Vita is a charming, informal restaurant tucked a block away from the Plaza de Mayo. It provides respite if you need a break from BA's giant steaks and artery-clogging pizza. Vita focuses on healthier alternatives, like vegan, natural and organic foods, but that does not necessarily mean diet food. For breakfast Vita has freshly baked pastries and muffins as well as fresh squeezed juices and juice blends. For lunch you will find delicious but relatively healthier versions of stir-fry, pastas, pizzas, burgers and salads, but do leave room for cake. While primarily a restaurant, Vita also fancies itself a market, selling a small selection of natural and organic food products.
Head to Gran Dabbang in Palermo for international small plates. The restaurant is simple, relaxed but well put together. Decor is modest but welcoming. The restaurant is small and can get rather busy, but coowner Philippa is friendly and efficient. The varied menu hits a number of Asian notes with dishes like curry, dal and pakora, but pigeonholing it as an Asian restaurant (like the restaurant's logo would invite you to do) just wouldn't be accurate. At Gran Dabbang you'll find plenty of nods to other regions like Italian gnocchi and polenta and Middle Eastern hummus and baba ghanoush, as well as dishes that upon first glance don't seem to pay homage to a specific cuisine at all. However, the dishes change on a regular basis, so keep your eyes peeled for what cuisines or new incarnations will come up next.
Recommended for Best Value because: Gran Dabbang is an inexpensive choice for international fare in Palermo.
Sarah's expert tip: At Gran Dabbang, order multiple little plates to try different flavors and create a unique meal. The prices are good so don't be afraid to order seconds.
Comfortable Juana M is not your typical parrilla. The restaurant is located in a spacious basement with contemporary art covering the walls and candles set on all the white tables. The menu consists of barbequed meats as well as pastas. The salad bar, which is free when you order a main dish, is great and can also be ordered by itself if you are looking for a healthier meal. For lunch, Juana M opens earlier than most places in the area do, at noon, although most diners roll in around 2 pm. It is a good place to bring a group.
Recommended for Best Value because: Juana M is a nice, good value place to eat in Retiro.
Sarah's expert tip: Juana M is a good option if you have a group with disparate dining habits. You will find choices on the menu for carnivores, vegetarians, carb lovers, dieters, celiacs, etc.
For a hip, subtly innovative take on the traditional parrilla, look no further than Miranda, an industrial-chic steakhouse located on a corner of two cobbled streets in Palermo Viejo. Settle in on one of their wooden bench-seats and prepare to dig in. Classics like bife de lomo (tenderloin) and cerdo (pork) are updated and served with imaginative sides like papas rotas (literally, "broken" potatoes), colorful salads such as "Antonia" (sprinkled with sunflower seeds) and super-soft bread made on the premises. Even vegetarians are catered to with Miranda's selection of grilled vegetables. When the weather is nice, you can ask to sit outside.
Recommended for Best Value because: Inexpensive Miranda presents a great blend of Argentine parrilla and Palermo cool.
Sarah's expert tip: If you're in the area during the day, try Miranda's good-value set lunch. Otherwise, try to make a reservation if you prefer to come for dinner.
Located in Villa Crespo, Sarkis is an immensely popular Armenian and Middle Eastern restaurant. (Did you know that Buenos Aires has one of the largest Armenian communities in the world?) At Sarkis the food is tasty, the prices are reasonable and it's easy to eat family style if you come with a group. Unfortunately, to get in on the goodness, wait times upwards of an hour are not uncommon. When you sit down, you'll get pita bread while considering the menu, where you'll find dishes like kebabs, kaftas, cheese pastries, tabbouleh and stuffed grape leaves. Wash it all down with some Argentine wine or beer.
Ask the locals and the expats: they will all tell you that Che Taco is the best Mexican food restaurant in Buenos Aires. You'll find lots of taco, burrito, quesadilla, nacho and sandwich choices, as well as different sauces (including habanero) if you want to kick the spice up a notch or three. Just don't skip the guacamole. Then to drink, choose from Mexican aguas frescas, beers and cocktails. This informal San Telmo restaurant is decorated with lots of bright colors as well as touches like festive pi�atas and Mexican blankets. Pictures of Frida Kahlo and Cheech Marin decorate the walls.
Recommended for Best Value because: Cheap, great Mexican food with colorful decor. Need we say more?
Sarah's expert tip: The food is great and the drinks are big; it's a recipe for wanting to stay a long time. If you come at night though, know that Che Taco closes relatively early for Buenos Aires.
Thanks to the large waves of Italian immigration in the 19th and 20th centuries, pizza is everywhere in Buenos Aires, but the quality is known to vary widely. However, Güerrín, opened in 1932, is one of the best of the old classics concentrated on Avenida Corrientes and is considered an institution of good Buenos Aires pizza. Here the pizza comes Argentinian style: thick, pie-like wedges with lashings of cheese. Stand for a slice at the counter at the front for a quick bite or settle in for a feast and a bottle of moscato (sweet wine) in the back. Prices are low.
Recommended for Best Value because: Güerrín is quite cheap and responsible for some of Buenos Aires' best pizza.
Sarah's expert tip: Find yourself in the area for the theatre? Güerrín makes for a great, quick and cheap meal before or after a show. Pay at the counter first.
If you want good and fast with a side of cool, El Banco Rojo is your place in Buenos Aires. And as its name in Spanish suggests, you'll know you're at the right place when you see the red bench outside. This small San Telmo restaurant offers up different types of wraps and kebabs with home-made potato chips. (You'll probably never want to look at a bag of Lay's again.) Take a seat on one of the stools in the informal dining area or ask for your food to go. The spartan food-themed decor is silly and fun; as an English speaker you'll probably notice the words "Bite Me" on the wall.
Recommended for Best Value because: El Banco Rojo makes a tasty, inexpensive dining spot in San Telmo.
Sarah's expert tip: While there is plenty for meat eaters to choose from, El Banco Rojo is vegetarian friendly too, which is not always the case in BA.
While traditional-style parrillas offer much to love, when you want a change from the rough and ready decor and barbecue fumes, the minimalist but stylish Minga, located in pole position on the plaza in trendy Palermo Viejo, fits the bill quite nicely. The interior is all clean lines and subdued colors (beiges, pale wood and exposed concrete), and the restaurant experience is up a dozen notches from the average parrilla joint. The meat comes in on cutting boards accompanied by little dishes of sauce. You'll find that their salads and sides have a lot more oomph than your standard parrilla fries.
Recommended for Best Value because: Minga is a quality Buenos Aires parrilla at good prices.
Sarah's expert tip: Minga opens at noon so you can just as likely enjoy a leisurely lunch with plaza watching as get in a good dinner before partying in Palermo Viejo. Get going with Minga's ample drinks list.
While the Buenos Aires dining scene is often dominated by steak, pizza and pasta, there is more to Buenos Aires and Argentina; 1810 Cocina Regional is a good example of that. There you will find traditional Argentine fare like meat and vegetable stews; delicate empanadas filled with ham, chicken or cheese; as well as home-style desserts like flan, rice pudding, alfajores, cheese with quince paste and dulce de leche mousse. The somewhat elegant decor evokes Argentina's colonial past with dark woods, black tablecloths and horseshoes used in napkin holders, but the prices are reasonable, making it a good choice for the budget conscious who are looking to dine.