The food scene in Buenos Aires has changed dramatically since I lived there in 2013. While Asian food was once limited to sushi with cream cheese (ew) and the only beer available was a watery Quilmes, it’s now not hard to get a good bowl of Ramen and a delicious pint of craft beer.
Despite the new flavours and trends that have worked their way into Buenos Aires, the real charm of the city’s restaurants lies in the ones that have been around long enough to witness the country’s history, from dictatorships to economic crashes and whatever else gets thrown at it.
Two Buenos Aires restaurants that have an impressive 150 years of business between them are Pizzería Güerrin and El Obrero. Always on my “must visit” list, I finally got the chance to try them out in my most recent trip to Argentina’s capital.
Pizza arrived in Argentina along with Italian immigration, and from the late 1800s, pizza argentina was born. Pizza al molde is the most common pizza you’ll find over here – expect a thick, doughy base with an otherworldly amount of cheese on top. Pizzería Güerrin specialises in al molde, so it was time to carb and cheese myself up.
My boyfriend and I ordered two very Argentine pizza toppings; jamón y morrón (ham and red pepper) and fugazetta, basically an onion pizza with extraordinary amounts of cheese on top.
No room for tomato here. In order to eat our porciones like proper porteños, we chose to add on two pieces of fainá, a chickpea bread made to sit on top on your porción de pizza, in the unlikely event that your mammoth cheese tower on top of dough doesn’t fill you up.
Fainá is weird: spongy and oily with quite a non-distinctive taste. Still, I always order myself one. If I’m going to eat the odd beast that is pizza a la argie, I’m going to do it properly.
You should definitely visit a classic Pizzería when in Buenos Aires – they’re a slice (excuse the pun) of history and a way to sample one of the countries most loved traditions; prop yourself up on a stool, chow down on a porción and watch the city go by.
As it’s near enough impossible to write a blog post about Argentina and not touch on a least a bit of beef, I feel it’d be rude not to mention the meal I had at El Obrero, an old-school bodegón with waiters who may well have worked there since its opening in 1954. El Obrero is next to the port of La Boca, which explains the fish dishes on its menu, a rare sight in cow-crazy BsAs. While the various fish dishes looked appealing four days into a meat marathon around the city, the smell of the barbecue whispered my name, and thus my meal was chosen.
I ordered an entraña (skirt steak in English), a cut that comes from next to the cow’s chest and is long and thin in shape – best cooked fast and hot to seal in all the flavour. My boyfriend showed his racial origins as he opted for a Milanesa a la Neapolitana – a veal schnitzel with cheese, ham and tomato on top. Meat on meat, which some cheese and veg to soften the blow. You can take the boy out of Buenos Aires…
I nip to the loo and am met with a look of horror on my boyfriends face when I return…then I see the portions. Really, really, bloody gigantic portions. We could have easily fed a family of five. Never people to be defeated by a meal, we cracked on and chowed down. The meat was excellent and cooked extremely rare, just as I had ordered it, but surprisingly not how many Argentines like their meat – it’s pretty much well done, always. While I’ll never order a milanesa to myself, preferring to deal with the proper meaty bits rather than breadcrumbed and cheese coated, this milanesa was by far one of the best I’ve ever tried.
Washed down with house red and soda water (so good, you should try it), we eventually, miraculously, managed to finish the meal.
Despite its humble beginnings, El Obrero is now in every guidebook, and while it retains its proper porteño charm, the prices definitely reflect its popularity amongst tourists. Still, I recommend you go and try some traditional Argentine dishes and soak up the ambience of the place, as it doesn’t get more Argentine than this.