*Updated February 2017*
“The best steak in the world”. Beef from Argentina has a pretty big reputation to live up to. As an 8 year veteran of Buenos Aires I have had some fantastic steaks from fine dining restaurants, hole in the wall bars, camp fire grills and of course off the holiest of holy asado a la cruz. Here is the knowledge I can offer you:
What are the best steak cuts to order?
Bife de lomo = filet mignon: Minimal fat, tender, prime cut, soft beef. This cut is for those who order their meat rare to medium. With little fat comes little marbling and all beef experts know that marbling means maximum flavor. A good and lean introduction steak to what Argentina has to offer.
Bife de chorizo = NY strip/Sirloin: A thick strip of fat lines one side and the meat is pretty well marbled. In my opinion, this is the king of steaks. Order this guy medium and it will be something to write home about. This will be a fairly tender steak, juicy and full of flavor.
Tira de asado = short ribs: Cut the ribs horizontally and you have this Argentinean iconic cut of beef. Amounts of fat will vary greatly as will quality. Expect a tougher meat with high amounts of flavor from the bones and fat. Crisp meat will line the backside of the bones, don’t skip it.
Vacío = flank steak: One thick layer of fat lines this pancake cut of beef. This steak is fairly chewy, but simply outranks all the rest with regards to flavor. I suggest ordering this medium to well done as you really need to have this steak on the grill for a long period of time to have all that fat crisp up and flavor the beef.
Ojo de bife = ribeye: Heavy marbling and tender beef this cut is a bit heavier on the fat than the bife de chorizo (NY strip). High on the flavor scale, not for those who precisely cut around any bit of fat in a steak.
How to order your steak:
Jugoso: Literally translates to “juicy”, this will be close to medium-rare. (“who-go-so”)
A punto: Medium. If you forget to tell the waiter how you would like your steak cooked this is the understood default. Pink through and through with the edges well cooked. (“ah-poon-toe”)
Cocido: Well done. Someone should kill you if you are thinking about doing this to a lomo or bife de chorizo. Perfectly acceptable for the vacío and tira de asado cuts. Seriously…when I used to cook in a fine dining restaurant back in the US we used to make fun of people who ordered their filet mignon “well done”. We would find the oldest cut because we were going to ruin it with fire anyway. (“Co-see-doh”)
*Keep in mind asadors (grill masters) in Argentina tend to overcook the steaks.
Where to go for the best steak in Buenos Aires?
Where to get the best steak will greatly depend on your budget and what neighborhood you would like to visit. Here are my top recommendations for the best steak serving restaurants in Buenos Aires organized by neighborhood. Each have been tested multiple times.
$$$$=goodbye college fund
Best steakhouses in San Telmo
La Brigada- Estados Unidos 465 (near Estados Unidos and Bolivar) in San Telmo
The kingpin steakhouse of San Telmo, this is a higher end version of a neighborhood parrilla. These guys boast that each lomo can be cut with a spoon…and they will show you. A bit on the higher end of pricing La Brigada has a wide variety of side dishes that you should consider accompanying that tasty steak.
Desnivel – Defensa 855 (near Defensa and Independencia) in San Telmo
Desnivel is a fine representation of an old school San Telmo neighborhood parrilla. Amazingly they have managed to avoid catering too much to the tourists’ demands and expectations despite the flood of Argentines and foreigners alike daily. I was once served a Vacío steak here the size of my forearm. Good pricing, but don’t expect a white table cloth. Sometimes it can be filled with tourists, but not necessarily in a bad way.
For more restaurant suggestions in San Telmo
Best steak restaurants in Palermo
Don Julio Parrilla – Guatemala 4691 (near Guatemala and Gurruchaga) in Palermo Soho
A classy neighborhood parrilla with formal waiters and a well known reputation as an excellent steakhouse. High quality olive oil and an excellent wine lists, this has been my go-to parrilla recommendation for first time Buenos Aires visitors. Don’t be afraid to sign your wine bottle to add to the ever growing collection that lines the walls (you may have to convince them you are famous). They are known for their entraña (skirt steak).
