A good buñuelo should snap with a hard crunch under each bite. The quintessential Argentine grandma dish is, at its most basic definition, fried batter. It is the distant relative of the Indian pakora or Japanese tempura. But if it sits out for too long the crusty tempura shell falls underneath the weight of the oil that fried it and becomes as exciting as chewing on a wet paper rag.
At Beba, they are served piping hot on handmade pink and grey ceramics and are meant to be dunked in a bowl of aioli with a rash of sriracha. The layers of bubbly batter and blanched swiss chard are voluptuous in their size and crunch in all the right places. There are also the less traditional but not to be missed buñuelos de cerdo, stuffed with savory fried pork that although not the obvious choice are infinitely better than their veggie-friendly partners.
Juan Francisco Femenias is the beba. On his Instagram, he channels his inner abuela and serves up dishes straight out of a Doña Petrona cookbook. The focus is on appreciating homey comfort foods, many perfect for this quickly approaching winter vibes. His space is dressed in pink tiles and hanging plants.
It fits right in to the San Telmo Market aesthetic, so much so that if you blink you might miss it. It’s a refreshing throwback to the Mercado’s early days. While the market has taken a bizarre turn lately with many other stands beg to appeal to a foreign public, some in more literal ways than other (think: crepes, hamburgers and empanadas that seem to either be slightly chilled or burn your tongue hot in the center), Beba embraces the Mercado and all its argentinidad.
There are also croquetas, those panko-breaded balls stuffed with either crunchy panceta or gooey bunches of mushrooms. The blood sausage and potato bombas are dusty little explosions of gooey morcilla. At lunchtime, the San Telmo work crowd hunches over flowery vinyl tablecloths to devour over-sized panko breaded milanesas and generous pours of Dama Juana.
Crunchy triangles of faina are served with a sautee of whichever vegetables are in season. On the weekends, they often make fresh pasta on the marble countertop—when we’re lucky, those get fried, as well. For dessert, everything comes topped with homemade dulce de leche.
Beba embraces what the Mercado de San Telmo should aspire to. Show your support.
Address: Mercado de San Telmo, Carlos Calvo y Bolívar
Hours: Wednesday through Saturday from noon to 7pm
Price per person: $350-400