Italian, helado, meat, helado, empanadas. Repeat.

November 3, 2010 § Leave a comment

One particular memory I have from my time studying abroad was a meal out during a visit to Argentina. We were in Mendoza, and had a full pasta dinner with salads/appetizers, bottles of wine, dessert, and coffee for under $10USD each. As a college student on a budget, I was excited to enjoy such an elaborate meal with friends. With the inflation that has occurred over the past 7 years, I don´t think the value for the money is quite as good as it was then, but a good meal is still easy to find for a reasonable price.

The biggest thing to note about the food in Buenos Aires, is that it´s usually made all the better by the inexpensive wine that is available.  A glass (or bottle) of the house wine is usually cheaper than water (though the water is safe to drink, it´s not served in restaurants).

Another thing I should mention in reviewing the food we´ve been eating is that I have not been strictly vegetarian here. Call me hypocritical but I want to be able to experience the local culture and be flexible. Besides, one of the primary reasons I have been veg is the industry, particularly how its run in the US. I know little of the industry here, but I do know it tends to be less industrial.

Anyway, as you will note below the variety may not be as much as we are used to, but what they do make we have found to be cheap and good.

The main food groups

Parilla: The main type of restaurant is the ¨Parrilla¨ (pronounced pah-ree-zha, grill or steakhouse in English), which allows the Argentines to showcase their well-known reputation for good beef.

Italian: The Italian influence on Argentina is evident on nearly every menu, whether Italian focused or not, as each has at least some offering of pastas or pizzas.

Empanadas: Available in a myriad of flavors including chicken, vegetables, beef, ham, corn (called choclo..mmm this is our favorite!), cheese, margarita (mm another favorite). You can get enough to feed 2 people for less than $5.

Sweets: I debated calling this category “Helado”, or ice cream, as that has figured largely into our diets lately. Especially since the place around the corner from our apartment had a special for one cone with 2 scoops for $1!!! I broadened it to reflect the prevalence of bakeries and sweetshops, featuring cookies, medialunas, and alfajores. Dulce de leche (creamy caramel) is found in many desserts and ice cream flavors. FYI medialunas are little croissants often served with breakfast, and can be ordered sweet (dulce / manteca) or salty (salado / grasa).

Other food notes

Mate is popular and is an herbal tea that is drunk from a gourd through a metal straw. People carry their thermos of hot water and mate gourd around all day, sharing and sipping. It seems especially popular to sit in the park and partake. We have not really done this but have had sips to taste here and there. Food is usually available for delivery, something I miss from living in New York! We have even ordered empanadas for delivery and paid $5 with a tip of $6. Grand total of $3 each for in home dining, sweet!

Despite the prevalence of meat we have found some other vegetarian and healthy type restaurants. We saw a bunch of sushi places but did not try them. Also to be discussed in another post reviewing some of the restaurants we tried: KANSAS! Stay tuned.

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