Eat List: Parrillas in Buenos Aires, Argentina

In most parts of the world, eating out at a steakhouse is saved for a special occasion. But in Buenos Aires, parrillas are the go-to option any day of the week, for lunch or dinner, with an array of options suitable for any price point. Since long are the days when any spot will serve the carne of your life, we have done your steakhouse homework for you, helping choose your BA meat den wisely.

Buenos Aires Parrilla 101:

There are a few important things you should know before embarking on a serious parrilla quest:

  • Get the lingo down: parrilla means steakhouse, but it also means the actual grill, while the parrillada is the mixed grill consisting of the cheaper cuts and offal. Asado means barbecue (the actual event), and also the rib cut.
  • The appetizer course of achuras (offal) usually consists of entrails and sausages. The steak cuts are the main star of the show.
  • Most often steak doesn’t come with guarniciones (side dishes), these are ordered separately. To fit in, get a simple salad with lettuce, tomato and onion and some sort of fried potato.
  • The best temperature for steak is jugoso, which translates to rare, but often comes out medium rare. The local palate tends to prefer meat on the well done side.
  • There’s a difference between bife de chorizo (sirloin) and good old plain chorizo (sausage).
  • Chimichurri and salsa criolla sauces are pretty much the only acceptable accompaniments (besides salt) for the meat.
  • Vegetarians at a steakhouse won’t go entirely hungry — provoleta (grilled hunk of cheese), parrillada de verduras (grilled vegetable plate), French fries, Spanish omelet, and salad are the best bets. Most parrillas will also serve a selection of simple pastas.

Don Julio

It’s the steakhouse for you to embark on your Argie meat adventures – Don Julio shows diners what Buenos Aires parrilla culture is all about. The mix of devout locals and traveling parrilla virgins take refuge in a beef and wine sanctuary where professional servers show off why this country is known as the land of beef and malbec. Guatemala 4699, Palermo; 54 11 4832-6058;

What to order: Owner Pablo Rivero says to order crispy mollejas (sweetbreads) and house cuts like bife de cuadril (rump steak) and entraña (skirt steak). Chef Guido Tassi recently jumped on board to take revamp their sausage making game.

La Brigada

Hugo Echevarrieta started his career as a dishwasher, and eventually worked his way up to run one of the most sought after steak-centric spots in the entire capital. It doesn’t get much more classic than this San Telmo mecca, although Hugo tries to mix things up by offering unexpected cuts that aren’t typically available in BA. Estados Unidos 465, San Telmo; 54 11 4361-4685;

What to order: Whet your appetite with lamb mollejas (sweetbreads), crispy provoleta cheese, and wild boar chorizo. Hugo won’t give up what his “corte especial” actually is, but it’s the slab of beef to order.

Los Talas del Entrerriano

Up for an adventure? Rent a car, head out of the city, and join hundreds of carnivores at the meatopia asado tent. Giant grills are covered in every cut and entrail imaginable, but the main action goes down outside with gaucho-style grilling, al asador, where whole cuts are crucified on a vertical iron cross and grilled over an open flame. Av. Brig. Gral. Juan Manuel de Rosas 1391, José León Suárez; 54 11 4729-8527;

What to order: Mollejas (sweetbreads), vacío (flank), lechón (suckling pig), asado (ribs), and cordero (lamb).

Don Carlos

The humble spot just steps away from El Caminito and La Boca soccer stadium is chef Francis Mallmann and director Francis Ford Coppola’s favorite place to dine in the city. There’s no menu, but owner Carlitos has a sixth sense for what each table should order. In addition to classic dishes straight off the grill, the house specializes in homemade pastas. Brandsen 699, La Boca; 54 11 4362-2433.

What to order: Have good faith in Carlitos, who will bring you the best he has that day.

El Pobre Luis

“Great meat, good wood.” That was the late grillmaster legend Luis Acuña’s secret to what makes a perfect asado. And while El Pobre Luis no longer is manning the grill, his legend stays alive in the form of some of the best damn meat this city has to offer. The bar holds the coveted seats of the house, because who wouldn’t want a first hand look at a team of parrilla gods who masterfully work a set of large grills. Arribeños 2393, Belgrano; 54 11 4780-5847.

What to order: Pamplonas (cheese and ham stuffed tenderloin, pork or chicken), offal platter, salchicha parrillera (barbecue sausages), and T-Bone steaks.

La Carnicería

What happens when generation hipster does parrilla? La Carncería reinvents the dishes on the grill in a new and exciting way. Sure, nowadays English overruns the restaurant. Yes, the noise can reach unbearable levels, and it’s true you might leave with eau de carne perfume on your clothing. But none of that really matters because the food is damn good and something that no other restaurant is doing in Argentina. Thames 2317, Palermo; 54 11 2071-7199; Facebook Page.

What to order: It depends on your mood because you’ll want a taste of everything. Loosen up with a gin & tonic. Then, get into chorizo, sweetbreads, provoleta, blood sausage, grilled cabbage, smoked cut, and pork cut situations.

Gran Parrilla del Plata

If it’s good enough for Michelle Obama’s mama, who took a special liking on her recent visit, it’s good enough for you. The beautiful space with checkered tiled floors screams Porteño charm. It’s the place to go for a dose of truly local melt-in-your-mouth beef specialties. Chile 594, San Telmo; 54 11 4300-8858;

What to order: Provoleta cheese, chorizo, ojo de bife (rib eye), and French fries with provenzal (garlic and parsley) on top. Make sure they serve you the trifecta tray of meat sauces: chimichurri sauce, salsa criolla, and salsa provenzal.

