12 Days in Buenos Aires – Favorite Restaurants

When visiting a new place Anh and I thrash through town eating as much as we possibly can. We try to experience as many restaurants and street vendors serving local cuisines as our stomachs allow us. We become food critics in our own mind. Buenos Aires was no different and it did not disappoint. In our other posts you will see our culinary adventures laid out, but we thought that there were two places TOO GOOD to not write about on their own, Parrilla Pena and Cumano.

Parrilla Dinner (Steakhouse Dinner) – Parrilla Pena

When visiting Argentina, it is a 100% must that you go out for a nice steak dinner. In the states we sit down at a steakhouse and pay $60 per steak…easy, then another $50 for a bottle of wine. Well not in Buenos Aires. Two things that there is an abundance of in Argentina is beef and wine, and you won’t have to pay a premium for it either! Anh will never admit it, but I think this is how I got her to come to South America in the first place.

We set off on our Friday night thinking we could have a nice steak dinner and then head to the clubs.  We went to Parrilla Pena, in the Recolleta district of Buenos Aires. It was nice but not pretentious and was filled with friends ordering wine and sharing big platters of meat. Anh and I ordered a bottle of wine, garlic fries, a Bife de Chorizo (New York Strip), a Ojo de Bife (Rib Eye), and a liter of Stella to wash it all down. What we didn’t realize was that the steaks were each going to be about 16 oz, and the fries were piled a mile high. Of course we sat there for a couple of hours munching on the perfectly cooked medium steaks and enjoying each other’s company! It was one of the best steaks I have had anywhere in the world. The best part was when I got the bill it didn’t feel like I got punched in the gut.  The tab including tip was right around $65 USD. Why so cheap? Simple supply and demand. Argentina is a net exporter of beef and wine, and have a surplus of both. The equivalent of Napa valley is only a few hour drive from the capital city, and most of the rest of Argentina is filled with cattle farms! So, we took advantage, ate and drank until we can hardly breathe anymore – like a true American!

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We went out in search of a traditional Argentinian dinner that wasn’t just steak and all signs pointed to a restaurant called Cumana. It was nestled in the middle of the Recoletta district and with its marigold and red decor, gave a very warm inviting feeling. The menu was in Spanish (no touristy English versions here) so it was the luck of the draw on what we ordered being that we only recognize 1/3 of the words on it. We ended up ordering Cazuela de Mondongo Argentino and Cazuela de Locro, two AMAZING dishes that had such complex yet homey flavor. Cazuela de Locro is a stew-like dish made of pancetta, chorizo, tripe, garbanzo, onions, tomatoes, pepper, white wine, vinegar, and various herbs. Cazuela de Mondong is casserole-like with pancetta, chorizo, steak, pureed pumpkin, onions, eggplant, and a hint of cinnamon. Those dishes along with Roquefort empanadas to start (prob my favorite in South America) and some sodas, all for just $16 USD total! Goes to prove that good food in BA does not have a hefty price tag – bonus for gastronomics on a budget like us!

We basically licked the bowls clean. No shame.


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12 Nights in Buenos Aires – Our Lodging Experiences

When traveling abroad for an extending amount of time the greatest question mark is also probably one of your biggest expense, lodging. Like in any major city, you can stay at expensive hotels but that isn’t very sustainable on a tight budget, and you may be missing out on the opportunity to meet new people. Of course there are gives and takes to both, so we decided to try 3 very different but affordable options ranging from private and trendy to, well, not so luxurious.

Days 1-8  (Cost $33 per night)

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After 3 nights at a hostel in Colonia, we were ready to switch it up. So instead of booking a hostel in Buenos Aires we checked out www.Airbnb.com. At first we didn’t expect much given our tight budget but to our surprise we started finding very nice condos listed. A little outside of our set budget but before giving up I put on my negotiator hat and sent out several owners counteroffers. I figured why the hell not? Within minutes we started getting responses back accepting the counter offers! We hesitated at first because of some looming bad memories from our Europe trip and bad Airbnb owners, but decided that beggars can’t be choosers.

