Kevin Vaughn is a Buenos Aires-based writer and photographer focused on food, art and culture. His words have appeared in Munchies, Remezcla and The New Worlder, as well as a weekly restaurant column for BA-based art and lifestyle site LaLaLista. He is also founder and head chef of MASA, a Mexican-inspired pop-up, as well as Devour Buenos Aires. For food tours in Buenos Aires, see chimuadventures.com
On an uncharacteristically quiet street in the Retiro neighbourhood is the aptly named The Shelter Coffee, a low-lit caffeine refuge with major Parisian bistro vibes. Native Portenos tend to like their coffees strong. A cortado, or an espresso with a squirt of milk, is the perfect wake-me-up after a late night. The morning routine usually includes sweet pastries – try a dreamy almond croissant and watch the city come alive at a table outside underneath the trees.
For a truly local meal you have to dip into a bodegon, the neighbourhood greasy spoon that draws from Buenos Aires' Italian and Spanish heritage. The menus are often as thick as encyclopaedias, filled with colliding culinary traditions – think handmade arugula raviolis alongside a tortilla espanola the size of a cheese wheel. It is the homely milanesa that wins locals hearts. Sit among the regulars at Norte and try a napolitana con fritas. It is a milanesa hugged by slices of deli ham, brushed with tomato sauce and crushed oregano and accompanied with a generous hand of french fries. Order to share and pencil in a nap afterwards.
Every region in the country has its take on the beloved empanada but my favourites tend to come from the north-west Andes. La Rioja native Roberto Ormeno shares his family recipe at El Guachito, a tightly guarded neighbourhood secret. The specialty here is the carne frita, slow-braised beef paired with potato and green onion. Wrap a napkin around the bottom and eat with caution: these are especially juicy and are enjoyed with a happy dollop of homemade hot sauce. See facebook.com/elgauchitosantelmo/
Carved into the periphery of the emblematic Mercado de San Telmo, sommelier Samantha Nilson crammed a few tables into a small storefront to open her eponymously named wine bar. The wine bar is on the forefront of a local wine-by-the-glass revolution. Its shortlist of boutique wines lets you explore all of wine country: floral Patagonian pinot noir, a typical malbec or rare cabernet franc from Mendoza or native white varietal Torrentes from the northern Andes, served chilled on a blistering summer day. Carlos Calvo 463, San Telmo.
Pop-up turned brick-and-mortar LUPA has created a vegetable forward menu that is a breath of fresh air. The ambitious young team has created a menu in constant flux. Seasonal produce, ferments and vanguard cooking technique dominate the kitchen without sacrificing the fresh, laid-back vibes in the dining room. On my last visit, we tried sublime rib-eye tartar with strawberries and a breath-taking roasted white carrot and mascarpone salad. See facebook.com/luparesto/