El Ferroviario

If Argentina as a country could be expressed in the form of a restaurant, El Ferroviario would probably be a solid representation. The family meat sanctuary all the way in Liniers dishes out every part of the cow imaginable. TV sets blare soccer games, which hang next to fake ham legs, disco balls and garlic wreaths. Waiters, constantly swarmed with orders, never seem to stop bringing food and drinks to hundreds of tables. Tip: Reservations are a must, especially on the weekends. Av. Reservistas Argentinos 219, Liniers; 54 11 4644-2360; Facebook Page.

What to order: Go with a big group and order a bit of everything: the provoleta, chinchulines (chitterlings), morcilla (blood sausage) and asado ancho (ribs).

SecreTito AKA Secret Parrilla AKA Don Hugo AKA Lo de Tito AKA La Parrillita de Dorrego

Unless you know it’s there, this parrilla on the Las Cañitas-Palermo border is almost impossible to find. The restaurant has changed names over a dozen of times, and there’s no sign on the front facade, just a mirrored door that says cerrado (closed). But open the unmarked door and enter the bustling neighborhood joint that has served beef craving loyal customers for over a decade. Av. Dorrego 2720, Las Cañitas.

What to order: Provoleta, morcilla (blood sausage), chinchulines (chitterlings), entraña (skirt steak), flan with dulce de leche.

Parrilla Peña

I bet you’ve never dined at a steakhouse in sweatpants. Well here’s your chance, because any dress code is welcome at this unpretentious Recoleta favorite. The two-floor local haunt, open for lunch and dinner, serves a standard parrilla menu of all the grilled necessities. Rodríguez Pena 682, Recoleta; 54 11 4371-5643;

What to order: Provoleta, morcilla (blood sausage), bife de chorizo (sirloin), bife de lomo (tenderloin), French fries, and flan with dulce de leche and whipped cream.

Le Grill

Fancy steakhouses might line the Puerto Madero docks, but very few are actually worth the marked up tourist price tag. From the same owners of acclaimed Chila, upscale Le Grill focuses on grass fed beef and excellent wines, which are stored in an impressive cellar that boasts a selection of over 3000 bottles. Av. Alicia Moreau de Justo 876, Puerto Madero; 54 11 4331-0454;

What to order: Picada charcuterie plate, goat sweetbreads, empanadas, dry aged steaks.

Lo de Charly

Feel the hankering for a 4a.m. rib eye? You’re in luck, because Lo de Charly is around. Weekdays, weekends and holidays. 24/7. Since 1991. The casual barrio parrilla never closes, and is always around to serve you parrilla essentials. Av. Alvarez Thomas 2101, Villa Urquiza; 54 11 4553-0882;

What to order: Provoleta, parrillada, ojo de bife (rib eye), asado, French fries with provenzal.

Nuestra Parrilla

Everyone visiting Buenos Aires should check out the San Telmo market, and every visit to the San Telmo market should include a pit stop to Nuestra Parrilla. Owner Freddy only needs a grill and a few bar stools to serve the dreamiest chorizo sandwiches smothered in chimichurri sauce. It might just be your best one bite wonder. Carlos Calvo 471, San Telmo.

What to order: Choripán.

Mi Sueño

Buenos Aires isn’t famed for its street food, but there’s one street meat mecca in the city. Alongside the Ecological Reserve in the Costanera Sur is home to the city’s carritos, barbecue cart vendors who dish out quick and cheap pork and steak sandwiches. Some say the flavors have suffered since government regulations changed out charcoal grills for electric, but it’s still a prime spot to take in asado eating culture. Av. Hernan M. Giralt (y Macacha Guemes), Costanera Sur.

What to order: Meaty sandwiches like bondiola (pork shoulder), choripán (chorizo), or lomito (tenderloin).

La Cabrera

The people of BA take their steaks quite seriously, so it means a lot that La Cabrera has kept up with the hype and consistently stayed on top as the tourist must-visit for years. It’s like going to a meat circus — ridiculously large slabs of steaks are served next to dozens of mini side dishes. The time to go: every night from 7pm – 8pm when the menu (including drinks) is 40% off. Cabrera 5099, Palermo; 54 11 4832-5754;

What to order: Chorizo, molleja (sweetbreads), bife de chorizo (sirloin).

El Litoral

This dirty corner dive is an actual hole-in-the-wall. Taxi drivers and barrio folk make a religious pit stop for a juicy meat sandwich or casual sit down steaks on the fly. It’s hard to find a match for meat quality at prices so cheap. Moreno 2201, Balvanera; 54 11 49532438.

What to order: Bondiola (pork shoulder) sandwich, vacío (flank) with French fries.

Cabaña Las Lilas

Cabaña Las Lilas is the most well known steakhouse in Buenos Aires (besides La Cabrera) cranking out juicy pieces of beef to the masses. Tourists flock to the Puerto Madero grill factory and pay a peso premium for quality cuts and top notch service. If money is no object, or someone else is footing the bill, give Las Lilas a try. Av. Alicia Moreau de Justo 516, Puerto Madero; 54 11 4313-1336.

What to order: Provoleta, chorizo, picaña (rump), bife de chorizo (sirloin).

Don Niceto

In the modern culinary age where Palermo abounds in trendy restaurants and girly cafés, the rustic, gritty grill holes are few and far between. Simple and laid back with plastic tables and chairs, Don Niceto is one of the last of its kind dishing out good old fashion Argentine asado. Av. Cnel. Niceto Vega 5255, Palermo; 54 11 4777-8534.

What to order: Bife de chorizo (sirloin), chorizo, entraña (skirt steak).