Nostalgia comes in waves and is usually welcomed by a lapse in memory of the current ways of the world. A subway ride to make my way towards San Telmo sounds completely normal until it suddenly feels like a trip to India. Here is a miniature list of the places that round the top of my list of places to visit as soon as we come out onto the other side of this. Until then, there is always delivery. It is important to be conscientious of how we support restaurants. Before making your order, please think carefully about supporting restaurants directly and not tossing your money at third-party foreign apps that don’t care about us, our economy, their freelance employees or the businesses they serve.
My number one burger with a fried empanada and bowl of kimchi and probably some ribeye too and definitely a beer at Menenga
“Menenga specializes in classic smash burgers with a direct menu that lays heavily on the side of tradition. Patties are a simple mix of roast beef and fat that are smashed thin and served in twos. The burger, Gonzalez recommended the Doble Bacon, immediately transported me to the diners and roadside restaurants I grew up on. A dense marbled fat is that first burst that hits. Buttery cheddar cheese oozes over with a satisfying lacto-fat flavor. It hangs on tight to the tongue as bursts of savory-sweet pickles and a generous stack of salty bacon flutter in and out. French fries are cut thin and fried to a lovely airy crisp. Fluffy tangerine orange buns made of cabocha squash add an unexpected honey note. It is the kind of simple but second-natured execution that often only comes from a fry cook that’s been manning the plancha for decades.
Although the burgers are the operation’s bread and butter, it is the rest of the menu that shows off the restaurants courage amongst a sea of parrillas and pizza shops in Caballito. Bubbly fried empanadas are stuffed with ojo de bife. The beef generously balances between the acidity of tomato paste and generous squirts of lemon, fatty squares of bacon and a touch of honey that happily confuses the tongue. Rib eye is also served al plato. It is my favorite dish on the menu. Cooked to a tender medium-rare, it is paired alongside butter and garlic-laced mashed potatoes, brave roasted garlic and soft red onion that adds a tinge of tang. Gooey mollejas are grilled until a fat grit forms on the edges. It plays nicely with sweet corn kernels, a creamy white sauce and stacks of smoky bacon. It is a gluttonous dream. The house salad shouldn’t be underestimated. The seasonal salad has a soft spot for root vegetables like broccoli, radish and beets served with slightly salty cheese, a creamy vinaigrette and fresh bread. It’s the right pair for just about everything.”
Orders via whatsapp: 54 9 11 6437 8166
Bonus Track: El Banco Rojo, Voraz, Kevin Bacon
A vegetarian asado at my new favorite restaurant Sampa
Sampa is a vegetarian parrilla and it is, thankfully, nothing you’d imagine from an Argentine vegetarian parrilla. Absent are the lentil burgers, seitan steaks and tofu sausages and very present is the use of smoke and fire in my favorite opening of last year, and maybe one of my favorite restaurants in the city. Who knows what will be left of the menu once we all return, but I can still taste the creamy esquites served with cinnamon kissed refried beans, provoleta melted down to a lava with a sweet preserved pear, a lime heavy oyster mushroom ceviche prepared with pops of seasonal fruit like mango and strawberry and a creamy coconut flavored pumpkin curry. If anything remains, please let it be the salted chocolate ice cream.
The Villa Crespo restaurant is moving with the ebbs and flows of the quarantine offering boxed almacén-style viandas and the occasional hot meals like pizza (one of the prettiest fugazzeta’s I’ve ever seen) and beer from 4 Gatos on Saturdays or warm vegan stews like a recent pipián, a potato and peanut stew, or a potato and mushroom cazuela.
Orders via whatsapp: 54 9 11 5152 5425
Bonus Track (for flavoral vegetable driven menus): Donnet, Gran Dabbang
A visit with Doña Teresa, The Queen of Seco de Carne at Mi Chiclayanita
“Hernandez mostly works alone; sometimes an assistant or her daughter helps out. Her fingers are dressed in a half dozen silver rings and are the only hands allowed in the kitchen. This isn’t her mandate, necessarily. Regulars have been known to wait for hours on end for her to return to the shop before letting someone else prepare their ceviche. She is a natural matriarch, mi corazón slides off her tongue with the saccharine sweetness of a chicha morada.
Her seco is prepared with goat’s meat rather than the preferred beef tenderloin. The meat is dense and hearty. It is served, as by law, with a sturdy bed of white rice and soft kidney beans that simmer in fat and salt mashed to butter with flutters of cumin and other spices. Her sauce is similar to a Mexican mole in dimension. It is layered and complicated with a dozen or more ingredients. Everyone plays together nicely; no single element fights to be heard over the other. There is an earthy savory spice I have never tasted before in a seco. A fragile sweetness rests so far on the periphery of your tongue that if you don’t pause for a moment to enjoy it, it’ll slide across the palate unnoticed. Marjoram, maybe?”
Orders via whatsapp: 54 9 11 6882 4417
Bonus Track (for a homey Peruvian meal): Lio San, Carlito’s, RAWA