Monday, June 17, 2024

Cairo Kebab

-Grubbing in Chicago  
Egyptian Food in University Village

There’s a popular social media account attempting to go around town and eat the cuisine of all 195 recognized countries around the world. It’s not possible to find food from all of them but as regular readers know there’s a ton of international eating options to be found around the Chicagoland area. Today we’re heading off to one of them near UIC - Cairo Kebab is the city’s only Egyptian restaurant.

Locals Favorite in University Village 

Cairo Kebab made the right call when they decided to move from their old location on Fullerton in Lincoln Park over to Maxwell street near UIC. I drove by their old location often and never saw people inside but it’s been busy with a diverse clientele on my two visits to their current address. Egyptian food relies heavily on vegetables and legumes but it’s also influenced by the Ottoman empire as well Lebanon and Syria. All of this influence can be seen on their menu which has hummus, falafel, shawarma, kebabs, and baklava among other things. But I zoomed in on two beloved Egyptian dishes. First up is the Hawawshi sandwich - a popular street food in Cairo and elsewhere around Egypt. It starts with pita stuffed with a mixture of ground beef mixed with onions, garlic, hot peppers, fresh herbs and spices. Hawawshi is said to have been invented in 1971 by an Egyptian butcher named Ahmed al-Hawawsh who sold them from a stall in Cairo before they eventually spread through the rest of Egypt. But food origin stories are always murky and Hawawshi is pretty similar to the Lebanese stuffed pita called Arayes which is said to have originated in ancient Middle Eastern cultures. So it’s more likely that Hawawshi is a rendition of Arayes but what I liked about the Hawawshi here was the flavorful combination of steamed beef and onions. It tasted like a well seasoned beirock.

Hawawshi at Cairo Kebab

Koshary, Egypt’s national dish, is the other menu item that caught my eye. This Egyptian staple mixes pasta, fried rice, vermicelli, lentils, and chickpeas with a garlicky tomato sauce. It comes topped with crispy fried onions plus the option to add garlic vinegar and hot sauce. I have no other experience with this dish to compare with the version I’ve had at Cairo Kebab but if online reviews are to be believed this is one of the best versions you can find in the States. Despite the overload of carbs I thought it was pretty great. It’s almost like a recipe out of one of those spiral bound church cookbooks and the likes except with lots of flavor. Both of the sauces offered on the side are outstanding with the hot sauce packing some real deal heat. It’s one of the better versions that I’ve found around town.

Koshary at Cairo Kebab

Cairo Kebab
730 W Maxwell St
Chicago, IL 60607
(224) 521-0649
Website

Monday, June 10, 2024

Recent Openings Roundup

-Grubbing in Chicago
Five of a Kind: Openings in Noble Square / West Town

This months ‘Five of a Kind’ post is going to focus on five newly opened restaurants in the Noble Square and West Town areas. Chicago Avenue in particular has seen a handful of openings over the last year as four of today’s featured spots call the street home. I’m not going to declare that the local restaurant scene has totally recovered from COVID but there’s been good openings of late in terms of hip and modern chef driven restaurants like Maxwell’s Trading, Gaoku, Tama and more. I liked my visit to all five places featured in this post but money and time and stomach space may not allow me to fully explore the menu at each spot. Though I’d be cool going back to all five of these spots. 

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Gemma Foods

Gemma Foods isn’t brand new but the two year old pasta purveyor at 1117 W. Grand Avenue recently introduced a lunch menu served Tues-Sat. It has a handful of pastas including a couple of rotating ones based on what’s in season and what not. I recently tried the current stuffed pasta special which is a pasta tipica of Bologna called Balanzoni. It’s a green tortellini filled with a mortadella mousse and garnished with ground fava beans, mint, and fried pistachio. Typically this dish is served with a brown butter and sage sauce but Gemma served theirs with a simple sauce of melted spring leeks. Aside from the little part where the tortellini was pinched together being undercooked these were pretty well made. I always enjoy trying regional pasta dishes like this so I look forward to seeing what other specials they come up with. You can add a single meatball to your order so I tried one of them and it was excellent. I liked the sausage like texture on it while a garnish of giardineria is a pro Chicago move. They also put little cups of Calabrian chili oil at the tables which I thought was a nice touch as it’s a great way to give your pasta some extra oomph. Another good lunch option on Grand avenue. 

Lunch at Gemma Foods 
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Un Amor

I’ve neither heard nor read much on this Latin forward brunch spot at 1450 W. Chicago Avenue. Un Amor started doing dinner a couple months after opening and there’s some intriguing taco options but all signs pointed towards the steak sandwich so I decided to go with that. They start off with tender outer cut skirt steak that’s cooked until medium rare and sliced and added to a toasted sub roll along with grilled onions and sautéed strips of poblano peppers plus a chihuahua cheese skirt crust which is achieved by cooking a bunch of shredded cheese on a hot flattop until it forms a crisp and glistening crust. They also add sliced hard boiled eggs and chimichurri making for a glorious mess.

Steak Sandwich at Un Amor
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Brasero

Chef John Manion of El Che Steakhouse has brought his live fire cooking skills to 1709 W. Chicago Avenue in West Town. Brasero is a South American grill with a Brazilian leaning menu. Most of the dishes get a kiss of smoke from that live fire grill and you can sample a handful of options at a daily happy hour running from 5p-6p. We sat at the bar one early evening and enjoyed a trio of happy hour specials including a half rack of ribs with a lip licking guava barbecue sauce. I thought about making that a full rack but wanted to try a few other things including a fire grilled prawn bathed in garlicky green curry sauce and garnished with toasted coconut and pickled Fresno peppers. The Paulista Pork Fried Rice was my favorite dish of the three. It’s described as “pure porky goodness with peanuts” and is made with chunks of smoky bacon plus tons of green onion, scrambled egg, and a chunk of butter and it’s heavenly. Hopefully they keep the happy hour in place as it's a good one for food. 




