Mealtime in Buenos Aires

Lena Novins-Montague
May 7, 2019

When we talk about culture shock, we talk a lot about food. And the more time I spend in Argentina, the more this makes sense to me. Food can be one of the main signifiers of a change to your environment—not just the type, but also the quantity and the timing of meals.

I heard a lot about Argentine food before coming to Buenos Aires, and maybe some of this will sound familiar to you: parillas (grills) sizzling with steak, bottles of Malbec from the Mendoza region, empanadas filled with pollo, olives, and the occasional shred of a hard-boiled egg. And while all of these foods are popular in Buenos Aires, there is more to the food scene than just meat. Here’s a breakdown of the kinds of food people eat here.

Breakfast: As IES Abroad warned us in the Predeparture Information, breakfast is not really a thing here. People in Buenos Aires tend to eat very lightly in the morning and save heavy eating for later in the day. As someone who wakes up hungry and loves breakfast food, this has presented a bit of a challenge for me.

What the locals eat: A lot of coffee shops offer desayuno specials for AR $100 (about $2.50), usually a cafe con leche with two medialunas, which are similar to croissonts, but with a sweet glaze on top.

Homestay eating: My breakfast is definitely bigger than my friends who are also in homestays, because my host mommy understands that I am breakfast-obsessed. I usually have a hard-boiled egg, a piece of toast with marmalede, and a bowl of corn flakes, if I have time.

Brunch: While breakfast may not be a big thing in BA, brunch is! A lot of restaurants and cafes offer brunch specials on the weekends. These are often “para compartir,” which means you go with a friend and stuff your face with fresh-squeezed OJ, avocado toast, scrambled eggs, and pastries.

Lunch: Lunch is signifcantly bigger than breakfast. Like in the U.S., there are casual places where working people go to get food quickly. Near the IES Abroad Center, there are lots of these restaurants. We go get falafel, salads, bibimibap, pasta, sandwiches, etc.

What the locals eat: Restaurants will often offer “plato del dia” or “menu ejecutivo,” which are essentially daily specials. These options usually come with a cafe and a bebida (water or a soda), as well as a large plate of food. If you want to sit down at a restaurant but don’t want to spend to much, this is a good option.

Homestay eating: None! In a homestay, you provide your own lunch. I usually go to a restaurant near the IES Abroad Center or pack snacks in my bag.

Dinner: Dinner is served late in BA, usually around 9 or 10 p.m. It’s generally the longest meal of the day, and people tend to linger at the table for hours, talking and enjoying each other’s company.

What the locals eat: Both carbs and meat are very popular in Argentina. A classic Argentine dish is milanesa, which is breaded meat, somewhat similar to schnitzel. It can be made with either pollo or carne. Burgers are also having a moment in Buenos Aires, and pasta is a mainstay in many homes.

Homestay eating: In my homestay, we start every meal with a simple salad of lettuce, carrots, and tomatoes. The main course is often pollo or pasta, typically accompanied with a cup of lentil or split-pea soup. For dessert, we have a piece of fruit.