clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

The 9 Must-Have Cheap Eats in Buenos Aires, Argentina

Where to eat meaty choripán, fresh empanadas, and more

A sandwich at Chori
Facebook

Despite Argentina’s ever-inflating economy, affordable eats abound in Buenos Aires. From mom-and-pop empanada shops, menú ejecutivo lunch specials, hole-in-the-wall grills, and cheesy Porteño pizzerias, it's easy to taste the entire city without spending all of your pesos. Even though comida callejera (street food) doesn’t stray beyond makeshift grill carts slinging street-meat sandwiches, most of the beloved food staples can be found at any budget.

Looking for the absolutely essential restaurants of Buenos Aires? Head to the 38. Looking only for what's hot? Head to the Heatmap. But here, now, the lowdown on eating cheap in Buenos Aires.


Empanadas

Kyle M Lease/Flickr

These baked or fried handheld savory pockets can be found on pretty much any city block, giving it everyday lunch, dinner, or snack status. Each type of empanada has a characteristic fold, a repulgue, which is also how you distinguish standard flavors: carne (beef), carne picante (spicy beef, not actually spicy), jamón y queso (ham and cheese), queso y cebolla (cheese and onion), humita (corn), caprese (tomato, cheese, and basil), and verdura (swiss chard with bechamel sauce). General rule: One or two empanadas are a snack, three or more are a meal. One empanada will rarely cost over USD $2.

Where to get it:

Feria de Mataderos Av. Lisandro de la Torre and Av. de los Corrales, Mataderos. The Sunday gaucho fair hawks the best street food in the city, including two empanadas that share the same name. Look out for the double dose of empanadas salteñas: the deep-fried chopped steak empanada from Argentina’s Salta province and the Bolivian empanada, a larger, sweeter baked empanada filled with stewed chicken or beef. | Website

La Cocina Pueyrredón 1508, Recoleta and Florida 142 #61, Centro. Order the house specialty pikachu, a spicy cheese empanada. La Cocina’s second downtown location is hidden in the basement of a sketchy mini-mall on Florida Street and only opens for lunch. The main spot is closed on Sundays. | No website

El Banco Rojo Bolívar 866, San Telmo. Adventurous flavor combinations bust out from empanada traditions, offering a whole new world of fillings like spicy braised lamb and blood sausage with apples. Closed on Mondays. | Website


Pizza

La Mezzetta
Guillermo Navarro/Flickr

Pizza is a big deal in BA, the self-proclaimed pizza capital of South America. Peso-pinchers looking to fill up on a budget should order pizza con fainá, a common duo of chickpea cake, similar to Italian farinata, on top of a slice of pizza, like napolitana (tomato and garlic), jamón y morrones (ham with roasted red peppers), or muzzarella (cheese). Fans of an obscene amount of cheese and onions, fugazzeta is the pizza for you. A warning: The useless napkins will closely resemble a toilet seat cover, and you'll see them crumpled by the dozen on tables.

Where to get it:

Pizzería Güerrín Av. Corrientes 1368, Centro. The wood-fired oven hasn’t shut off since El Güerrin first opened in 1932. True aficionados will skip the dining room and brush elbows with locals, who eat pizza while standing in the front bar. Open daily until 2 a.m. | Website

El Mazacote Chile 1400, Montserrat. A barrio joint known for pizza a la piedra: pizza baked on a stone. Order the fainazeta, which combines two pizza loves, fainá and fugazzeta. Closed on Mondays. | Website

La Mezzetta Álvarez Thomas 1321, Villa Ortúzar. This standing-room-only pizzeria, a popular taxi driver hangout, is known for its monster slices of fugazzeta. Closed on Sundays. | Website


Parrilla

A parrilla in Mercado San Telmo
Wally Gobetz/Flickr

Street food in BA means holes in the wall and mobile carts specializing in grilled meats and sandwiches. The term parrilla refers both to these meat vendors and to the grill itself. Choose your favorite cut, like bondiola (pork shoulder), churrasquito (boneless steak), vacío (flank), or lomito (filet), and slather with chimichurri and salsa criolla. Ask for it completo and your grill master will pimp it out with lettuce, tomato, ham, and cheese; order it a caballo and you’ll get it topped with a fried egg. Word to the wise: Keep your bread quality expectations low.

Where to get it:

La Parrilla de la Esquina de Sucre y Miñones Sucre 1902, Belgrano. This no-name grill on the corner of Sucre and Miñones has a major cult following. Open Tuesdays through Sundays for lunch only. | No website

Parrilla Mi Sueño Costanera Sur. Dozens of outdoor grill carts line the mile-long strip making the Costanera Sur BA’s street food destination. Open 24 hours. | No website

Parrilla El Litoral Moreno 2201, Balvanera. If all the seats are taken, head over to the side grill window, order your food to go, and eat your steak sandwich in the park one block away. | Website

Bonus cheap eats tip: Famed fancy steakhouse La Cabrera offers 40 percent off the entire menu if you dine between 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m., early for the standard 9 p.m. dinnertime. | Website


Choripán and Morcipán

Choripán in San Telmo
Ian Carvell/Flickr

Technically under the parrilla umbrella, these two sausage sandwiches deserve their own category. Choripán, or chori for short, is the unofficial national dish consisting of Argentine sausage on bread. The morcipán morcilla (blood sausage) on bread — comes in a close second.