Happy Hour at Brasero
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Nettare

You’ll find this next stop just down the block at 1953 W Chicago Avenue. Nettare is an all day cafe / bar / restaurant / market. This do it all West Town restaurant is a project of restauranteur Conner O’Byrne and exec chef John Dahlstrom, previously of BLVD and Table, Donkey, and Stick. The menu is seasonal but it zooms is on Mediterranean inspired dishes with Midwest ingredients. The drink menu is also Midwest forward with booze from local Midwest distilleries next to Michigan made wines and so forth. Me and Erica stopped in a month or so ago following happy hour at the previously featured spot. I wanted to check out the menu and see what type of Midwest treats they were working with and the walleye sounded really good so we decided to have a drink and try it. I don’t know why more spots in town don’t cook with fresh lake fish like this. The skin was cooked to a perfect crisp.

Walleye (crispy skin, braised greens, brodo) at Nettare
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Jook Sing

The building at 1329 W. Chicago Avenue has seen a handful of restaurants come and go over the last decade or so. Jook Sing is the latest tenant. Their menu is an ode to the Night Markets across Asia and they also sport a bar and serve food and drink until midnight on the weekend. Jook Sing is probably the oldest spot of these five featured as it opened in December of 2023. They’ve switched up the menu a few times already so a few of the things we had on our visit are no longer available but I enjoyed their rendition of the famous New Orleans noodle dish Yaka Mein. It had a bit of a Taiwanese beef noodle soup element to it that I really liked but it’s not on the current menu which has options like Singapore style Char Kway Teow and Indonesian Internet Noodles which is a dish made with instant ramen, corned beef and poached egg. Hong Kong style Chow Mein is the one dish we tried on our visit that remains on the menu to this day. I thought it was a good rendition even though we ended up with it on accident after our waiter heard me say chow mein when I said yaka mein.

Dinner at Jook Sing (click pics to enhance)
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See ya next time @chibbqking

Monday, June 3, 2024

Migos Fine Foods

-Grubbing in Chicago  
Halal Fried Chicken and Tacos in Portage Park 

Migos Fine Foods is the latest interesting restaurant to give Portage Park a try. The Northwest side neighborhood isn’t the first (or second or third) area that pops to mind when strong Chicago food neighborhoods are discussed but it’s had a few appealing openings over the years and while a couple have stuck around the area doesn't have the crowds or spending power of other neighborhoods. 

Recently Opened in Portage Park

Migos is a joint collabo between Chef Brian Jupiter (Frontier and Ina Mae Tavern) and Azazi Morsi (chef de cuisine at Frontier). The main theme is Halal food but you could also call it a mix of Black Southern food and Mexican. Tacos made with jerk cauliflower show up alongside chicken al pastor and more. Fried chicken and biscuits (ala Ina Mae) and fresh fried donuts also make appearances on the menu as does a lamb smashburger. I recently tried the fried chicken torta in part bc the fried chicken sandwich at Frontier is considered one of the best of its kind. But the fried chicken sandwich at Migos is a thing all it's own. It starts with crispy fried chicken thighs served on toasted telera bread that’s delivered fresh daily by the Mexican bakery across the street. It’s dressed with a Chihuahua cheese skirt, Migos Sweet Heat sauce, beans, avocado, lettuce, and tomato plus a bunch of crinkle cut fries. This is a massive sandwich that could easily be split for lunch so go in hungry for this one.

Fried Chicken Torta at Migos Fine Foods  

The tacos at Migos come two to an order have a ton of flavor to them. If you’re up for a complete meal consider the daily special lamb carnitas deal. It comes with a pound of fried lamb shoulder tossed in Migos Sweet Heat sauce served with rice and beans plus tortillas, salsa, and a salad. It’s a heavy ass plate of food with at least a pound of meat that’s crisp on the outside and tender from within. I got about four tacos out of the meat and only used half of it - a hungry man’s meal for real. I’m trying to watch my fried food / sweets intake so I skipped the fried to order donuts on both trips but I saw an order come out and they smelled GREAT. I really hope Portage Park embraces Migos as it’s the type of place where just about anyone can find something they like - a new school neighborhood spot. 

Lamb Carnitas

Migos Fine Foods 
5044 W Montrose Ave
Chicago, IL 60641
(872) 946-7015
Website

Monday, May 27, 2024

Eating BIG in Buenos Aires

Eating like a local:
Regional food specialties 
- Exploring Argentina's Capital City 

While I consider myself well traveled that really only goes for North America, Europe, and Asia. Before we took off for Santiago last February I had only been to South America once and for a wedding and thus it was a quick trip to Cartagena. But it takes time (and money) to travel the world so there’s always more places to see and for me a big chunk of those places are in South America. So we did what most people do on their initial visit to the world’s fourth largest continent and planned a trip to Buenos Aires. First up was a visit to the wine region in Mendoza which I’ll try to get to later now that I’m finished with this report. We spent more than two weeks in the capital of Argentina after extending our stay. We came close to extending the trip twice but knew we would want to stay past then too so that should give you an idea how much we liked this lively city with lots to offer.

Sights from Buenos Aires (click all pics to enhance)

The city itself is huge so despite spending 18 days there and often logging more than ten miles a day on foot, and ubering all over, I really didn’t feel like we took in all of it properly. For example we never made it to a tango show though we saw plenty of tango dancing outside in the park and areas where there were lots of tourists and what not. If I had to pick one word to describe Buenos Aires that word would be ‘intoxicating’ as we could not get enough of it. I loved exploring all the different barrios. There’s 48 neighborhoods in Buenos Aires and I tried to take in as many of them as I could with visits to different ones often revolving around food and fun. But before we get to all of that let me just give a few handy tips for anybody thinking of visiting the ‘Paris of South America’ as some people call it.

