Anyone who has visited Argentina might have been surprised at the cost of things, food in particular. Rising inflation has meant that this South American country is not as cheap as it once used to be, and this may come as a shock to tourists banking on saving some pesos on holiday. So we have found the best budget restaurants in Buenos Aires that will be kinder to your wallet.
Tito’s Secret Parrilla
Restaurant, South American, Argentina, Steakhouse, $$$
The meaty bargains at Tito’s Secret Parrilla are a secret no longer. This typical bodegon has an extensive menu that boasts some atypical sides such as creamed spinach which you won’t find in many pricier parrillas. Booking a table is advisable as this steakhouse has a loyal customer base who figured out the secret to a cheap eat long ago. Don’t be fooled by the unwelcoming entrance and dodgy décor, it’s all part of keeping the secret of this hidden gem.
Burger Joint’s street cred keeps rising because it still keeps its prices low. A burger, fries, and beer combo will set you back about AR$180 (US$11) – not too shabby when you consider it’s smack bang in the middle of Palermo Soho, a neighbourhood riding the top of the cresting wave of gentrification. Burgers alone can be demolished for about AR$90, so there are no excuses for counting pesos at these prices. Top tip: go to the room in the back to avoid larger queues at the front counter.
For those really pinching the pennies, or anyone looking to grab a bite on the run (an often difficult task in Buenos Aires), look no further than the many comida por peso restaurants that proliferate in the capital. These buffets offer a mix of traditional fare such as milanesas and pumpkin tart, Chinese food and often dull salad mixes, but seeing as you pay for the weight of your container, the prices are often the lowest you will find in town. Most of the comida por peso buffets are vegetarian, but some offer meat options at the same low cost of peso per kilo.
This tiny corner café in Palermo is a firm favourite for locals and expats who know where to go for a cheap yet delicious lunch. The mind boggles at how this pint-sized café manages to serve up delicious plates of fish and chips, or meatballs for AR$100 (around US$6) every lunchtime, but they do, which means that restaurants charging double elsewhere must be making a more than tidy profit if Vino Tinto can do it this cheaply. Beat the rush and get there early to get a seat, because this tasty lunch special waits for no man.
The king of cheap pizza, Ugi’s is often the barometer by which inflation is measured. The cost of its large pizza gives the layman an insight into the state of inflation, but a large pie will still only set you back about AR$90. Ugi’s is the lowest of the low as far as pizza goes, but many feel like this humble pie should be championed – it has a thin crust, it is stonebaked in a woodfire oven, and if you’re really scrimping, you can order a quarter or half pizza. Top tip: order an Ugi’s and pimp it with delicious toppings at home. Check out this funny article about Ugi’s unorthodox marketing strategy.
If you’re the kind of person who likes to fake it to make it, then the intimate haven of El Refuerzo in San Telmo is the place for you, such is the ratio between what you get and how much you pay for it, which is a lot for little. This tiny restaurant offers a rich mix of Argentine/French fusion cuisine, and the generous, delicious portions will leave you more than satisfied, and all for a bargain price considering the quality and ambience.
Pizza, empanadas, cheap beer on tap, what more can a person on a budget ask for? Kentucky is a chain of pizza restaurants that does a mean, and sizeable empanada, and they can be found every couple of blocks in the capital. They offer a lot of promotions to fill you up without going to town on your wallet. If you’re really starving, get a slice of chickpea faina to go on top of your pizza, and eat it with a knife and fork standing at the bar like a local for the real Argentine Kentucky experience.