Asado — an assortment of grilled beef, pork, chicken, offal and vegetables — is practically synonymous with Argentine cuisine. So it should come as no surprise that Buenos Aires is home to some of the best parrillas in the world.
Although each of these restaurants has its own distinct menu, most tend to offer the same basic fare. This typically includes such Argentine classics as bife de lomo (tenderloin), entraña (skirt steak) and vacio (flank steak), along with achuras (tripe) like chorizo (sausage) and morcilla (blood sausage).
Of course, no asado is complete without a massive plate of papas fritas (french fries), a blackened red bell pepper, and an arugula salad with oversized flakes of grated parmesan cheese. (A bottle of Malbec or Syrah never hurts either.) For dessert, you’re all but obligated to order a flan con dulce de leche — an Argentine twist on a custard dish that dates all the way back to Ancient Rome.
Because parrillas are the closest thing the country has to a national restaurant, there’s one for every price range, and you never have to travel very far to find a spot that won’t satisfy your craving for a juicy steak or some tender ribs. Just be sure to eat lightly beforehand because you’ll likely be digesting your meal for the next day or so.
While your neighborhood bodegón may be worth a visit, several parrillas are a clear cut above the rest. Here are some of our favorites — and a few foods you might want to sample if you’re new to this Argentine tradition.
The Herald’s 10 favorite parrillas
Don Julio (Guatemala 4699, 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 1 a.m., all week) — Call it touristy, call it overpriced, Don Julio is still perhaps the most hallowed parrilla in Buenos Aires, and well worth the long lines.
La Brigada (Estados Unidos 465, 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. to 12 a.m., Tuesday to Sunday) — Located in the heart of San Telmo, La Brigada is adorned with historic football memorabilia and offers some delicious tripe for the epicurious. Its owner, Hugo Echevarrieta, is also one of the city’s great characters.
El Pobre Luis (Arribeños 2393, 8 p.m. to 11:30 p.m., Tuesday to Saturday, 12:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. on Sunday) — Don’t let its humble decor fool you. El Pobre Luis has some of the tastiest beef in the city and makes for a charming date spot.
Lo de Charly (Alvarez Thomas 2101, Open 24 hours all week) — The place to go after a night on the town. By one estimate, Lo de Charly sells upwards of nine tons of meat per month (!)
La Cabrera (Cabrera 5127, 8 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. Monday, 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. to 12:30 a.m., Tuesday to Thursday, 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. Friday and Saturday, 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. Sunday) — A Palermo institution whose fried empanadas are just as delicious as its meats.
Parrilla Peña (Rodriguez Peña 682, 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 12 a.m., Monday to Saturday) — You truly have not tried a chorizo until you’ve tried Parrilla Peña’s. The parrilla is well worth the trek to San Nicolas, wherever you’re located in Buenos Aires.
Cabaña Las Lilas (Alice Moreau de Justo 516, 12 p.m. to 12 a.m., Sunday to Thursday, 12 p.m. to 1 a.m., Friday and Saturday) — An upscale spot in Puerto Madero, Cabaña Las Lilas is not so much a meal as it is a dining extravaganza. Just brace yourself for the check.
Parri SecreTito (Dorrego 2720, 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.to 11 p.m., Tuesday to Saturday, 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday) — Nestled in the heart of Palermo Hollywood, this parrilla not only has ample asado but seafood as well. It’s also a popular destination for fans of the Racing Club football team.
La Reverde (Montevideo 40, 12:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, and holidays) — Argentina’s first vegan parrilla, La Reverde offers parrilla classics like matambre (flank) but with wheat protein instead of pork.
Gula Devoto (Francisco Beiró 5226, 6 p.m. to 12 a.m., Monday to Friday, 11 a.m. to 12 a.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday) — Upscale dining in Villa Devoto with an excellent selection of wines and smoked meats.
A few of our favorite things
Everyone’s palate is different, and there’s no right or wrong way to order asado. But if you’re a real carnivore eating in a quality parrilla, you owe it to yourself to sample some mollejas (sweetbreads) and chinchulines (small intestine). The latter is not for the squeamish, but they can be crispy and delectable if cooked properly, especially when they come from a chivo (goat).
Delicious cuts are too numerous to list in full, but you can never go wrong with colita de cuadril (tri-tip), which is especially tender. If you like to gnaw on a bone and suck its marrow, then asado de tira (ribs) is the order for you. Whatever you pick, you’re going to want to undo the top button of your pants and pour yourself a glass of seltzer from a vintage sifón. It’s going to be a big (and delicious) meal.