The apartment that we settled on was centered in the middle of the San Telmo barrio of Buenos Aires. San Telmo is a working class neighborhood that has the grit and grime the likes of Brooklyn, but also brings out the true charisma of the people offering cheap eats and live music every night of the week.  To get to the apartment we had to waunder through some back streets at 9 pm and were relieved when we entered the unmarked rusted door to a brand new renovated space that was doing a soft opening for a new hotel. The young management team had only completed renovating 50% of the rooms in the building and wanted to cash flow the few that were ready so they listed them for cheap on Airbnb. We sure lucked out! This space was emaculately decorated in chic black and white linens, wood furnishings, a flat screen tv, a full kitchen, working wifi (which can be hard to find), a balcony with a view overlooking the pool, and most of all a private clean bathroom!

Needless to say we loved our stay in San Telmo, and felt completely rejuvenated after cooking good food, getting cleaned up, and sleeping on a cloud.  We were ready to check out some of the other more hip neighborhoods and the possibility of meeting some new people so we packed up again and headed out to Palermo.

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Day 9  ($24 per night)

We had met some other travelers while on a free walking tour in Buenos Aires that had booked a room staying with a host couple through www.Airbnb.com and had loved it. We thought this was a very cool way to meet some locals and getting affordable accommodations. We knew we wanted to stay in Palermo, the hip side of town with an abundance of cafes, restaurants, and bars. We found a private room staying with a cute couple in their late 30’s that was in the heart of Palermo at a good price, so we jumped on it.

The couple’s names were Juan and Sol. Juan was a freelance graphic designer that worked from home and Sol was in marketing for Time Warner. They had an older style 3-bedroom condo that showed its age, but had very welcoming and charming décor that made us feel right at home. It had hardwood floors from the 70’s that squeaked and pictures on the walls that showed they loved to travel and explore the world just as we did. We sat up in the evening chatting about our travels while watching a Yankee game in the living room. They were both from Venezuela (hence the interest in baseball) and spoke pretty good English. It was a very comfortable and enjoyable experience, and we would have loved to stay longer but they had already committed to having someone else stay in the guest bedroom for the upcoming week. So our journey in Buenos Aires continued to a third place.

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Days 10-12  ($20 per night for 2 people)

We loved the Palermo area so much that we decided that we should just bite the bullet and book a hostel right in the heart of the Soho district where the party scene starts at midnight and lasts until 7 in the morning. We went online and found a hostel that had good reviews and was in the area we wanted to be in. The hostel was called The Art Factory, and man, it sure lived up to its name.  Right behind the reception area before entering the main hostel was a wall that was 15 feet high with a graffiti artist painting a mural. It was bright comfortable and clean. The downfall of staying in a hostel was that we shared a room with 16 people and slept on separate bunk beds. This was not ideal, given the fact you have 14 other people coming and going throughout the night, but again it was cheap and clean.

We had met some guys from Washington DC on the free walking tour that were also staying in the hostel. They invited us to hang with them at Palermo’s famed “Burger Joint” restaurant where they serve massive American style burgers with fries and a beer for under 10 bucks. Anh and I have heard of this place already through another friend so we were excited to see what the raving was all about. They were ridiculously delicious. Seriously thick patties with mountains of toppings. After stuffing our faces, we went to the Square for some drinks until the am. The rest of the nights in the hostel were more low key, with us buying steaks at the local market and cooking them in. The great part about cooking in at a hostel is that you are sharing the kitchen with several others at the same time. We chatted and befriended people from all over the world and have stayed in contact with some even today.

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We loved every minute of our stay in Buenos Aires and believe that the variety of our accommodations played a big part. There are times where privacy are the most important, but you don’t have to stay at expensive hotels to get it. Other times are about meeting locals and other travelers. What we found out is that even though staying at a Westin or other expensive hotel is nice, there is a lot more adventure to be found if you open your mind to the experience! Our average cost per night was just over $25 per night and all the places were clean, safe, and in a city that most people believe to be too expensive to travel to.

