Finding a steakhouse in Buenos Aires is about as challenging as finding a boulangerie in Paris. Every neighborhood has a parrilla (as they are known)—or thirty. The posh ones run to upholstered chairs, cotton napkins, something resembling a wine list, and lavatories that have been built rather than dug. The vast majority of them are not so plush. I recommend you try both kinds; perhaps one at lunch, the other at dinner.
The core menu is the same everywhere: sticky piles of glistening ribs, crisp and garlicky chitterlings, tender steaks and gamier, more fibrous cuts like flank and skirt. If you want to try a bit of everything, order a parrillada, or mixed grill. A parrillada for three will feed four to five people or two to three Texans. To balance all this richness, desserts are light and healthful. Just kidding—puddings are heavy as hell, with ice cream and dulce de leche to the fore.
There are all kinds of ways to screw up a steakhouse, and Don Julio’s owner Pablo has discovered none of them. Chewy morcilla (blood sausage), spicy chorizos, juicy lomo (tenderloin), and slow-cooked strips of tira de asado (short ribs) come flawlessly off the grill. Order a bottle from the superb wine list and autograph it for their collection before you leave.
Reserve a table or line up for an hour at this insanely popular parrilla, voted Latin America’s 17th best restaurant at the 2014 S. Pellegrino awards. Carnivores convene for the provoleta de cabra (grilled goat’s cheese), the innovative side dishes and the Kalashnikov-sized bifes de chorizos sourced from grass-fed cattle. Go ravenous.
Soccer and steak define this San Telmo classic, owned and (meticulously) overseen by legendary grill-master Hugo Echevarrieta. The walls festooned with football paraphernalia from all around the world are a lovely distraction—right up until the moment the waiters slice through your ojo de bife (rib eye) with a dessert spoon, just as advertised.
El Pobre Luis
The simple but elusive art of good meat cooked just right lost a champion last August, upon the death of Luis Acuña, owner and grill-master of this superb Belgrano steakhouse. Among his legacies is one of the tastiest, least healthy dishes ever plonked on a plate: the pamplona, a big hunk of chicken, pork or beef stuffed with cheese and ham.
Tired of rustic chic and overpriced sausages? Then head for this unpretentious downtown steakhouse, which looks like it was designed and decorated during the last half hour of an all-night bender. The juicy fried empanadas are a hard act to follow, but the entraña (skirt), mollejas (sweetbread), and flan with dulce de leche make a decent stab at it.