Buenos Aires is a city of world flavors, late dinners and even later drinks. Owing to the potpourri of European and Latin cultures, its gastronomy is one of its best facets.
From mouthwatering cuts at sizzling steakhouses to pastries inspired by anarchist movements at notable cafes, there's plenty to discover and put on your plate in Argentina’s capital. As sightseeing can be hungry (and expensive) work, here are eight budget-friendly Buenos Aires eateries and the noteworthy places near them, proving that cheap restaurants can be cheerful.
Lo del Francés
If the airfare to France is too steep, travel there by way of Lo del Francés. This cafe-bistro in the San Telmo neighbourhood has a distinctly French accent, from the décor to the Francophone staff. With its hearty portions, ornate presentation, varied menu and impeccable service, you get your money’s worth even before happy hour.
Devour the pizza that dreams are made of at Güerrín on Avenida Corrientes, Buenos Aires’ renowned pizza street. It’s one of the stops on Muza 5k, an annual "marathon" that sees 400 "runners" descend onto various pizzerias for one slice. Güerrín is loved for its delectable muzzarella pizzas and fugazza, a cheesy Argentine take on focaccia. Single slices are cheap and cheerful. Grab one and eat by the bar, porteño (local) style. It’s cash only at this BA institution.
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Arrive hungry at La Conga, a Peruvian seafood and chicken joint with lavish portions and modest prices. Feed yourself a mountain of ceviche, calamari, seafood rice or a whole chicken, one of their specialties. The kicker is that you’ll probably have enough leftovers for several meals to come. Don’t let the lines keep you from these delicious low prices.
If you arrive at Atelier Fuerza in the afternoon there’ll be almost nothing left. This bakery makes honest, good bread and puts fresh eyes on Argentine staples like alfajores (dulce de leche cookies). Order 'half-moons' and 'receipts' otherwise known as medialunas and facturas. Many of Argentina’s pastry names warrant a double-take; several are anti-establishment titles given by the baker’s union after a strike for better working conditions.
Nearby sites: El Ateneo Grand Splendid
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Asado (barbecue) is king in Argentina. For a wallet-friendly parilla (grill), visit Don Niceto in Palermo. Drizzle chimichurri over your preferred meaty goodness: bondiola (pork shoulder), ojo de bife (ribeye) or morcilla (blood sausage). If you dare, try achuras (offal), like riñones (kidneys) and chinculín (small intestine) for under $3USD.
Parilla lo de Freddy
Lo de Freddy is literally a hole-in-the-wall meat cave in San Telmo. A few humble bar stools stand before a large, well-worn grill where one may perch to enjoy choripán (chorizo sausage sandwiches), considered to be Argentina’s version of the hot dog. Alternatively, morcipán (blood sausage sandwich) and even entraña (skirt steak) are on the menu here. There are no bells and whistles and the grill master seems to make up the opening hours as he goes along but the low prices do the talking here.
Nearby sites: Mercado San Telmo
Lo de Charly
In case of a steak emergency, head straight to Lo de Charly, which serves succulent meat dishes at affordable prices, 24 hours a day. Their slogan is “donde el fuego nunca se apaga” (where the fire never goes out) and they mean it: the grill hasn’t been turned off since 1991.
Nearby sites: Centro Cultural 25 de Mayo
Want juicy empanadas capable of stirring up a frenzy? Find them at El Hornero in Mercado San Telmo, where you can procure three perfectly overstuffed empanadas and a drink for less than $10USD. Eager foodies clamor to get their hands on them, particularly during San Telmo’s Sunday antiques market (Feria de San Telmo). Get yours for the road or nab one of the few seats. Mercado San Telmo is a large indoor market interspersed with wine bars, fruit stalls, antiques and quick bites. There are countless options for affordable eating, but don’t overlook this one.
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Tips to please your palate and wallet
Look out for the menu del día (daily menu) or menus ejecutivos (executive menus). These specials typically consist of three courses and a drink at prices that’ll put a smile on your face. They’re publicized on chalkboards outside restaurants, often on weekdays. Choosing bodegóns (Argentine canteens) and eating off-peak will also help you save. The ever-nocturnal porteño favors dining late, so many restaurants offer discounts for those audacious enough to do so before 8pm.