Over the last few years, an avalanche of restaurant concepts brand new to Buenos Aires—a city where the dining scene was long dominated by its Italian ancestry—emerged and quickly changed the way porteños dine out. The trendy northern neighborhood of Palermo was the epicenter of the quick evolution but as rents soared to meet demand, neighboring Villa Crespo became the setting for a budding new foodscape. The neighborhood, once occupied by warehouses, mechanic shops, and middle class homes, is now the home of a growing arts, shopping, and dining scene. And while the restaurateurs and shop owners wiped out much of the mom and pop joints that once dotted Palermo, Villa Crespo is where survivors of the neighborhood’s past live alongside a pioneering class of chefs. Here is the shortlist for the best that Villa Crespo has to offer:
La Mamma Rosa
If you weren’t in the know you’d pass right by this corner cantina, but La Mamma Rosa has been serving Italo-Argentine food for the last three decades. Waiters in black bow ties, crisp white tablecloths, decades worth of family photos and the smell of fresh pasta that permanently wafts out of the kitchen make this a porteño staple that fills up every night of the week. Food is consistently good with generously portioned pastas and slow-roasted meat entrees served family style. Jufre 202; 54 11 4777-6972; Facebook page.
Although Buenos Aires has the largest Jewish population in South America, it wasn’t until recently that Jewish food began finding its way into the local dining scene—falafel and kebabs at street food style joints and modern twists on shakshuka and gefilte fish in contemporary high end restaurants. La Crespo was on trend long before the rest with a New York City brand of food and the most respectable pastrami sandwich in the city, stacked high and accompanied with pickles and spicy mustard. Thames 612; 54 11 4856-9770; lacrespo.com.
Dozens of lunch spots have opened in the middle of an overdeveloped discount designer outlet that flanks the northern end of the neighborhood. Few are worth the shopping break, but this informal eatery offers up a straight forward build your own sandwich menu heavily influenced by Middle Eastern flavors—think a burger or falafel on lafa bread with babaganoush and yogurt and hot harissa sauce—all cooked over a wood burning grill. Juan Ramirez de Velasco 942, 54 11 4858-1489; Facebook page.
El Buen Sabor
Despite Argentina’s long Atlantic coast line, fish is not a part of local food culture. Over at El Buen Sabor, the only African restaurant in the city, chef Maxime Tankuou serves up a shortlist of dishes heavy on the pescado based on recipes from west, central and south African cuisine. Dishes are homey and abundant with a rich flavor palate dominated by peanuts, chiles, and their staple adobo spice mix used to flavor their two most popular dishes: chicken wings and whole grilled fish. Camargo 296; 54 11 4854-8800; elbuensaborafricano.com.ar.
Local tradition dictates that pizza be made with a thick crust, a spoonful of salsa and a mountain of mozzarella cheese. Danilo Ferraz of 1893 goes against the grain with paper thin crust grilled on the parrilla with a handful of subtle toppings that stray far away from the simple deli ham and red pepper that dots your standard pie. Av. Raúl Scalabrini Ortiz 701; 54 11 4773-2951; Facebook page.
The global microbrew trend hit Buenos Aires hard last year, but most of the breweries popped up in Palermo and San Telmo. Hops is the first—and still the only—brewery in the neighborhood and defiantly del barrio. Only recently have they appeased the demands to offer a small selection of bar foods because the emphasis here is on their eight house made beers. The star of the show is the BAPA—Buenos Aires Pale Ale—their full bodied hoppy ale. Castillo 422; Facebook page.