Pics of Buenos Aires

It’s not cheap to get to Buenos Aires but it’s really, really reasonable once you arrive. It seems to have decent public transportation but the Ubers were so cheap I never rode the bus once. I also found the city to be very walkable even though some neighborhoods are really far from each other. There wasn’t a single instance where I felt unsafe. We often separated for lunch or the likes as Erica was interested in the wine bars and what not more-so than the bodegons or pizzerias. But neither of us ever had so much as an issue as far as safety goes. Buenos Aires is a party city so to say and that rubs off on the people who are out to have a good time. We met couples from across the globe and shared drinks and stories with them and not one person we met had anything bad to say about BA. In fact now that I think about it I’ve never heard anyone say that Buenos Aires sucks. It's the city of passion and romance and it's biggest affection is futbol and their current crush is Leo Messi. Outside of certain religions (oof) you will not find a more passionate group of people than Argentinean futbol fans. Something I'll always remember from this trip was a gameday match between the city's biggest soccer clubs. Superclásico as it's called is the yearly futbol match between Buenos Aires rivals Boca Juniors and River Plate which are basically D-list clubs in the grand scheme of Club Football but you wouldn't know that judging by the electricity of the city that day. The passion was unmatched and I've been to Bulls games during MJ’s heyday and have visited cities during Super Bowl weekend. It was crazy. 

The Messi Murals of Buenos Aires (some of them)

The one thing you want to keep in mind is there’s massive inflation and the dollar exchange is always changing and the one issue we had as far as travel was taking money out of the atm. Thus I strongly advise you bring cash (US dollars) which can easily be exchanged for pesos at a Cambio. You just go into one with your dollars and they show you the current exchange rate and you make an exchange. But keep in mind that they don’t accept smaller bills ($1, $5, $10) and they give a better rate if you have $100’s. You can use your card at most restaurants where they bring the machine to your table but you’ll want cash for tips and also smaller purchases like an empanada or some ice cream. Also Uber only allows you to tip around $3 usd which was ridiculous so I often tipped drivers in cash. As far as where to stay we ended up staying in two different parts of Palermo since we extended our trip and needed to find a new spot as the original was booked. I would stay in the same area again as Palermo is filled with bars and restaurants and street fests and other fun things. It’s also pretty centrally located to the rest of the city. Keep in mind that it’s summer there when it’s winter here which really does make it one of the best destinations for Americans looking to escape the cold. Long story short - I loved Buenos Aires and I wish I could go out there every February. 

Street Art in Buenos Aires 

Note: This is a massive post so I curated a map linked at the end which has each place featured in this post pinned, along with what I had to say about it. More than 60% of the spots I checked out I was guided too by Allie Lazar, a Highland Park native, who's made Buenos Aires her home. You can check out her site HERE and follow her on instagram HERE. She's the one publications and producers call when they need a fixer or some sort of story on the city's vibrant food scene - so big thanks to her.

Pics from Buenos Aires 
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Parilla Don Niceto 

We’ll start at my favorite spot of the entire trip. Don Niceto was not on my list but I’d randomly walked by and it looked like my type of place so I stopped in for some food and ended up going back not once but twice. It’s an old school Parilla with a very small staff consisting of just three people including the grillmaster - Luis. I sat at the bar all three times I visited and watched what looked like a mad scientist at work in his lab as he prepped the meat and cooked it while also tending to the fire pit and the bar patrons. The menu is small but mighty with quite a few house favorites including the Entraña (skirt steak) and the Chunchullo (beef intestine). While I knew how much I would like the tender and well seasoned fire kissed skirt steak, I wasn’t sure about the grilled intestines as I tend to prefer them fried crispy but these were grilled so well that they were extra crisp and absolutely fantastic when dipped into some salsa criolla and or chimichurri. I also loved the fully rendered slices of short ribs and split links of crispy charred chorizo and provoleta (grilled cheese) and thinly sliced crispy frites ala Provençal, all at crazy good prices. It’s a small space that gets packed about an hour after opening so if you don’t want to wait it’s best to go right when they open around 8pm. Long live Don Niceto. 


Chorizo with Provoleta

Chunchullo (grilled beef intestine)

Beef Short Rib

Entrana (skirt steak) and Frites Provencal 
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El Gauchito 

We had a big lunch in Mendoza previously in the day and we didn't arrive to our Airbnb until late in the evening so I decided I wanted something light to eat. I walked over to a place I knew would be busy but it was beyond busy so I looked at my google maps guide and El Guachito was the closest spot on it. It's funny because I added El Gauchito to my maps thinking it was a different place with a similar name that's supposed to have the best empanadas in Argentina. So I went in with high expectations and they were met with the best empanadas I'd ever had and they were like $1 each served up with mouth watering sauces. The ground beef was particularly good. It was loaded with flavor and far from dry like many of the others I've tried over time. It's fitting that this was the first food stop as the empanada scene in Buenos Aires is unmatched. They somehow got better with each spot.  

Empanadas at El Guachito
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Picaron

Picaron is one of the first restaurants I'd recommend to anyone looking for Buenos Aires food recs. It's in the Villa Crespo neighborhood which is an up and coming middle class neighborhood with a strong Jewish community. Villa Crespo is known amongst Porteños as the home to local football club Atlanta and also an up and coming dining scene led by the likes of Picaron. I ended up coming here twice while Erica (my wife) became a regular with at least four if not five visits. Part of it was because it was a 10-15 minute walk from our AirBNB but the main reason was the food is fantastic and so was the service. I could totally envision Picaron in a place like Paris or Milan where it would blend in perfectly with it's sleek bistro vibes and colorful popping plates of food made with seasonal / local ingredients. The menu is a blend of Latin American and Mediterranean and the plates are mostly meant for sharing but don't hesitate to visit as a solo diner as the prices of both food and the wine are a steal compared to similar spots in the U.S. Nothing we had here was bad. In fact everything we had was awesome and since it's a chef driven spot the menu is likely to change often so my best advice would be not to skip the Patagonian scallops if they're an option and to order whatever else sounds good. 

Aguachile (melon)

Piacarones (sweet potato fritters with mascabo honey and nduja) / Corn Ribs (macha sauce and lime)
 
Prawns (chile oil)

Patagonian Scallops (bagna cauda and breadcrumbs)
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Anchoita Cava

Here's another hip spot in Villa Crespo we visited on more than one occasion. Anchoita Cava is the wine and cheese sibling of a popular restaurant called Anchoita. It's a small space with seating for about ten people but they also have a section on the sidewalk in front where you can sip on terrific Argentina wines and chow down on cheese from different regions across the world. If you want a little more than that they make sandwiches and often have specials like this delicious seafood empanada. 