La Cabrera – Cabrera 5127 (near Cabrera and Thames) in Palermo Soho
Suffering from the “Lonely Planet curse” as the most well known steakhouse in Buenos Aires, the line for dinner can get long especially because the dining room only seats about 10 tables. Fear not they have another location literally on the other corner if things get too busy. Expect a wide variety of sauces, mini-side dishes and a nice sized, perfectly cooked steak. They really nail the crisp exterior and juicy interior- these guys are pros and live up to their reputation just expect to wait if you show up between 9:00 pm and 11:00 pm. *If you go at 7pm, you have an hour to take advantage of their 40% off “happy hour” menu.
Carniceria – Thames 2367 (near Thames and Charcas) in Palermo Soho
Seating 30 people tops this small restaurant takes my #1 rank for 2017 steakhouses in Argentina. The Argentine and Colombian dynamic duo who own Carniceria are scrupulous when it comes to the meat quality and even more selective when it comes to the preparation and cooking. Smoking, sauces, side dishes, appetizers, cocktails – everything is executed with precision and the menu constantly shifts around as the kitchen experiments with new plates. Reservations are a must unless you plan on showing up and getting lucky for their last table turn around 11:00 pm.
Best steak houses in Puerto Madero and Centro
Le Grill – Alicia Moreau de Justo 876 (Avenida Alicia Moreau de Justo and Corrientes) in Puerto Madero
A top parrilla on the Puerto Madero strip, in the world of modern first class steakhouses, Le Grill gets a bunch of gold stars. The kitchen bangs out killer juicy steaks, cooked textbook, while impeccably trained waiters serve remarkable wines (from an even more remarkable wine cellar). Le Grill also serves Dry Aged beef, a method nontraditional to Argentine steaks.
Cabaña de las Lilas – Avenida Alicia Moreau de Justo 516 in Puerto Madero
The crown jewel of steak houses (parrillas) in Buenos Aires, this place will set you back if you are not careful. They have their own private cattle ranch, massive kitchen and top end chefs. If I am going to splurge/celebrate something big on a meal at a parrilla this is where I am going. Surrounded by ultra safe Puerto Madero you can walk off that food coma by strolling around the port area.
La Cabaña – Avenida Alicia Moreau de Justo 380 (Avenida Alicia Moreau de Justo and Corrientes) in Puerto Madero
A close runner up to the similarly dubbed parrilla above, La Cabaña is old school classy Argentina at its best. This fancy steakhouse is prepared to cater to the international business crowd that frequents Puerto Madero’s dockside nightlife. Their head chef also offers private asado lessons during the day time so it is safe to say they are masterful when it comes to cooking a steak. Past customers include Sean Connery, the King of Spain, Madonna and so on. Don’t believe me, check out their lobby’s collection of photos.
Siga la Vaca – Alicia Moreau de Justo 1714 (Alicia Moreau de Justo and Humberto Primo) in Puerto Madero
All you can eat buffet. Need I say more? You will not see filet mignon or sirloin, but you will certainly see short ribs, sausages, roast pork, black pudding, skirt steak, flank steak, crisp small intestines…
La Chacra – Cordoba 941 (Cordoba and 9 de Julio) in Centro
One of the few places in Buenos Aires that still has the asado a la cruz (see picture above of what the asado a la cruz is). Located in a heavily trafficked area one might suspect this steak serving restaurant to be nothing but a hoax. On the contrary, this is one of the top dogs in the land of the parrilla. If you want a taste of goat or pig a la cruz this is the spot.
El Establo – Paraguay 489 (Paraguay and San Martin) in Centro
I have personally heard from a few different folks that this was their go to steak restaurant while in Buenos Aires. It has been about a year since I’ve been there (Buenos Aires is a big city with too many restaurants), but man they had a killer bife de chorizo. Perfect medium temperature, crisp outer skin, juicy just like a perfect steak should be. They’ll charge you, but they have top quality beef there. You will not be disappointed.