CHEAP EATS IN BUENOS AIRES: From the Best Empanadas to Vegan Buffets

Last week I rounded up all the free stuff to do in Buenos Aires and now it’s time to turn to another topic very close to my heart: FOOD!

Grocery shopping in BsAs can be a very frustrating game with a low price/performance ratio – I’m still fascinated by the high price of basic dairy products in a country with such an overabundance of cows, and imported veggies are expensive even if they just came across the river from Uruguay. This means that its not necessarily much cheaper to cook at home if you’re craving something more exciting than the usual staples.

As a vegetarian my foodie experience in Argentina was mildly depressing on a day-to-day basis, though I more than made up for the lack of steak by eating grotesque amounts of dulce de leche and washing it down with Malbec. Still, I had lentils, potatoes and zapallitos coming out my ears by the time I left and splurging every now and then on a restaurant meal became an improtant part of keeping my foodie credentials intact.

parilla cheap eats buenos aires

I guess the pope likes choripans too…

This list is slightly biased in the vegetarian direction, though most of the places cater to omnivores while also offering plenty of veggie options. Since Argentina is a meat-lover’s paradise I trust you’ll have no trouble finding a choripán whenever your heart desires, though I would suggest hitting the parilla on Peru in San Telmo for an audience with the Pope.

A final disclaimer before we start – I realise that this post should, by all rules of blogging etiquette, be chock-full of beautifully arranged food shots. However, I’m much better at eating food than I am at photographing it and besides, it’s rude to use one’s phone at the dinner table. So just take my word for it, okay? 🙂

 

RICAS EMPANADAS

Visit for: the best goddamn empanadas in town
Lllavale 1749 – past the Avenida Callao intersection, next to Carrefour express

If you’re snacking around Buenos Aires you’ll likely be sick of empanadas before the month is over, but this place goes far beyond the usual varieties.

I still think about this place sometimes, daydreaming about the piping-hot empanadas filled with cheese, cheese and onions, cheese and pumpkins… you get the point. They also offer more wholesome options, such as broccoli, mushrooms and veggies, and this is the only place I found that even has empanadas made with whole-wheat flour.

This is THE empanada place in Buenos Aires as far as I’m concerned. But you don’t have to trust me – just go check out the long line of people queueing out of the shop around lunchtime and you’ll see that this is a place worth checking out.

MORALITO

Visit for: cheap & delicious oven-fresh medialunas
Corner of Avenida San Juan / Piedras (San Telmo) – look for the red facade

Cheap Eats in Buenos Aires

Dulce de leche, medialunas and yerba mate… must be breakfast time in Argentina!

This place looks pretty shady at first (and second) glance, but I lived just down the road for a couple of months and let me tell you, those fresh medialunas saved my mornings! At 3 pesos per piece these are a steal, and since they make them in the back of the shop you can get them straight from the oven in the mornings.

CHE TACO

Visit for: delicious Mexican food, cosy atmosphere and enormous cocktails

I developed a bit of an obsession with this place while living in San Telmo. The veggie burritos and sopas are amazing and the avocado salad comes with great homemade dressing – big deal in a country where “salad” usually means getting a bowl-full of shredded veggies, with cheap oil and vinegar on the side. For the more adventurously-minded there’s Michelada (basically a beer-based bloody Mary) though I prefer to splurge on their enormous girly cocktails, especially the piña colada or the strawberry daiquiri.

It’s a small place that fills up quickly, so if you’re a bigger group stopping by on a weekend evening it’s a good idea to make a reservation in advance.

UGI’S

Visit for: cheap thin-crust pizza
Multiple locations around town – look out for the red/white sign or, you know, Google it.

My local friends were generally appalled by my irrational obsession with Ugi’s, and it’s easy to understand why – this chain of pizza restaurants has all the white-tiled neon-lighted atmosphere of a public bathroom and serves dirt-cheap pizzas with a charming frown. But here’s the thing: despite the running joke that Argentines are Italians that happen to speak Spanish, they can’t make a decent pizza to save their life. It’s a sensitive topic – Buenos Aires touts itself as the pizza capital of Latin America – but as someone from an Italy-adjacent country the thought of those bloated pretend-pizza abominations still haunts me.

Ugi’s pizzas mercifully do not look like a soggy cheese explosion. Granted, they are probably thin-crusted and only moderately cheese-covered to keep down the prices rather than due to Italian gastronomic purism, but the result is a pizza for the European taste, straight from the oven. There are only two options: “muzza”, short for mozzarella, which is basically a maragarita, and “cebolla”, which is a margarita with no tomato sauce but onions instead. Not quite Naples, but at 4-5$ for a whole pizza it makes for a great movie night companion.

Ugi's Pizza Buenos Aires

Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it!

LA AMERICANA

Visit for: people-watching, Argentinian fast food and penguin-shaped wine.
Av. Callao 83 (Centro)

I love this place, though admittedly more for the corny interior and the people-watching potential than the food. The place is known for its pizzas and empanadas, but I go there for the generous portions of pascualina, a traditional Argentinian chard/spinach pie with a hard-boiled egg inside – it tastes soooo much better than it sounds.

Most importantly, this place is very popular with a picturesque local crowd and it’s one of the few places I found that serves a (drinkable and cheap) house wine in the gloriously corny Argentinian pingüinos – ceramic penguin-shaped pitchers where the wine comes out of the beak.

It’s the perfect place to while away an evening with wine, snacks and friends.

(There’s a second one on Av. Corrientes 1383)

GREEN LIFE

Visit for: an extensive vegetarian buffet for those struggling with the steak-and-potatoes fare
Av. Corrientes 1915 (Centro)

Green Life Cheap Eats Buenos AiresThis vegetarian Chinese buffet restaurant was my main source of sustenance during my first couple of months in Buenos Aires, since it’s just around the corner from the university. It’s one of the countless places around town that open for lunch and sell food by weight. Grab a container at the till (or better yet, bring your own and have it weighed before you put food in) and then load it with your choice of salads, Asian lentils, tofu and veggie stir-fries, veggie lasagne (SO good!), cannelloni or pizza, quiche, fried potatoes, mashed sweet potatoes, noodles or rice… you will certainly not be stuck for choice.

Takeaways are 110 ARS per kilo, or you also have the option of paying 120 ARS for all-you-can-eat (in Argentina poetically called “tenedor libre”, or “free fork”) and eating in the restaurant. The restaurant is open 12 – 16h and as in all buffet scenarios the food is best early on.

KONU

Visit for: the wholesome afterglow of a delicious vegan meal – buffet and a la carte, sit-down or takeaway
Tte. Gral. Juan Domingo Perón 1319 (Centro)

A wonderful budget-friendly vegan restaurant in the city centre. They offer a vegan buffet, where you can load your plate with salad, hummous, tofu wraps, veggie medalions with vegetable sauce and a whole lot of other delicious things. You pay by weight (93 ARS per kilo) and can take a seat in the restaurant or take your food to go.

You can also choose from an extensive a la carte menu that even features vegan pizza (I’ll take their word for it), and don’t forget to check out the cakes in the window display if you still have some space left after your meal!

Cheap eats buenos aires

A 4,5$ lunch from the vegan buffet – not too photogenic, but very tasty

Look, I actually managed to take a photo of this before I ate it! See what I’m saying? Not my strong suit. Tasted good though!

That’s it from me in the budget foodie department – do you guys have any other recommendations? Comment below!

K

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