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Recs for Buenos Aires, Mendoza, Santiago, and Valparaiso?

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Hola fellow foodies! I am in the planning stages of a trip to South America for this April, and am already beginning to read up on where to eat. Destinations include: Buenos Aires (five days), Mendoza (probably three-four, depending on how many wineries I end up touring), Santiago (three days), and Valparaiso (one day). Things to know that might help you make recommendations:

I'm 23 years old, so hoping to find places with a fairly hip, young, though not necessarily trendy, vibe.

I'm interested in tasting authentic, regional food, so unless it's TRULY fabulous, no ethnic restaurants, please.

I'm a vegetarian (no meat, no seafood, yes dairy and eggs), so I don't need to know where the best steaks are served ;)

Wonderful cafes, charming coffee spots, and classy bars are also appreciated.

Budget is a non-issue, and I'd love to hear about everything from cheap eats to the most bank-breaking worthy destinations.

I'm a single female... I've dined in some pretty fancy places in Europe alone before and I don't mind the strange looks I've sometimes gotten, but if there's anywhere I truly need a heads-up about, let me know.

MANY THANKS IN ADVANCE!!!

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  1. I'm just back from a trip to South America. In Buenos Aires, I recommend a place called Gran Bar Danzon - interesting food, wines by the glass, fun bar. Go later in the evening - no one even thinks of eating before 10 pm. Check their website for more info. Also had a great meal at a place called Torcuato & Regina - it's near Plaza San Martin - just look for the red awnings, on the square right next to the "Circulo Militar".

    In Santiago, had a great lunch at Zully - it's a bit hard to find (check their website) - funky place upstairs, off a courtyard with a fountain - the place is a collection of rooms on several levels, lots of great artwork on the walls - excellent eats. Address is Concha y Toro #34 - make a note of it, as there is no sign, you just find that building and go up the stairs to the second floor. Worth the effort!

    Although I haven't been myself, a coworker recommends Pasta y Vino in the Bellavista neighbourhood - it's at the base of the funicular.

    Enjoy!

    1. I was in Santiago last April--I don't eat meat but do eat fish. I think you could do fine in the following
      La Mar--Nueva Costanera--it is a cebicheria but has a lively bar scene and delicious food beside ceviche. The whole street is filled with shops and restaurants to check out. Also liked Puerto Fuy on the same street. Astrid and Gaston from Lima also has a branch in Santiago---they own La Mar too.

      1. BA-->Mendoza-->Santiago-->Valpo is exactly the route I'm on now! Sadly, we will not make it to Valpo because our passports (and my husband's green card) were stolen by pickpockets in BA - we've lost a couple of days hanging around at the US embassy. So, the most important thing to keep in mind as you wander around these cities: lock up your passport at the hotel, keep your eyes on your bag, and stay vigilant at all times. AVOID CALLE FLORIDA -- the embassy says they deal with a US passport theft from this street once a week.

        BA
        Despite our misfortune, and despite the fact that I'm not a big fan of BA at the moment, we had some excellent (albeit meaty) meals. It's a generous city with massive portions, and the wines are cheap and tasty:

        Mott (Palermo) - practically New York prices, but a good place to stop for lunch or drinks in Palermo while shopping. It's an airy room full of good-looking, air-kissing Americans, if you like that sort of thing.

        Limbo (Palermo) - please skip it, even though Limbo and the club across the street are always listed in the guidebooks. We were walking through Palermo and got tired of walking; we saw some happy pregnant women tucking into their food, and thought if they could be satisfied, then we could be too. Sadly, the meat was tough and inedible, and my salad dry and tired. Maybe ordering a la carte is the solution--it's possible that only the prix fixe sucked.

        La Cabana (Recoleta) - amazing. And expensive. There is a cover charge (maybe 7 AR pesos?) which includes a superb bread basket with a couple of airy purees for the breads, and a trio of amuse bouche -- a mini empanada, a shot glass of minnestrone and a bite of chorizo that afternoon. We had a gorgeous salad of beets, quail eggs, palm hearts and some crisp greens, and the salsicha was fat and juicy. We wished we were hungrier.

        La Cabrera (Palermo) - a must. Everything you've read is true: long waits, the free glass of espumoso, the bites of smoky chorizo while you wait, lollipops while you pay the bill. We saw more Americans than locals, but even the guys at the hotel were psyched that we were going and spoke highly of it. The lomito was unbelievable. You'll never be able to eat crappy corn-fed American beef again. Avoid the bread basket. It blows. The salads are also not worth your while.

        Filo - if you're staying in Retiro or Centro, it's a serviceable place for an above average margherita pizza with a thin crust or maybe a salad. We were beat and lamenting over the loss of the passports, so the thumping house music was irritating; the room appeared to be filled with 30-something yr old folks on dates.

        BA -->MENDOZA
        If by any chance you are traveling via night bus to Mendoza, I would recommend these bus lines in the following order: 1) AndesMar 2) Cata Internacional 3) Nueva Chevallier in that order. Tickets for the first two lines seem to sell out before Nueva Chevallier due to newer fleets, better food and better service. Our Nueva Chevallier bus was dirty, with a cracked windshield, filthy black pillows and pilled blankets -- Lord knows when they'd been washed last.

        The abundant food -- seriously, course after course -- was truly abysmal, even in the Cama Suite service. On Nueva Chevallier, we were offered a mouthful of moscato and a dry ham and cheese sandwich, followed by a platter of slimy ham, potato salad, stale bread, packaged breadsticks and pastries, followed by a giant portion of oily shepard's pie. This was all washed down with cheap white or red wine (no beer on board) in a plastic cup. And there's more! A platter of pastries were offered for dessert, and they actually offer whiskey or a Tia Maria in a glass with an ice cube.

        Breakfast is coffee and juice several packets of crackers: saltines, fruit and oat cookies, and a sad cereal bar. The dulce de leche makes everything taste better.

        MENDOZA

        Termas Cacheuta - after the 12-bus ride, nothing beat soaking and caking ourselves in mud at the thermal springs at Cacheuta. The lunch was generous but not so thrilling: grilled meats, and a spread of just about every legume you can imagine, and a pretty good dessert table.

        1. I agree with bcbg about Zully in Santiago. Just a really cool out of the way place that you'll be happy you went to. Super friendly, unique vibe, non-touristy.

          Mendoza: I loved Azafran. It's a combination wine shop and restaurant. Tiny. Great ambience.

          BA: I enjoyed Rosa Negra, although it's outside the city center. Kind of a haul, so I don't think it's what you're looking for.

          1. Just back from a Sept trip to BA and Mendoza. Posted about BA restaurants and Mendoza wineries on other threads.

            Went to two NICE dinners in Mendoza:

            1884 Francis Mallman: Incredible experience. The space feels like a private club and the parrilla outside is stunning. The appetizer was a Humita, or corn soup with chilies. The steak was a Kobe like thin cut that was meltingly tender and finished with mustard and roasted olives.

            Azafran: creative food but not up to the level of Mallman. Great wine list presented in a library, rather than a list. A bit more casual but felt fairly Americanized.