For fear it might become overrun, I am almost afraid to explain how much I love El Obrero, Agustin R. Caffarena 64 (tel. 11/4362-9912), opened decades ago in La Boca by two brothers from Barcelona. It's not just how thick the steaks are, or how inexpensive. It's the wonderful family atmosphere here and how quick the owners' children are to attend to customers.
Best Cafe Experiences
Café Tortoni, Av. de Mayo 825 (tel. 11/4342-4328), might not offer the best service in town, but its history and beauty more than make up for this. The cafe was and still remains Argentina's intellectual coffee spot of choice, and tourists have yet to overrun it. Sit outside at La Biela, Av. Quintana 596 (tel. 11/4804-0449), in glamorous Recoleta, overlooking the world-famous Recoleta Cemetery. From the view of Iglesia Pilar to the wonderful trees, this is Buenos Aires at its best. In San Telmo, visit La Poesía, Chile 502 (tel. 11/4300-7340), a recently reopened café notable that sat abandoned for decades. More than just beautiful, it has a romantic, intellectual air.
Best Authentic Old Buenos Aires Dining
Buenos Aires is full of trendy new eateries, but the surefire bets are where Porteños have eaten for decades. Ham hangs from the rafters and the steaks are as thick as the crowds at the Spanish eatery Plaza Asturias, Av. de Mayo 1199 (tel. 11/4382-7334). Palacio Español, Bernardo de Yrigoyen 180 (tel. 11/4334-4876), in the Club Español, is an orgy of bronze, marble and stained glass, with waiters fussing over you in a formal but friendly way.
Argentina has a long coastline, but the turf, not the surf, has always been the centerpiece of the country's culinary scene. Still, check out Puerto Cristal, Av. Alicia Moreau de Justo 1082 (tel. 11/4331-3669), which offers friendly service and an inexpensive executive menu in Puerto Madero. Or head to Olsen, Gorriti 5870 (tel. 11/4776-7677), in Palermo Viejo, where seafood is served Scandinavian style under the direction of super-chef Germán Martitegui.
Best Italian Restaurant
With more than half the residents of Buenos Aires of Italian immigrant stock, it's easy to find good Italian food: most parrillas serve an excellent array of pastas, usually homemade on the premises. The best formal Italian dining experience in the city, however, is Piegari, Posadas 1042 (tel. 11/4328-4104), in the Recoleta la Recova area, near the Four Seasons hotel. The selection of northern Italian dishes is superb, with a stunning assortment of risottos.
Best French Restaurant
La Bourgogne, Av. Alvear 1891 (tel. 11/4805-3857), in the Alvear Palace, is hands down the best French restaurant in Buenos Aires and the recipient of numerous awards. Yes, it's very formal and very expensive, but what else would you expect from such a place?
Best Restaurant for Kids
Garbis, Scalabrini Ortiz 3190, at Cerviño (tel. 11/4511-6600), is an Armenian restaurant with what one British expat loves to call a "jumpee castle" for kids. Adults can eat in peace while kids entertain themselves on this indoor playground.
Best Value Restaurants
Juana M, Carlos Pellegrini (9 de Julio) 1535 (tel. 11/4326-0462), a little-known, family-run parrilla in the Recoleta district on the very end of Avenida 9 de Julio, wins this distinction. They offer great cuts of meat and an unlimited salad bar. If you're in Puerto Madero, head straight to La Bistecca, Av. Alicia Moreau de Justo 1890 (tel. 11/4514-4996), which has an all-you-can-eat menu offering high-quality steaks and a generous salad bar. It's a huge space, but the seating arrangements create a sense of intimacy; at this price, it can't be beat.
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