Argentina’s love affair with grilled meat is a long and illustrious one. Ever since the Spanish conquistadors brought cattle over to the country on ships in the 16th century, Argentina and beef have been enamoured and intertwined.
But what makes Argentinian beef so good? It all starts in Las Pampas, the 750’000 square kilometres of flat, seemingly never-ending grassland where the country’s cattle happily graze and roam, undisturbed and unhurried.
Reared naturally by the country’s famous gauchos, and with no additional antibiotics or growth hormones used, the cows live a relaxed yet active life, which translates to a remarkable complexity of flavour and texture later down the line.
Even the butchery process is unique, with Argentinian steak, roasting and braising cuts different from those we’re familiar with here in the UK. The way those cuts are cooked is also a more sophisticated and celebratory affair, well at odds with the relatively simple ‘steak dinner’ popular on these shores.
To the untrained eye, it may look simple, but there’s huge amounts of skill involved in the art of maintaining an asado so that all the different cuts of meat cook perfectly over the course of a long, glorious day of eating and drinking.
Usually, this grilling is done a la cruz; meat is attached to an iron cross using hooks and grilled upright away from the direct heat of the fire. This ‘on the cross’ stance leads to gentle, smoky cooking and yields the most tender, flavoursome meat imaginable.
All that said, the asado experience is one best enjoyed in the Argentinian countryside, spent in the company of friends and family over the course of a long, languid and liquored weekend.
Scoring an invite to such an occasion takes time, and now, with the Argentinian government introducing a major ban on beef exports, sampling the very best that the country has to offer just got a little bit more difficult.
Where To Find The Best Beef In Buenos Aires
Fear not; even on a fly-in visit to the country, you can still go to the source of some truly exemplary beef.
Land in the urbane, metropolitan capital Buenos Aires, and there’s no reason you should miss out on the country’s incredible product, with the city absolutely brimming with both traditional parrillas and more hip-and-happening modern steakhouses, where grilling meat is an artform akin to Fontana’s brush or the left foot of Messi.
Anyway, we’re getting hungry, so without further ado, here are the best steakhouses and parrillas in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
We had to start here, at the Don’s.
Whilst not necessarily the most original starting point for a list on the best steakhouses and parrillas in Buenos Aires, and certainly not an insider’s, locals-only type of place, Don Julio is world-famous for a reason; it’s an absolute institution, and arguably the ‘pinnacle of Argentine meat and culture’, in the words of Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants, who in 2020 placed the restaurant at number 1.
Not that Don Julio needed the San Pellegrino seal of approval; everyone from Anthony Bourdain to Pep Guardiola has dined here, lured in by the signature skirt steak sure, but, as we all have been, equally as bowled over by the house charcuterie, chorizo, morcilla and sweetbreads. Even the grilled vegetables are done expertly.
With one of Buenos Aires’ most impressive wine cellars (positively swimming in Malbec and Mendoza, of course) sealing the deal in this little corner of trendy Palermo, it’s hard to argue that Don Julio is one of Buenos Aires’ best steakhouses.
Address: Guatemala 4691, C1425 CABA, Argentina
Parrilla Los Cabritos
If you’re looking for something properly ‘local’ feeling, with boisterous groups of Argentinians young and old tucking into huge platefuls of grilled meat, with bow-tied waiters, a roaring fire pit, and more, then look no further than Los Cabritos, which sits on the edge of Buenos Aires in the barrio of Liniers.
Though Liniers is a little more out the way than the other steakhouses on our list, you could consider incorporating a visit here into a larger food tour. The experts at Craft Travel, who provide custom Argentinian tours, tell us that you haven’t really been to Argentina without seeing the local cattle ranches (estancia) just outside of Buenos Aires , experiencing the traditional ways of local cowboys (the famous gauchos) before heading out to the country’s famous wine valleys in the Colchagua Valley.