Empanada de Pescado at Anchoita Cava
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Parilla El Pobre Luis  

I wanted to make sure my first dinner in BA was a classic and El Pobre Luis was my pick to help make that happen. It's actually ran by a man from Uruguay but it’s very much a locals type of place with futbol jerseys lining the walls of a packed house full of Porteños and a live fire parilla loaded with different cuts of meat. The Pamplona is their specialty and the reason I was there. It’s a grilled stuffed meat dish commonly made with chicken or beef that’s been stuffed with ham and cheese and is equally as popular in Argentina as it is in Uruguay. We got one of each and some fresh cut fries to go with it. It was so good but I have no idea how locals are able to consume so much meat in this city. Pretty much every place was packed and every plate is covered in asado. The average Americano eats about 60 lbs of beef per year while the average Argentine eats almost double that at about 115 pounds per person. Got beef? It’s what’s for dinner and breakfast and lunch too apparently.

Pamplona at El Pobre Luis 
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La Paceña

This Bolivian owned Empanaderia is often mentioned when the city’s best empanadas are discussed. The difference between Bolivian empanadas is in the dough. While it’s prepared with wheat flour like those in Argentina it has different spices and the prep is different as is the color and texture. La Paceña has been around for more than 30 years and has a wide variety of empanadas to choose from including unique options like cheese and spicy onion (called the puka-kapa) or tuna with mozzarella and roquefort, or the amarreños made with ham, mozzarella and roquefort. I ordered a handful of them and each of them was delicious but if I had to pick I’d choose the carne picante (spicy beef) which had some decent heat. Runner up would be the basil, tomato, and mozzarella (al-to-ke).  

Empanadas at La Paceña
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Albamonte Restaurant 

I really adored this old school bodegon recommended in Allie Lazar's (Pick Up The Fork) Eater list. A bodegon is a spot where locals go for reasonably priced BA style dishes like hand rolled fusilli with a mix of red sauce and pesto or proper plates of fried calamari - lightly breaded tubes and tentacles. Albamonte is popular with all generations so get a reservation or go when they open. Since 1958. 

Lunch at Albamonte Restaurant 
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Varela Varelita

This all day bar / cafe was one of my favorite stops of the trip due to both the sandwich and the space. Varela Varelita is an old school spot that brings you back into the height of the cafe era with it's looks and menu. It seemed like the type of spot that attracts people from all walks of life as there was a young group of girls practicing Spanish while sipping on coffee and an older group of guys pounding beers at 11am and so forth. I was there for a Milanesa sandwich which is essentially a breaded steak sandwich dressed with lettuce, tomato, ham, and cheese. Varela Varelita is said to stand out with it's bread and I could easily see why. The top shelf French bread is what made this sandwich eat so well. The steak was no slouch either as it was both thick and tender and a far cry from the cheap stuff used at breaded steak places back home. One of the best steak sandwiches I've ever had. Desde 1950. 

Milanesa Sandwich at Varela Varelita
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Pain et Vin 

Erica found this terrific little wine bar on the border of Villa Crespo and Palermo. They have an extensive collection of wines from Argentina and beyond. You can buy them by the bottle for there or to go and they also have lots of wine by the glass, cheese plates, and wonderful service to boot.  

Wine and Cheese at Pain et Vin 
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La Carnicería

I enjoyed a feast of meat at this hip and happening parilla in Palermo. La Carnicería rearranged the asado game with updated takes on parilla classics. High quality cuts of bone-in beef are grilled over a flaming fire. You can choose between the ribeye or the bife de chorizo which is the most popular cut in Argentina thus I felt the obligation to try that over the ribeye which is typically my favorite cut of beef (along with skirt steak). The bife de chorizo is actually the strip steak and not to be confused with the bright red pork stuffed sausage of the same name. The bone-on strip comes with chimichurri and pumpkin puree and it was pretty much what I expected in that it was thick and juicy and as tender as a Ronaldo fan after Messi won the World Cup. Ok well maybe not that last part as it wasn’t soft per se but it was tender and well salted with the taste of butter. My only complaint is it was closer to medium than medium rare but as long as it’s not well done I’m fine with how they serve it. The housemade chorizo was outstanding while amuse bouche bone marrow with some bread was the cherry on top.

Lunch at La Carnicería
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La imperfecta 

As I relive this trip through the writing of this post I'm starting to realize just how many great places we made it too. La imperfecta had just opened a few blocks from our spot and it was the perfect type of place to walk over to for a bite and a drink. They have a menu of about ten different empanadas that are cooked in a Neapolitan style pizza oven and a bunch of different wines to go with them. The knife cut steak empanada was next level stuff with bits of steak mixed with onion in a crisp golden crust.   

Knife Cut Steak Empanada at La imperfecta 
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Sarkis

While it’s true that steak dominates the menus of many Buenos Aires restaurants it’s not the only option in town when it comes to eating out. As is the case with most urban areas you’ll find large pockets of immigrant communities like the Armenians. Argentina received more people from Armenia than any other country in Latin America following the Armenian genocide between 1922 and 1930 and there are now around 100,000 Armenians living in the country and a large majority have made Buenos Aires their home. That means you can find good Armenian food at places like Sarkis, one of the city’s most popular restaurants. Porteños line up night in and night out to get a taste of the old country or just some really good food in the form of cute little open face Manti dumplings made with a pasta like dough that’s filled with beef and baked and served in a puddle of subtle broth. Add yogurt to take it up another notch. They also make tasty charcoal grilled brochettes of chicken and beef and fantastically fresh sides like the Enselada Belen which is a delicious combination of eggplant, zucchini, red peppers, sweet raisins and crispy almonds. If you want to experience an iconic Buenos Aires restaurant that’s not a steakhouse this is a good one to consider. Just make sure you go early whether for lunch or for dinner otherwise be prepared to wait for a table with the crowds outside as this is a celebratory type of spot and there’s rarely a night that people aren’t out and about in BA.

