This is the second post in the Hello Argentina Series detailing my week-long trip in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Other posts include Hello Argentina!
Even those that don't know much about Argentina seem to know about Argentina's beef. I soon realized this when I started telling people that we were going to Beunos Aires.
"You have to try the beef."
"I heard that the beef is really good down there."
"Are you going to be eating lots of steak?"
As I began researching this trip, it became immediately evident that meat, especially beef, is extremely popular in Argentina. For example, the classic, traditional get-together with friends and family is called an asado, where people gather at someone's home to eat all sorts of meat grilled over a huge open-air charcoal pit or open fire.
Parillas, or grill restaurants, are all over the place. Parillas specialize in grilling all different cuts of beef, as well as many other types of meats, such as lamb, chicken, pork, offal, and different types of sausages. Argentinians embrace all parts of the cow. Don't be surprised to see sweetbreads (thymus gland), kidneys, chitterlings (intestines), and blood sausage on the menu.
If you just skim the surface of reading about Beunos Aires, you will immediate learn of La Cabrera, by far the most famous and one of the most popular parillas in Buenos Aires.
La Cabrera is listed as number 17 on the San Pellegrino's Top 50 Best Restaurants in Latin America list (number 2 for restaurants in Argentina!). It's on virtually every "best steak" roundup article about Buenos Aires. Even if you didn't know about any of these rankings, the queues out the door speak for themselves. It's not uncommon to wait 1-2 hours to eat at this place. It is popular with both tourists and locals alike.
With this amount of fanfare, we knew we had to try this place.
Bryan and I booked an 8:30 reservation at La Cabrera (the earliest possible), which pretty much screams TOURIST. Argentinians eat very late, and thus the early time slots are typically filled with visitors from other countries.
Though part of me was a bit sad that our experience was less authentic than if we'd come at 10PM (where they pass out free sparkling wine and hors d'oeurvres to those waiting in line!), we needed to get home at a reasonable hour. After all, Bryan was here on business and needed to be alert and awake for meetings and talks the following morning.
The server recommended that we had to try three things: the empanadas, the ribeye beef (ojo de bife), and their homemade French fries with caramelized onions.
"And then that will be plenty of food."
I appreciated his honesty in actually telling us we didn't have to each get a steak.
We pretty much went with his suggestion, with the exception of adding a salad to convince ourselves we were adding nutritional balance to the meal (heh).
The empanadas were delicious - flaky, warm, and filled with a hearty ground beef and egg filling.
We both loved this simple salad which consisted of fresh summer tomatoes (yes, it's summer in the Southern hemisphere!), avocado slices, and fresh palm hearts. Palm hearts are all over Argentina and sort of remind me of fresh young bamboo shoots but creamier. It's delicious.
It was hard to choose just one type of steak, though we knew from experience (and other people's warnings) that one steak would be plenty of food. We finally decided to get the ribeye, or ojo de bife "medium size" (600g). You could also get 400g (small), or 800g (large). They even offer larger sizes if you're feeling particularly voracious. Argentinians tend to like their meat well done, so it's important to order rare, or even "blue" if you prefer less done meat.
We ordered "rare", though it still seemed closer to a "medium" in the U.S. In general, we found beef in Argentina to be much leaner (most of it is grass-fed), more "beefy" in flavor, and in general, more well-done. The texture was different from what we are used to in the US. Because of the lack of fat, the meat fibers were much more pronounced and you don't get that soft, buttery, melt-in-your-mouth texture of fattier beef.
The meat was quite good and very flavorful, though Bryan decided that he still preferred Japanese beef or U.S. beef. Bryan likes fat in beef, so it's natural to see why he likes those types better.
One fun aspect of eating at La Cabrera is choosing from their large selection of sauces and condiments to eat with your steak. Waiters bring a huge long rack which contains all of the sauces, like in the photo above.
We were disappointed because we never got to choose any sauces. Not a single server approached us with that cool long rack. I think it might be because we spoke absolutely no Spanish. It would have been hard for the servers carrying the sauces to explain each one to us in English.
Instead, they just gave us a few sauces to try. I had no idea what these sauces were, and I didn't actually bother trying to ask (in either English or Spanish). We enjoyed our steaks and resigned ourselves to the fact that sometimes you just can't get the complete authentic experience without knowing at least a little of the country's native language (I know that from experience in Japan!).
Our side dish, the homemade fries with caramelized onions, was OK but nothing particularly special. The potatoes were a bit soggy and greasy and not super crunchy. The flavor was fine, but nothing particularly unusual or surprising.
Despite the one mediocre side, all in all we had a great time at La Cabrera. The restaurant uses excellent ingredients and the food was executed well. They have a nice variety of steaks, including dry-aged, Wagyu, and all the classic cuts. We thought the steaks were very good, though in the end it was only our second favorite steak in Buenos Aires (I'll write about our other steak experience soon!). The prices are quite reasonable and you do get a lot of food. In total for two of us, we spent a about $40 USD on food and $50 USD on a bottle of Argentinian malbec.
The ambiance is cozy, eclectic, and fun, with all sorts of cow-themed paraphernalia hanging all over the various walls. The service is excellent and people are very friendly. Though I did see lots of tourists, I also saw many locals, including a large family who came to celebrate a loved one's birthday. The environment doesn't feel overly touristy. Most importantly - the food is good. I would definitely recommend coming.
There are two locations of La Cabrera. They are right across the street from each other in Palermo. The second one opened basically to absorb the huge lines that were piling up at the original location. The menus and dishes are identical at both restaurants. I called my hotel to arrange reservations for me (without specifying), and they made a reservation at the newer one, called La Cabrera Norte. You can only make a reservation for the earliest time slot. Anything after that, you basically have to show up and get in line (and there will be a line). Apparently it's kind of fun to stand in line since they give free bubblies and appetizers.
Lunch is from 12:30-4:30PM and Dinner goes from 8:30PM to 1AM.
5099 Cabrera Street or 5127 Cabrera Street
Beunos Aires City
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