Taste of Buenos Aires from a Beginner

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

The food in Argentina, on a day-to-day basis, is very affordable. For the equivalent of $5-$10 a day, you can eat various kinds of steaks—breaded ones are called milanesas, grilled ones costillos, and the filet mingnon types are called lomo. Steaks can be beef, chicken, or pork. Beware, this city can only boast of 7 genuinely vegetarian restaurants.

Often steaks come with more than just potatoes. Most restaurants will top the steak with cooked ham and cheese, or a runny egg. If you are really lucky, they will put all of those on your steak with marinara sauce—a milanesa a la colombiana. The only problem is that I have no idea if that is truly representative of Colombian cuisine. There are cafés and restaurants on every corner which all feature the same foods: steaks, pastas—gnocchi, fettuccini, lasagna, spaghetti, and ravioli, salads—mixta, primavera, and plain, as well as the same desserts—flan, tiramisu, and all kinds of cakes.

Steet side cafe in Belgrano
However the quality of food can be directly related to the price. Just make sure to walk in, and read the menu before deciding to sit down. Every restaurant is different: some charge for bread, some do not. Some charge for water and table service. Others don’t. You have to be careful, and know your order before you pay. Foreigners easily can pay too much for a meal if they do not read their cheque.

Service in Argentina is particularly slow. You cannot just go into a restaurant and sit down, usually a waiter seats you as you come in, and they expect you to order something besides a glass of water. There is another other side to this: while they may be quick to hand you a menu, don’t expect less than a twenty minute wait between the menu, the drinks, and then thirty minutes for the waiter to get your food. This is customary because the idea is to create an ambiance of comfort, so that groups of friends can charlar—chitchat, and generally allows for more social time. Lunch and dinner begin late, and end even later than in the States. I have eaten lunch at 2 pm, and had it last until 4:30pm, subsequently started dinner at midnight until 3 am.
In this culture, mealtime equals talk time.


However, this does not apply to people who are rude, or to those who only speak English; I went to a restaurant with a friend, and Canadians and people from the US were considered rude for speaking English in an Argentine establishment. It is not an unfounded sentiment. How many times have I heard people complain in the United States that immigrants should learn English? The feelings are true for some Argentines as well; and many consider it not only respectful, but wonderful if foreigners practice Spanish and make an effort to learn more about the culture.

The Phoenix