Lunch at Sarkis (click pics to enhance)
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Pandok

If you don’t want to fight the crowds at Sarkis or if you find yourself Downtown you should head over to Pandok and try their kebabs, specifically the beef which was one of the best things I ate in Buenos Aires. It was so soft and juicy and full of deep fire grilled flavor. I was surprised just how good it was. I wasn't expecting it to be one of the best kebabs I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating. I had planned to go back and try the khinkali which gets rave reviews online. The friendly Armenian owner insisted I return to try their take on Georgian soup like dumplings but I never got the chance to make it happen. 

Beef Kebab at Pandok 
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Cafe Paulin 

Just how big is the cafe culture in Buenos Aires? The city has what are known as “Café notables” - historic cafes and bars that are recognized by the municipal government for their unique cultural heritage. Each of these cafes has a significant place in the history of the city. Some were gathering points for cultural figures while others retain a unique architectural design or contributed to relevant cultural or historical events. Cafe Paulin is a sandwich bar that’s been given the “Café notables” status. It’s commonly mentioned when the best sandwiches in the city are discussed and is characterized by its mirrored walls and a narrow u shaped bar. Waiters slide the sandwiches down the bar as has been seen in many shows and movies. It has a very intimate feel and a massive menu. I was overwhelmed with the options but was happy with my choice of prosciutto with olives, arugula, cheese on crisp and crunchy toasted bread. I got a regular sized sandwich and it was huge. 

Sandwich at Cafe Paulin 
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Pizzería Güerrín

As long as we're near downtown lets get some pizza. You can’t go to BA and not try at least one of the city's many historic pizzerias. Or if you’re like me you need to try at least a few. I picked what are likely the three most popular but there were countless other pizzerias with history dating as far as back as the 1930’s. They all make the same style which is somewhat similar to deep dish. In fact many of the Porteños I met got all sorts of excited when I told them I was from Chicago as they love them some deep dish pizza. It’s most similar due to large amounts of cheese but in Buenos Aires the most popular pizza isn’t sausage and it doesn’t have any red sauce. Fugazzeta is a cheese-stuffed pizza topped with caramelized onions that all the pizza spots will serve in slices as it’s tough to eat more than two. So I did a little self guided tour where I tried a slice of Fugazzeta and a slice of Napolitana at each spot bc why not. I tried going to Pizzería Güerrín around 9/10p one Saturday night and I was met with one of the longest lines I've ever seen at a restaurant (it extended more than two city blocks). That got me even more intrigued but I decided to return during the day the upcoming week and it was busy but there wasn't a line at city's most iconic pizzeria. I appreciated the history and the operation as a whole but the pizza itself finished in third place. It was just ok. Desde 1932.

Pizza at Pizzería Güerrín
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El Cuartito

El Cuartito is also near the downtown area and it was my favorite of the three pizza places that I tried. I was told it was the best by the previously mentioned Allie Lazar and she clearly knows what's up as it was the clear best of the bunch. El Cuartito serves what's known as "Pizza de Molde" or "pizza in the pan". According to a 2016 article written by Lazar for Saveur - "It's similar to focaccia bread in which both the crust and inner dough have the same thick, spongy texture. When made right, the base has a sturdy crunch and the top overflows with a small amount of sauce and a lot of bubbling cheese that dreamily crisps at the bottom of the pan. Because pizza de molde is so thick and cheesy, the average eater only consumes about two slices". I enjoyed the pizza at Cuartito more than I thought I would with their slice of Napolitana being my favorite of the six slices I tried. A slice of Napolitana will often include cheese, sliced tomatoes, garlic, dried oregano. Not only did the pizza fantastic but so was the atmosphere as it was bustling with people from all walks of life. Desde 1934. 

Pizza at El Cuartito
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Cadore 

We'll check out the final pizzeria I tried later in the post because now I want to tell you about the ice cream. BA is also known as "The City of Helado" due to the city's rich history with ice cream. Italian immigrants influenced its ice cream, or helado, in many ways as it's similar to gelato except its served at a warmer temperature and has a denser, silkier texture. It's generally made with whole milk instead of cream and they say the higher density means the flavor is more intense. Just like with their favorite pizzerias, Porteños are passionate about their favorite heladeria. As I already mentioned it was hot and muggy for a majority of the time we were there so I tried a bunch of different ice cream shops and Heladeria Cadore in the Theatre District was among my favorites. They've been making their ice cream fresh daily since 1957 and their tangerine was exactly what I needed on an extremely hot day. 

Ice Cream at Heladeria Cadore
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Mishiguene

This is one of the city's more heralded restaurants as it's been acknowledged by Michelin and 'The World's 50 Best' among others. Mishiguene is an extension of the worlds 7th largest Jewish population which resides in Buenos Aires. The dimly lit dining room resembles that of a French bistro but the food is a gastronomic adventure into Ashkenazi classics like Jerusalem salad and pastrami. I came here specifically for the latter which is a beef prime rib cured for ten days and then smoked over wood embers for four hours, and steam-cooked for fourteen hours more. The end result is a brick sized slab of brisket sitting atop a potato latke with a rich brown gravy, grilled onions and a fried egg on top of it all. It's a huge portion meant to feed two people but you only live once and that I did as it was just awesome. You can see how I cut a piece of it off (with my fork) in the second picture. 

Pastron at Mishiguene 
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Caren 

When you visit a bakery in BA you’re likely to come across sándwiches de miga which resemble the Italian tramezzino and English tea time cucumber sandwiches. The Academia Argentina de Gastronomía believes they may have been introduced into Argentina by immigrants from Northern Italy. Sándwiches de miga are often double layered with the crust cut off and common fillings include ham, hard boiled eggs, cheese. They're popular at any type of get together or as a quick lunch. Caren Bakery is a great place to grab some for a picnic or before boarding your flight home. Desde 1969.

