Eating Beef in Buenos Aires: Best Parrillas


Though Buenos Aires is a large, cosmopolitan city whose exhaustive variety of cuisines range from authentic French Brasseries to Sushi Bars, the national cuisine of Argentina is most definitely beef and the most traditional restaurant the “Parrilla.”

The Parrilla specializes in grilled beef, both steaks of various cuts and mixed grills, plates of offal often including sweetbreads, kidneys, and blood sausage (though never liver, for reasons unknown to me.) The grass fed Argentine beef is delicious, although the default cooking temperature is medium—more done than I like my beef, so if you prefer your steak more on the rare side, you will have to ask.

There are a number of venerable and famous Parrillas which have been in operation for decades, such as the rather formal El Mirasol in the upscale Recoleta district, near the embassies and luxury hotels. While El Mirasol is good, and the service impeccable, we found the newer Parrillas in the gentrifying Palermo neighborhood to be more less expensive and more fun, with excellent food.

One of the liveliest is La Dorita, in the Palermo Hollywood neighborhood. Seated at a simple sidewalk table, we were able to enjoy the warm Autumn evening in a casual atmosphere—aided by a friendly young waitress, and copious amounts of Malbec served from barrels (there are several varieties of wine to choose from, very inexpensive and considerably better than you would expect) and brought to the table in ceramic penguin-shaped pitchers.

We began the meal with a selection of empanadas—an Argentine staple, before moving on to fresh mixed salads. Then the main event: Thick steaks which we sliced and shared, and platters of grilled sausages, kidneys, and sweetbreads, shared among the more adventurous.

This restaurant is great for a group, and the seven of us ate and drank like gluttons over a period of about three hours, yet the final bill came to less than $25 dollars a person (cash only).

La Dorita is very popular, so reservations are essential; they have a larger but pretty much identical restaurant (La Dorita Enfance) on the corner directly opposite, where we had a nearly identical meal a few days later. Perhaps it was only the enthusiasm of our first waitress, but we all like the original, smaller, La Dorita best.

Perhaps the best Parrilla we found, however, is La Cabrera in Palermo Soho. The food here is truly excellent, and the atmosphere, both inside or at the sidewalk tables, is delightful. In addition to the excellently prepared beef, all the meat dishes are served with a dozen tasty side dishes: various salads, vegetables, beans, etc., making La Cabrera a very fine choice. One main course is plenty for two persons. There is one seating, at 8:30pm. Reservations are essential.

La Dorita (Palermo Hollywood)
Humbolt 1911 at Costa Rica
Tel 4773-0070
Very festive, traditional Argentine Parrilla, lots of meat, casual and fun. Cash only.

La Cabrera (Palermo Soho)
Cabrera 5099 at Thames St.
Tel 4831-7002
Very good meat, very good service; lots of complimentary side dishes, all excellent. One seating at 8:30.

El Mirasol (Recoleta)
Posada 1032 at Av 9 de Julio
Tel 4326 7322
Formal, well-known Parrilla with good meat and excellent service.

La Dorita photograph by James Laur

2008: A Year of Travel in Pictures

The year 2008 began and ended in San Francisco. So lets consider some old/new highlights of San Francisco in honor of the new year. Favorite old site: the fabulously eccentric late Frank Lloyd Wright Marin Civic Center.

Favorite new site: the fabulously eccentric just opened Renzo Piano designed California Academy of Sciences. Favorite old restaurant: deliciously Italian Delfina in San Francisco. Favorite new restaurant: deliciously eccentric Camino in Oakland.

In February it was off to historic Savannah for a week with my sister. I hadn’t been there since the long ago publication of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. I credit John Berendt’s book with turning a sleepy southern town into a major tourist attraction—and perhaps saving the city’s historic core.

From there it was a drive up to Baltimore for a visit with my brother and his family.

Then my first trip to South America for a 10 day stay in Buenos Aires. Loved the city, loved the food, and loved the fact that I could afford it! Rent an apartment through (thanks to Marc Leonard for the tip); eat at La Cabrera, La Dorita, Social Paraiso, and the cheese room at the fabulous Park Hyatt Hotel; have a suit made, have a leather jacket made; get a massage. Enjoy the urbanity of this great world city.

We took a side trip to Iguazu Falls. The falls are truly impressive, but it had much more the air of an amusement park than I expected. Apparently the “most visited site in South America” aspect had not registered until I got there!

After Buenos Aires, travel with business colleagues took me to Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay. I probably would not have gone there on my own—there are very few tourists—but I’m very glad I had the experience.

A day long layover allowed a chance to see the Panama Canal, and a good deal of the Panamanian countryside as well. We put ourselves entirely at the mercy of a random driver at the Panama Airport and were rewarded with a comfortable, reasonably priced, and comprehensive guided tour! I’m not really a proponent of the “see it in a day” brand of tourism—yet neither do I feel the need to rush back to Panama.

Next up was a weekend trip to Denver to see the John Adams opera Nixon in China. We enjoyed the stylishly quirky Curtis hotel and appreciated the public transportation in what is  essentially a car-centric city.

I got to spend much of August in my former “hometown” of Amsterdam, researching a couple of travel articles (see the articles below) and visiting old friends.

A quick trip to Paris on the super-efficient Thalys high-speed train, confirmed what everyone has always said about Paris in August—all the best places to eat are closed! But I got to use the new Velib public bicycles—I’m hooked, what a great way to get around Paris.

The rest of the year was spent in California, tending to work, with short trips to Morro Bay and Ventura, and ending up back in San Francisco for the New Year.