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A Parrilla Food Tour of Buenos Aires: Dine Like a Local

Get to know the city through your stomach with the help of a friendly tour guide. Enjoy some of the best food available in one of the food capitals of the world.

There are certain destinations that are famous for their food. France, Italy, Japan – these places are must visit places for food lovers, and their distinct local cuisines are replicated in restaurants around the world. Those in the know, place Argentina in that category. Its meat is among the best on earth, and its history of immigration from Italy, Spain, and Germany (amongst others) has ensured that its culinary traditions are deep and varied.

Wherever Chris and I visit we love to eat. Whether that is sampling the inventive creations of a world famous chef or eating street food just like the locals do, we will always go out of our way to find a good meal. You can learn a lot about a place through its food. Along the way we have become quite savvy when it comes to locating the best places to eat, however sometimes having a local to guide you can guarantee that you visit the best possible eating establishments. With that in mind, while in Buenos Aires we organized a parrilla tour.

Alongside learning what the locals eat, it is important to find out how they eat. A meal is often so much more than a way to fend off hunger, its a cultural tradition. Argentinian barbecues are social events, often attended by large numbers of friends and extended family and the meat is always accompanied by wine, beer, and fernet. The special grill they use to cook large quantities simultaneously is called a parrilla, and as restaurants started opening up specialising in this type of cooking, the word was applied to the business as a whole. Today the parrillas of Buenos Aires are famous throughout the world, and a trip to the city is incomplete without visiting at least one.

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This does mean however, that scores of these restaurants have opened – often aimed directly at tourists and serving up lower quality imitations of the real thing. Factor in Buenos Aires’ massive size and it can be hard to identify the genuine local spots which will provide you with the real experience. This is where the tour comes in. Founded by David Carlisle and Santiago Palermo - an American foodie and a passionate local respectively (who themselves appropriately met at a barbecue), the tour takes you to all the best spots while providing you with interesting background information as you go along.

We met out guide German in the San Telmo district, and as we don’t really like big tours we were delighted to find that we accompanied by just one other couple. German was an excellent guide, and as well as being knowledgable, he was also charming and likable. The best tours make you feel like an old friend is showing you around their home town, and this was definitely the case here.

We started at a local bar – the sort of place aimed squarely at locals. It had lots of character and was run by a nice elderly woman who made sure we were well taken care of. Here we got all got to know each other over some empanadas – another local delicacy. While empanadas can be found all over Latin America, it is in Argentina that they are at their best. They are little pastry shells (wood-fired and not deep fried like elsewhere) stuffed full of meat, cheese and ham, chicken, or vegetables – the perfect snack food.

Soon we moved on to the nearby market to witness the butchers and fruit vendors selling their wares. Alongside these ingredients, there were also stalls selling the finished products. Here, and at a succession of snack stops around the neighborhood, we tried other Argentine favorites such as Choripan (a type of chorizo sandwich) and Proveleta (an Argentine cheese often grilled on the parrilla alongside the meat). Having sampled all of this, we had taken the edge off our hunger, but we saved space for the main stop which was up next.

Gran Parrilla del Plata was exactly the sort of place we had been unsuccessfully looking for over the past few days. It is one of the oldest Parrillas in the city, and it has hardly changed since it first opened. There is no gimmicky atmosphere here, instead it is packed full of locals enjoying some of the best food the city has to offer. Even if you don’t do the tour you should eat here. If you do, I recommend a bottle of red wine to compliment the beef and also advise you to tell your waiter how you like your steak – it will come out well-done if you don’t. After this great feed, we made a final stop at a heladeria for some delicious artisan ice cream. We said our goodbyes and returned to our hotel extremely full and satisfied.

Views from the local market we visited

Our tour guide, German

Delicious provelta, gooey cheese :)

You've got to try the local ice cream!

Parrilla tours is a fairly small company so it is a good idea to book in advance. You should be prepared to do a decent amount of walking, and come with an empty stomach as obviously you will be eating a lot. Needless to say, this probably isn’t the best experience for vegetarians (in fact you might struggle with Argentina as a whole). All food is covered in the price of the tour, as is the Malbec and bubbly – you will have to buy any other drinks you get however. There are two tours available – the one we did in San Telmo and another in more upmarket Palermo, with both lasting two and a half hours.

A visit to Buenos Aires is incomplete without immersing yourself in its food. Parillia tours is unquestionably one of the best ways to do this. You will experience some of the best food the city can offer, and enjoy the great company of tour guides like German. We did not eat better for the whole trip in fact, for all our searching we were unable to find anything that came close.

The steaks at Gran Parrilla del Plata impressed everyone! 

For more information about this tour, please following the link below!