Sándwiches de Miga at Caren
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EL Hornero de San Telmo

San Telmo is the oldest Barrio in Buenos Aires. The well preserved neighborhood is characterized by its old colonial buildings which line the streets with restaurants, cafes, and tango parlors. The historic Mercado de San Telmo is the anchor of the neighborhood and one of the top destinations for tourists. It opened as a produce market in 1897 and most of it's original structure is still in place. Today the market is home to a plethora of restaurant stalls and vendors selling different merchandise like futbol jerseys and antiques. Visit on a Sunday and there's 100's more vendors that line the streets surrounding the market for a weekly Sunday Street Fair. El Hornero de San Telmo is one of the most popular food stalls at the market. I visited a couple times and passed at the first chance I had to try this place as there were too many people in line. The second time it was busy but there wasn't a big line so I got a beef empanada to see what all the hype was about. There's no doubt that part of the hype is that they have a great location and sell something that all of the tourists want to try. Was it the best empanada I ever had? No but if it was the only empanada I ate in Argentina it would've been. 

Empanada at El Hornero de San Telmo
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Nuestra Parilla

This is the spot you want to seek out if you visit the San Telmo Market. Nuestra Parilla is tucked off to the side where they slang choripan sandwiches to a crowd of people on the sidewalk outside. Chorizo + Bread = Choripan and when the two of them are combined with some chimichurri there’s no topping it as far as a simple sandwich goes. The chorizo is split and grilled to order before being placed in a crisp and flaky French bun. Diners can choose from one of three sauces sitting on the counter including a green and a red chimichurri plus a semi spicy salsa criolla. This was another clutch Allie Lazar rec in that I knew I had reached the peak Mt. Choripan right then and there. 

Choripan at Nuestra Parilla 
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El Gauchito 

Here's yet another must stop spot just a four minute walk from the San Telmo Market. This El Gauchito is the one I thought I was going to the first night we arrived (the second place featured in this post). It's no secret that El Gauchito is considered to have the best empanadas in all of Argentina as you can see from the crowd huddled around outside in the picture up above. It was a Sunday which meant the market was in full swing so the streets were packed and so was El Gauchito. Groups of tourists and locals patiently waited for what I would call the best empanadas I've ever had. More specifically the deep fried beef ones which come packed with a legendary amount of flavor. So good.

Empanadas at El Gauchito 
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O'toxo

Spanish restaurants are also big in Buenos Aires due to a long history between Spain and Argentina. O’toxo is an old  Spanish bodegon with mostly positive online reviews. We stopped in for lunch and it was pretty good. The highlight was Gambas al Ajillo with potatoes. The fried spuds soaked up all of the wonderful butter and garlic sauce and the shrimp were plump and flavorful. The mussels with rice was nothing special but I liked the specialty of the house which mixed tallerine pasta with a tomato based seafood sauce even if it was a bit one dimensional. This is the type of restaurant I’d revisit if I was living anywhere near there but I wouldn’t go out of my way to return here as a tourist.

Lunch at O'toxo
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Parilla El Litoral 

The Bondiola sandwich isn’t as well known as the Choripan but it should be. I had heard of them but had never had one as I’d never seen it being served anywhere. Its typical makeup consists of sliced pork shoulder that’s char grilled and splashed with a bit of lemon juice and dressed with chimichurri and salsa bondiola criolla in a crisp French roll. I made a point of checking  out Parilla El Litoral for one as I had read it stays busy and the Bondiola sandwich is one of their most popular offerings. Its a real locals type of spot where you may have to wait in line to be seated however they also have a little walk up window that you can take food to go from or eat it at the counter while watching the grill flame away. Local cabbies pull up day and night for what has to be one of Buenos Aires best sandwiches. I say so bc it was one of the best I’ve ever had and I’ve had as many from different places as anybody. The sliced pork was so smoky and full of flavor from a trip to the charcoal grill while the bread and sauces brought it all together. This is a first ballot induction into the world sandwich hall of fame.  

Bondiola at Parilla El Litoral 
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Gran Dabbang 

If you find yourself in Buenos Aires craving the flavors of India and or South Asia you should give Gran Dabbang a shot. It’s a busy restaurant on a busy street so go early or get a reservation as it’s a small space with some pretty great change of pace type plates. We started off with the unusual pairing of dosa with a salad of stracciatella, anchovies, and tomato. It was loaded with fresh in season tomatoes and it all worked really well together. I’m not sure what was up texturally with the wood fired pacu fish with hazelnuts, manga raita but I suspect the soft somewhat off putting texture was due to pacu being a river fish. It had good flavor but the texture was mush. We finished with a delicious rendition of dal makhani with smoked butter and fenugreek served with rice and naan. Cool Spot. 

Dinner at Gran Dabbang
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Obrador Florida

If you find yourself walking past this artisan ice cream shop I suggest you stop. Obrador Florida is a relatively new heladeria that chooses to focus on fruits in the form of mandarins, figs, bananas and more. I prefer fruits to chocolates when it comes to ice cream so this place was right up my alley.

Helado at Obrador Florida 
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El Chiri de Villa Kreplaj

Next we head back to the Villa Crespo neighborhood which some call Villa Kreplaj in a nod to the areas old Jewish working class roots. El Chiri de Villa Kreplaj is a modern day ode to the old neighborhood in the form of a restaurant. They take Jewish classics like latkes and goulash and give them a bit of an update. Lots of the online reviews mention the Pastron or the pastrami as we know it. They cook it until fall apart tender and serve it as a sandwich with grilled onions, mustard, and pickles.

Pastrami Sandwich at Chiri 
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La Esquina Del Fatay 

I saw a large crowd huddled outside of here while walking around in the busy part of Floresta. I looked up La Esquina Del Fatay and it was clearly a popular spot judging by both the crowd and the number of online reviews. So I hopped in line to try the Empanadas de Arabe that are commonly mentioned in the reviews. These are like meat pies and they make for a great snack on the cheap.