Where to get it:

Chori Thames 1653, Palermo. Go here for a chef’s take on the iconic street food dish. Try the smoked chorizo and blood sausage choripanes. Wash them down with a yerba mate gin and tonic. Open daily. | Website

Lo de Freddy/Nuestra Parrilla Bolívar 950, San Telmo. There are no fixed hours at this hole in the wall parrillita, but Freddy, the asado master, is generally grilling around 1:30 p.m. to 5 p.m., and comes back after his siesta, 8:30 p.m. to midnight. | Website

Don Niceto Niceto Vega 5255, Palermo. It’s totally socially acceptable to roll up to this casual local hangout, where you'll find phenomenal chorizo for under USD $3, in your pajamas. | No website


Milanesa

Milanesa napolitana
Dana Robinson/Flickr

Milanesa, similar to schnitzel, represents the essence of affordable Argentine meat-and-potatoes comfort food. Veal or chicken is pounded thin, breaded, and deep-fried before being dressed with a plethora of topping options. The most common, milanesa napolitana, nods to Argentina’s Italian influence (millions of Argentines have Italian descendants), and is covered in tomato sauce, cheese, and ham. Milanesas usually come with a side of purée (mashed potatoes) or french fries. It can be served as a main course, or inside a sandwich.

Where to get it:

La Mamma Rosa Julián Álvarez 878, Villa Crespo. Every bodegón (Argentine cantina) will serve milanesas, but La Mamma Rosa’s secret is in the sauces, which are family recipes. Closed on Tuesdays. | Website

El Buen Libro Reconquista 631, Centro. Beware of the long lines during the lunchtime rush at this takeaway sandwich spot. Half a milanesa sandwich can feed two and costs less than USD $4. Closed on Sundays. | No website

Don Ignacio Av. Rivadavia 3439, Almagro. There’s a reason why they call Don Ignacio "the Milanesa King”: The menu features dozens of milanesas so big that they don’t even fit on the plate. Open Tuesday to Sundays from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m., 8 p.m. to 12 a.m. | No website


Pollo a la Brasa

La Conga
Facebook

Peruvian immigrants turned traditional Argentine palates onto a new realm of flavors and spices, seriously influencing the local food scene. Synonymous with affordable eating, roasted Peruvian chicken is the answer for those seeking a hearty meal. The full, half, or quarter bird generally comes with a side of french fries, salad, and sauces.

Where to get it:

La Conga La Rioja 39, Once. This Peruvian hangout, known for its ridiculously large portions, is always busy. A whole chicken with sides costs USD $15 and can feed a family of four. Going with a larger group? Order specialties like papa a la huancaína, chaufa, tallarines, ají de gallina, and lomo saltado. | Website


Helado

ice cream
Ladobueno
Facebook

Ice cream-obsessed Buenos Aires might just serve some of the world’s best artisanal gelato. Heladerías sell by the the cup, cone, or kilo, and almost every shop will deliver free of charge. The creamy dessert rarely contains any artificial flavors or preservatives. Start by exploring the trifecta of classic flavors: dulce de leche, chocolate, and sambayón (also known as zabaione), made from sweet wine, sugar, and egg yolks.

Where to get it:

Ladobueno Julián Álvarez 2533, Palermo. High-quality helado for half the price. A quarter kilo costs less than USD $4, and if you order one kilo, they give you another quarter for free. The best flavors: suspiro de dulce de leche, Rocher chocolate, and apple tart. (Multiple locations.) | Website

Rapa Nui Av. Elcano 3127, Colegiales and Arenales 2302, Recoleta. This Patagonian heladería’s dulce de leche flavors have been known to cause serious addictions. Make sure to also try the franuí, frozen raspberries double-dipped in dark and white chocolate. (Multiple locations.) | Website


Alfajores

Jennifer Yin/Flickr

An alfajor is so much more than just an Argentine cookie; it’s a national obsession. Traditional alfajores de maicena are made from two cornstarch biscuits, with dulce de leche in the middle, the whole thing dusted in coconut flakes. Some alfajores have a crisp cookie texture; others a soft, cake-like consistency; and many are filled with chocolate mousse or frosting and may be dipped in chocolate.

Where to get it:

Los Galgos Callao 501, Tribunales. This historic cafe in the heart of the courthouse district is the perfect spot for sipping on an aperitivo while people watching. | Website

Oui Oui Nicaragua 6099, Palermo. If the dulce de leche from this alfajor doesn’t give you a toothache — and there’s still room in your belly for more — order the chocotorta, another infamous dessert made from layers of chocolate cookies and dulce de leche cream cheese filling. | Website

Any kiosco near you Kioscos (convenience stores) and supermarkets sell prepackaged mainstream brands like Havanna (which is also a cafe chain), Cachafaz, Aguila, and Jorgito.

Allie Lazar is a choripán-loving food writer based in Buenos Aires. Follow her on Instagram and Pick Up the Fork.

Sign up for the Sign up for the Eater newsletter

The freshest news from the food world every day