the area, I'd recommend you try it.

        A great place is 'Avila', a Spanish restaurant on Av. de Mayo, close to Congreso. The best tortilla I've ever had, excellent tapas, stunning fish dishes of the day and all extremely cheap.

        Don't despair...Buenos Aires has excellent food if you know where to go, as most places. Here in the UK there is a lot of average stuff and a lot of gems. Good luck and buen provecho!

        5 Replies
        1. re: Paula76

          Have you watched the restaurant make over show fro Buenos Aires featuring one of Argentinian chefs from and an interior designer? The re-do the restaurant and the menu. I wonder if any of them have come away being good places. They are all small, neighborhood type places.

          1. re: Sam Fujisaka

            I was glued to el whilst over there but unfortunately cannot seem to get the programs on the net...if you know how please give me a hand! I saw that show you mentioned with different chefs and designers. My favourite is Donato, the Italian chef as he doesn't take himself too seriously and is very relaxed and unpretentious about food...
            I am not sure what happened to those places. I remember one of them ('Bailalola') which has good reviews.

            There are so many great parrillas and cantinas in Buenos Aires! But the huge influx of tourism in recent years has brought new experimental foods (long overdue) but a lot of tourist traps as well. A bit for all tastes.

            1. re: Paula76

              I don't get it on the net, just watch the episodes here on TV (to the extent we can take the Argentinian accent!). Donato de Santis is incredibly talented! Has to be one of the best Italian chefs on the planet. What he can do with his hands and pasta is amazing.

          2. re: Paula76

            Thank you so much for the reply. This is definitely the type of info I will use. I live just near the jardines, so I will definitely look for Voulez and Guido's this week. The farther places will have to wait for the weekend, but I'm looking forward to exploring more now that I'm starting to be able to understand the Colectivos.

            1. re: sox_foodie

              A great place for empanadas is Tatú, on Gutiérrez and Lafinur. And for stunning fresh fish and seafood (not cheap but very good value) check out Nemo on Cabello and Ugarteche. One of the best takeaway pizzas you can get (thin crust, proper clay oven Italian-style) is from almacen de piizzas on Julian Alvarez and Santa Fe (check their website). Since you're at it...could you post me some? :-)