Empanada de Arabe at La Esquina Del Fatay 
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Maum

Close to 20,000 Koreans call BA home and a large chunk of them live and or work in Barrio Coreano which is also known as the garment district. You can find alot of Korean restaurants in the area. I’d read about one that’s ran out of a home that I wanted to try but the doors were locked when I arrived so I called an audible and ended up at this place called Maum instead. It ended up being the right call as this two story restaurant, also ran out of a house, was buzzing with young locals. I chose Maum bc their Korean Cold Noodles sounded like the perfect shack on what was a hot and sunny afternoon. Naengmyeon as they’re called are a product of North Korea where they’re commonly enjoyed in summer. They’ve become equally as popular in South Korea and the U.S. too due to a Netflix documentary called ‘Korean Cold Noodle Rhapsody’. There’s two variations - the original in which the noodles come served in a cold broth and also Bibim Naengmyeon which is served dry with a spicy gochujang sauce made primarily from red chiles. I tried the latter and was happy with my decision.

Bibim Naengmyeon at Maum 
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Apunena

This cozy corner spot has some delicious tapas plates inspired by the flavors of Southeast Asia. The kitchen is ran by a U.S. born chef who grew up in the Philippines so there’s an emphasis on Filipino flavors. We ordered a bunch of stuff and came away impressed with the quality of each dish. My favorite of which was a personal favorite of mine - charcoal grilled pork neck with Nam Prik sauce.

Sushi Grade Fish, Fermented Tofu Cream, Peach, Quinoa, Umeboshi Mayo, Red Onion 

Dumplings with Pork, Shiitake Mushrooms, Shrimp with Suka Sauce 

Lumpia with Vegetables, Fresh Herbs, Peanut Sauce 

Empanada with Crunchy Rice, Squid Curry, Lemongrass Criolla, House Vinegar 

Grilled Marinated Diaphragm of Pork with Lettuce and Nam Prik 

Grilled Rio Negro Prawns with Chinese Egg Noodles, Bagoong Coconut Sauce, Green Beans, Corn 
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Shan Dong Fan Dian

Chinese food is perhaps the world’s most traveled cuisine meaning you can find good interpretations of it across the globe. I eat some form of Asian cuisine on a regular basis so I made sure to do some digging on where to get good Chinese food and found Shang Dong Fan Dian in the process. This is a busy spot filled with groups of Porteños chowing on big bowls of beef noodle soup, stir fried veggies, and some tasty little potstickers that really hit the spot. I’d be here often if I lived in Buenos Aires.

Potstickers at Shan Dong Fan Dian
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Empanadas Nenis

Not all empanadas in Buenos Aires are Argentinian. There’s more than 150,000 Venezuelans living in BA and with them comes many Venezuelan restaurants including Empanadas Nenis. The Venezuelan empanada differs from others due to the use of a corn based dough that’s  stuffed with different meats and vegetables and fried. I’m not ready to choose a side in the battle of empanadas between Argentina and Venezuela as there’s a time and a place for both styles. Venezuelan empanadas are a bit heavier due to the oil from the frying and thus are better ate in the evening which is when Nenis is at its busiest. I stopped here twice for the best Venezuelan style empanadas I’ve ever had. The Carne Molida (ground beef) with slices of avocado was a perfect way to end my day each time I stopped by.

Venezuelan Empanada at Empanadas Nenis
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Cafe Bar Oriente

The Milanesa is right there with empanadas, pizza, and steak as far as the most beloved foods of BA. It’s thought to have been brought over by the Italians making it a cousin of Cotoletta alla Milanese aka Veal Cutlet. Beef is the most popular meat used to make milanesa in Argentina but chicken is also used. Every Porteño has a favorite place for one and I decided to check out a spot Allie Lazar had mentioned as her fav but she also said she would never write about it since it’s too precious of a place to herself and others. I’m only sharing it here bc how many readers will actually make it here? But those that do will get a first hand glimpse into a classic Buenos Aires eatery. I absolutely adored this extremely locals spot filled with different generations of Porteños. The plain milanesa served with lemon seemed most popular but I had to try the Napolitana version which means it comes covered in marinara, ham, and cheese. It was so good. I had plans to go back but I visited too late into the trip.

Milanese Napolitana at Cafe Oriente 
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La Mezzetta

La Mezzetta is the last of the three iconic BA pizzerias that I tried. Customers line up day through the night for slices of classic Buenos Aires style pizza that you can only eat while standing up. I’d heard Mezzetta makes the best fugazzetta in the city and I concur with that sentiment. Desde 1939.

Pizza at La Mezzetta
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Occo

This is the spot where I finally realized how good the ice cream is across Buenos Aires. I was walking by and decided to stop in for a small scoop of Maracuya (passionfruit) and it was one of the most satisfying and refreshing scoops of ice and or gelato I've ever had. I even went back the next day.

Maracuya Ice Cream at Occo 
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El Burladero

We came to this highly rated Spanish restaurant with the intent of trying the churros but figured we would start with a few appetizers including excellent preps of Gambas al ajillo (garlic shrimp) and Patatas Bravas (fried potatoes with a spicy sauce). The fried calamari was nothing special but their signature churros were fantastic. They were served piping hot with chocolate and Dulce de Leche sauces for dipping. These brought me directly back to Chocolatería San Ginés in Madrid.

Snacks at El Burladero 
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Molino Norteno

This place popped up when searching for great empanadas and I walked over one night to give them a try. El Molino Norteno serves the food of Northern Argentina with its owner coming from the city of Salta. He’s credited with bringing real deal Salta style empanadas to Buenos Aires along with a bunch of other favorites from the mountains including big bundles of tamales stuffed with what else but beef. The empanadas here are knife cut meaning they stuff them with finely hand chopped steak and chunks of potato seasoned with paprika and cumin. The sauce took these from very good to great.

Empanadas at Molino Norteno
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Los Chanchitos

I loved this old school spot in Villa Crespo known for its Matambre - rolled meat similar to stuffed flank steak, said to be a close relative of cima alla genovese, the Galician dish cima rellena, and the French roulade. Matambre grew into a few things out of Argentina’s wave of immigrants. Here it’s made with two pieces of smoky and tender char grilled pork loin that are used as like a bun for tomatoes, ham and cheese. I don’t think this version is as traditional as others but it’s appropriately named “matambre” - a combination of two Spanish words: matar and hambre. Matar means “to kill” and hambre means “hunger” and that’s exactly what this dish will do as it can easily feed three between the huge piece of stuffed pork and the massive mound of fries that come included with it.