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12 Days in Buenos Aires – A Day at the Horse Track

We were feeling adventurous and wanted to explore different barrios in BA so we took a 30-min subway ride to Palermo which is known as its trendy bars/cafes and party scenes (very much like Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood). As we were walking around Palermo, we stumbled across some large lush green parks, a Polo field, and an amazing horse racing plaza known as the Palermo Hippodrome. Hopeful and curious when the next race was being held, we were excited to find out that the next one was the coming weekend. We expected only what we knew of horse racing but in Buenos Aires, everything was 10x better than planned.

We arrive on Saturday around 2 pm for the race and found it was a much larger event than expected. As you approach the race track you don’t initially know what it is, because the park is lined with 4 very large Parisian style buildings that look like they are mansions from the French countryside. Once you wander past the imposing structures you see a massive equestrian stadium and horse track. This place was immaculate and quite crowded with locals trying to place bets and watch as the next event starts.

In addition to the facilities was a farmers market held in the square where we wandered around and tasted samples of wine, chimichurri, cheeses, olive oils and more. They even had food carts with ASIAN food! This may sound funny but we needed a break from all the chorizos and steak, and Asian food is not easy to come by in South America! After we finished sharing a rice bowl we went and started betting the horses!!!! It was fun and carefree because unlike the US, the bet minimum was only 3 pesos or roughly 35 cents. So being us, we started betting on every event!  No doubt made it better when I picked the winner in 2 out of 3 races while Anh won only 1 out of the 5 she bet! I know it sounds like we killed it, but when you are betting only 35 cents a race you are not going to become rich or broke in that matter. All in al,l it was an awesome way to spend a hot sunny Saturday in Buenos Aires.

Click on to our next article about Buenos Aires’ food scenes where we dined out at an parrilla steak house and a traditional Argentinian restaurant that will make you want to fire up your crock pot. Ciao!

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12 Days In Buenos Aires – The Beginning

One week deep in Uruguay, we decided it’s time to stop messing around and plunge head first into Argentina’s epicenter, Buenos Aires. After all, it was only an hour ferry ride across the bay from Colonia de Sacramento and cost only about $30 USD per person. Even though these two lands are a mere 64 miles apart, they are two completely different worlds. Buenos Aires is very imposing and hectic, full of rich culture, diverse population, and around-the-clock entertainment. There really is TOO much to be said about this bustling city so we will break it down by different highlighted segments.

First of which are the Free Walking Tours! I usually say the best way to cover the span of a city is by renting a bike, but in Buenos Aires the best way to introduce yourself to the city is by taking a free walking tour. Yes, I do mean FREE. In the US, we usually equate free to either a scam or poor quality, and this was neither. There are two companies that run tours twice a day and offer both English and Spanish versions: www.bafreetour.com and www.buenosairesfreewalks.com. The tour guide takes you to the major architectural sites while sharing entertaining stories about its history, politics, and culture. Be it about Evita’s tragic corpse fiasco (it was stolen for years with various intrusions done to it) or that all portenos have a shrink and government subsidized cosmetic surgery, it was a great crash course to both Buenos Aires and Argentina as a whole since they consolidated down days of research into 2 1/2 hours. Another perk about the tour was that we met fellow travelers whom we ended up hanging out with in different occasions later in the week! Definitely a good way to make friends around the globe.

Click on to our next article about Buenos Aires: 12 Days in Buenos Aires – A Day at the Horse Track. Ciao!

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1st subte ride!
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Pretty humid down here, but nothing like NYC’s
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San Martin square – beginning of the tour
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BA’s mini Big Ben
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Tango in the street
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Little Iguazu Falls
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One of the many beautiful cathedrals
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Prob one of the most gorgeous sunsets