Have you ever tried a Suprema Maryland? That Buenos Aires idiosyncratic show of faux decadence made of breaded and (hopefully) fried chicken breast, more breaded and (definitely) fried banana, bacon, peas, shoestring french fries and (¿are you still reading, gente?) creamed corn.
I have. I’ve sought it out on purpose. Eight times and counting.
And that is what lead me straight into the doors of Gambrinus, a ‘German’ bodegón just a stone’s throw from the Federico Lacroze train station. The Suprema Maryland isn’t the only unusual milanesa on the menu. You can try a la Kiev, piled with ham, cheese, and creamed spinach; the Hawai, with the obvious rounds of pineapple and bell pepper; or the show-offy Roy Roy, an explosive mix of heart of palm, egg, ham, peaches and cheese, of which I neither condone nor disapprove. For the less sadistic, a Napolitana or Fugazzeta are clearer options.
But let’s stay on track. Pay attention to the tables around you. Nearly all of the milanesas being carried out on huge metal trays are a camouflaged Maryland. As my count heads into the double digits, Gambrinus’ version amongst the most dignified: a breaded piece of chicken flavored with a lethal brew of oregano, black pepper, maybe a dash of crushed thyme, and a very clear handful of paprika; a thick slice of roasted pork belly, slightly charred on the edges; sweet banana with the same breading as the chicken breast; and to top it off, a gooey bowl of creamed corn.
The Maryland normally goes off the reins with the banana and creamed corn. Too sweet and mushy ruins the whole getup. The version here is all about the juicy chicken breast and fat slice of ham. The additionals are more like a seca than a sativa blunt to yourself. It’s just a little head high–a tiny taste of the good stuff without leaving the comfort of your safe place.
Another small section in the menu dedicated to Typical German Dishes offers plates that lean towards the bar’s history. The original Otto was opened in 1917 by German immigrants and exclusively sold dishes from the old country. The current owners took over in the early 1970s and slowly added porteño dishes to the menu while maintaining five of the original dishes.
Try the goulash con ñoquis, nebulous clouds of potato topped with a beef goulash that tastes like a Sunday afternoon at your great aunt’s house. Bratwvurst and german sausages are served with chucrut. I prefer the sausage; the lining audibly pops when you bite in and is served with a tame chucrut, extra soft and served warm. You can pair with beer made especially for the bar by local Chacarita brewers La Maga, a quiet rubia goes with nearly everything.
For dessert, why play it safe with a flan mixto if you’ve already come this far? The Balcarce, a dense cake that nearly keels over under the weight of the cream, walnuts, merengue, dulce de leche, coconut, and powdered sugar it contains. It tastes like the pure joy of a wedding when you’re 7 years old sneaking leftover cake from other people’s plates.
The food at Gambrinus is as imperfect as the framed gaucho prints that hang lopsided on the walls. There is an indelible charm to that imperfection, as porteño as the maryland herself.
Address: Av. Federico Lacroze 3779, Chacarita
Hours: Monday through Saturday, noon to 3:30 pm and 8 pm to midnight; Sundays, noon to 3:30 pm.
Price per person: $700-900 per person