Anyway, back to Los Cabritos… Though the name refers to young goat meat, it’s not just kid you’ll find roasting a la cruz here. In fact, the go-to order if you’re in a large group (you’ll often see whole, extended families dining here) is the parrilla completa, a sizzling, tableside grill boasting the aforementioned goat, alongside chorizo and blood sausage, beef ribs, chicken, veal breast, sweetbreads, kidney, and more. Proper nose-to-tail eating, this.
Address: Av. Juan Bautista Alberdi 6161, C1440 CABA, Argentina
El Pobre Luis
As Don Julio’s capably affirms, to visit a Buenos Aires parrilla only for the steak would be a crime against other cuts and the culinary culture. At El Pobre Luis – a no-nonsense Uruguayan-style parrilla and sports bar in the city’s Chinatown – the highlight is the sausages, whether that’s the salchicha parrillera, essentially a chorizo-spiced chipolata, or the house speciality, chinchulines (stuffed beef intestine), both of which arrive at your table blistered and burnished off the grill.
But that’s not all; El Pobre Luis is perhaps most well-known for its pamplona, a Uruguayan dish of chicken breast that’s stuffed with bacon and cheese before meeting the parrilla. This one is as indulgent as it sounds, but we never promised you’d leave Buenos Aires any slimmer!
Address: Arribeños 2393, C1428 CABA, Argentina
We’re heading back to Palermo for our next feed, and to La Cabrera, a traditional steakhouse helmed by esteemed chef Gastón Riveira.
Here, the choice of meats and their various cuts is enormous, but the restaurant is equally well known for their vast array of accompanying vegetable side dishes, all presented in small ramekins that bring colour and vivacity to a table that would, otherwise, simply be covered in massive hunks of meat.
There are even a few free appetisers to get you going, though we wouldn’t recommend filling yourself up before the main event, which is difficult to take down, even if you’re carrying an almighty appetite.
Open since 2001, the 1kg sirloin steaks are the biggest draw at La Cabrera, and whilst they might seem comically large, no one’s laughing about the quality of the product; this is beef as good as it gets anywhere in the world.
Address: José A. Cabrera 5127, C1414BGQ CABA, Argentina
Los Talas Del Entrerriano
Another parrilla where the theatre of various whole animals being grilled a la cruz takes centre stage, at Los Talas del Entrerriano the room is cavernous and lacking frippery, the service is similarly no-frills, and the focus is very much on the meat.
That’s no bad thing; the restaurant has a particularly wicked way with pork, and their ribs, in particular, are sensational. This is a steakhouse where families convene regularly, and the portions reflect this; if you’re heading here alone or as a couple, you may need to be carried out (or, at least, carry out some food in a doggy bag!).
Address: Av. Brig. Gral. Juan Manuel de Rosas 1391, B1655 José León Suárez, Provincia de Buenos Aires, Argentina
We end our tour of the best parrillas in Buenos Aires at La Brigada, one of the city’s most legendary steakhouses.
Housed in Buenos Aires’ oldest barrio San Telmo and sprawling over three floors, there’s nothing subtle about this place, with the walls clad in football memorabilia, the music as boisterous as the atmosphere, and the owner Hugo Echevarrieta still working the floor with undeniable charisma. The regular appearances of celebrities here (Rafael Nadal, Bono, even Diego Maradona, who reportedly kept his own wine in the cellar…) only serves to ramp up the sense of occasion that the steakhouse does so well.
La Brigada’s gimmick, if you can call it that, sees the waiters slice the steaks with a spoon, emphasising their tenderness, but those in the know may actually choose to to veer away from beef here, instead going in hard on the menu’s offal section – the sweetbreads and tripe are particularly good.
Address: Estados Unidos 465, C1066 CABA, Argentina
And with the meat coma to end all meat comas fast approaching, we’re off for a very well deserved lie down. It’s a hard life…
If that list has got you hungry and you’re looking to recreate the experience at home in a more manageable way, then check out these steps to the perfect steak. Bon Appetite!