“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 beef cuts to order in Argentina?
Lomo/filet mignon: Minimum fat, tender, 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 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. This is the king of steaks in my opinion. 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”)
Where to go for a good 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.
Best steak restaurants in Palermo
Don Julio’s, 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. Olive oil and 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).
Campo Bravo, Baez 292 (near Baez and Arevalo) in Las Cañitas
Las Cañitas is a happening mini-neighborhood, but without too many other tourists. Sometimes you just want to feel like you are the only foreigner around and this is a good place to do so. Campo Bravo has a rustic feel, good wine list and side dishes to boot. If this place is too packed head across the street to El Primo which is almost the same quality and pricing.
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.
El Trapiche, Paraguay 5999 (near Paraguay and Humboldt) in Palermo Hollywood
This was one of the first parrillas I began to frequent back in 2005. At the time you could order a full portion of lomo for $7 USD and it was enough for 2 people easily. Alas those days are long gone, but the portions are still generous and these guys like to offer a very wide variety of dishes. This is the best option for when you have an indecisive crowd or night in general. There is literally a book of dishes, wines, sides, etc.
La Dorita de Enfrente, Humboldt 1892 (Humboldt and Costa Rica) in Palermo Hollywood
Better for a gathering of friends than a quiet family meal this parrilla gets rocking at night. Be sure to try out the chorizos as an appetizer here and saddle up for some cold Quilmes beers. Fun place to start the evening out in Palermo Hollywood as there are tons of bars and clubs nearby.
Best steak houses in Puerto Madero and Centro
Cabana de las Lilas, Avenida Alicia Moreau de Justo 516 (Avenida Alicia Moreau de Justo and Corrientes) 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 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 Cabana, 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 Cabana 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.
Sigue 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 and as a bonus, me looking like an idiot because my Argentinean mother-in-law thought it was cute that I was excited about eating this style of cooking and forced me to take a picture before sitting down). 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.
If you want to take a unique tour to some hidden, local hole-in-the wall restaurants, learn about Argentina’s culture and cuisine check out the Parrilla Tour.