A year doomed by political and economic uncertainty didn’t provide chefs and restaurateurs with a favorable prognosis for 2019. But despite a year where the crisis doubled down, the local restaurant world charged forward and took bigger risks to rebuild the business model. Last year cemented the already growing trend of small chef driven restaurants not only opening their own spots but carving out new spaces in otherwise conservative food neighborhoods. Keep reading for our wrap up of 2019 and what we’re crossing our fingers for in 2020.
Veggies Are In
It has never been easier for a vegan or vegetarian to eat as it is today in Buenos Aires. And the 2019 openings are all over the place — atypical flavors amongst the leafy luxury of Sacro in Palermo Hollywood to a more purist approach to vegan dining at San Telmo’s toned down JAAM to crackling sounds of the parrilla at the organic, vegetarian grill Sampa.
Beyond the strict plant eaters, vegetable forward dishes became ever the more present at new spots like Julia, Vallegrande, Beba, Atelier Fuerza and the soon to open Anafe and continue to fool die hard meat eaters that vegetables can be delicious, too. Could this finally be the year that plant-based food moves beyond tofu milanesa and yamani burgers?
Wine is Having a Moment
And especially if it’s natural and organic. Natural wine pop-up Vino Vivo is definitely the place to hang out this summer with their regular series of Villa Ortuzar house parties featuring a bounty of wines that the group scours the country searching for. Ever had an organic Sauvignon Blanc from Bahía Blanca? Didn’t think so but look no further. Las Divinas came back with a revamped reservation only space in Palermo Viejo and a constantly rotating, organic only wine list and small French market-style dinner menu. Last year, a bottle of Pelihueso‘s small line of minimal intervention wines, especially their coveted naranjo, became a mark of pride for the city’s coolest restaurants — the young winery run by sommelier Celina Bartolome alongside her father definitely won the year.
This year, I hope to see more small wine bars like Retiro’s picturesque Pro.vin.cia open across the city. And I hope it doesn’t stop there — casual Chacarita bistro Las Damas has a formidable wine menu that I hope to see replicated in 2020.
Palermo Refined Porteño Fare, Mexico is Finally in the House & Young Asian-Argentine Restaurateurs are on the Up
Surefire hit El Preferido de Palermo lived up to the hype — Pablo Rivero and Guido Tassi of Don Julio opened this celebration of classic porteño foods with an emphasis on farm-to-table meat and produce, vegetable preserves and a charcuterie cellar. Butcher shops Chancho Chico and Tomahawk offer some of the best grilled eats in town — the former with a focus on pork and the later on high quality pasture fed beef. Tacos took over, with Mexican run projects like Ulúa, Taquería Díaz and La Neta bringing dignity to authentic Mexican eats.
Marina Lis Ra’s year long pop-up Nanum at Opio will, as expected, open its own restaurant in 2020 and joins the ranks of a small and growing group of Korean and Japanese Argentines opening restaurants with a voice of their own, most notably Maximiliano Matsumoto of Tora, Fabián Yafuso of Tintoreria Yafuso and Edgar Kuda of Kuda Omakase. And that wasn’t it. Family owned restaurants like Mr. Ho, Zuti, FaSongSong and Namu opened shop across the city.
🙏 Please please please 2020 🙏
Can we finally put this hamburger thing to rest? A burger costs like $400 pesos without a damn drink and there are plenty of casual spots that exist on a similar price point. And while we’re at it stop pouring that orange cheese you all call cheddar on french fries. What did fries ever do but love you? That stuff could light a nuclear power plant. Go to Strange Brewing. Take notes. It’s easily the best bar kitchen in Buenos Aires.
Last year Villa Crespo, Chacarita, Belgrano and Colegiales got a lot of love! I hope to see the same treatment in dense neighborhoods like Almagro and Caballito (or anywhere south of Cordoba)!