Matambre at Los Chanchitos 
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Panchos Coquito

I took a field trip for hot dogs to the iconic Panchería Coquito on my last day in Buenos Aires. I found this 69 year old hot dog stand online and I put it on my hit list as soon as I saw the pictures of the product. More specifically when I saw how the franks have a curve meaning they’re made with natural casing. The inside space sits no more than 10 customers total and they have two large pots sitting front and center - one holds the buns and the other has the hot dogs. With this being an old school hot dog stand the toppings are limited to a handful of sauce options including two types of mustard, ketchup, mayo, Salsa Golf and a barbecue blend. Buns are supplied by a local San Isidro bakery and come toasted while the hot dogs are served steamed. I tried three (about $1.50 each) as well as their other claim to fame - an extra refreshing banana licaudo served with unlimited refills. What a combo! I never expected to come across a hot dog spot like this here in South America where they load the toppings on what are typically cheap weiners but not at “el templo del pancho” where they’ve been serving a quality product that is said to have been inspired by a visit to the World’s Fair. Desde 1955.

Hot Dogs at Panchos Coquito 
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Corte Comedor

I had to hit up a parilla for my last meal in Buenos Aires and Corte Comedor got the call due to a slew of recs. The modern steakhouse / butcher is led by Chef Santiago Garet of Uruguay. Garet honed his craft under legendary Argentine Grillmaster Francis Mellman before branching out on his own. He went on to open one of the city’s most popular steakhouses so make sure to get a reservation if you plan on dining here. The menu here is very meat forward but in a contemporary way. Cuts of steak available can change based on what the connected butcher shop has sliced up that day. I went in with plans to try a lesser seen cut but was swayed by the skirt steak which my waiter told said was the best in town so how could I turn it down. But first things first were some fresh in-season tomatoes with anchovies to precede the red meat. Chorizo de La casa was bursting with juice and flavor. The skirt steak was indeed incredible, possibly the best I’ve ever had. The portion was huge but I ate every single gram on top of the excellent fresh cut fries tossed in garlic and parsley. I stared in awe of an amazing Argentinean live fire grill one last time before heading out for one last batch of ice cream.

Dinner at Corte Comedor 
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Rapanui

Rapanui is a small local chain known for its chocolate and its Italian style gelato. I went to the Palermo location a few times during our stay. The first two times I went with fruit flavored gelato as it was so hot and muggy. But by the end of the trip it cooled down and I switched to their signature Dulce de Leche and never looked back. I had two cups the final night before buying a few boxes of alfajores, the unofficial pastry in Argentina, to take home as food souvenirs. That’s it for this trip!

Dulche de Leche Ice Cream at Rapanui 
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BONUS TRIP!

Colonia del Sacramento (Uruguay)

We took a daytrip from Buenos Aires to Uruguay bc why not? It would end up being the 30th country I’ve visited which seems like a little and alot. It's a 1.5 hour r/t ferry ride ($80) to the town of Colonial del Sacramento. The former Portuguese settlement is one of the Uruguay's oldest towns and is known for the cobblestoned Barrio Histórico - an old area lined with buildings from its colonial past. You can rent bikes, golf carts, or cars upon arrival but you’ll have trouble parking them in the main area. We found most of the tourist stuff within walking distance anyway. Overall we felt the five or six hours we had was more than enough time to see the town. It was a fun trip but I wouldn’t do it if your time in BA is limited. There’s not much going on aside from the old colonial looks and legal weed. 

Pics from Colonia del Sacramento 
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Bohemia Bistro 

After the short walk from the ferry terminal into town we found a place for some food and drinks. Bohemia Bistro is a charming spot with a lovely patio overlooking the river. The bistro style menu is made up of pretty looking plates of food with lots of seasonal and vegetarian options, many of which take a trip to the wood fired grill. We tried a few things including some terrific mushroom croquettes and a delicious plate of grilled eggplant with chickpeas and pepper puree. The Octopus Carpaccio with freshly fried shoestring potatoes and a pea puree was probably my favorite of the three things we tried but everything was really well made. Keep in mind prices in Uruguay are similar to Chicago but on the plus side Bohemia Bistro is a quality spot so it was worth the stop for what we got. 

Lunch at Bohemia Bistro 
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Mi Carrito

The main reason I wanted to take a daytrip to Uruguay was so I could try a Chivito in its natural habitat. The sandwich consisting of churrasco, bacon, ham, lettuce, tomatoes, mayonnaise, a fried egg, and more, is the country’s national dish. There was countless spots for one in Colonia del Sacramento and for whatever reason I ended up at this food truck just outside the city’s main square. Mi Caritto is a typical Uruguayan fast food stop where can get everything from a burger to a hot dog to a Chivito and a beer. I ordered my chivito and watched the grillmaster get to work on all the different elements of the sandwich including the toasting of the bun. By the time he was done my mouth was watering as I took my plate and sat down at one of the tables surrounding the truck. It took a few seconds to figure out how I was going to grip it but once secured I jumped right in and landed in sandwich euphoria upon first bite. This isn’t some gimmick from TikTok it’s actually well put together as far as the ingredients go. They all work well off of each other and although it got messy by the time I was halfway thru, the bag it comes served in saves your hands and your clothes from getting dirty. 

Chivito at Mi Carrito
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Helados Dienzzo

It was hot and humid and sunny during our stroll around town so of course some ice cream was in order before heading back. Helados Dienzzo seemed like the most artisanal of the choices so we walked over and enjoyed the air conditioning and some delicious Dulce de Leche ice cream. 

Dulce de Leche Ice Cream at Helados Dienzzo
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See ya next time @chibbqking

Eating BIG in Buenos Aires (Google Map Guide)

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