>> Mercado Buenos Aires | Eat the World Los Angeles

Monday 4 July 2022

Mercado Buenos Aires

Sepulveda Blvd. facade

(A much smaller second location is located in Granada Hills)
๐Ÿ…ฟ️ Small, insufficient parking lot (probably need to search for street parking)
๐Ÿฅค Beer and wine

If you are lucky enough to find a spot in this plaza's parking lot, about a fifth of the size necessary when the restaurant is full, consider it a good day already. If the Argentina national team is playing and you are not coming for the match, maybe try the next day as people start arriving two hours before kickoff time to claim tables for their friends and family. On those days, there are even more jerseys being worn by customers than there are on the walls.

The flags of just about every notable club in Argentina's top flight hang on the walls, teams that will be on the screens on weekends. A mural of Maradona and Messi together is the focal piece in the back right next to a giant photo of Avenida 9 de Julio in Buenos Aires. The only nod to what is good in a non-football sense in Argentina is the mural dedicated to tango behind the counter. But even if the world's most popular sport is not your thing, there are still myriad reasons to come here.

Maradona and Messi mural
Before taking a seat, browse their small market which has a selection of wines from Argentina as well as cases of Quilmes beer stacked up for easy purchases. Packaged cookies and desserts are made by the bakery here, while hard-to-find snacks and just about every brand of yerba mate from back home are there too. A small meat market is at the ready, and there are pastries galore next to it.

The thing you may see first in front of you when entering is the case of ready-to-go (or eat) empanadas, the most popular of which always seem to have enough around to fulfill orders immediately. These are hot and fresh though, there is a surprising turnover not only from people dining in, but from a constant line of customers that comes in to fill donut boxes with their favorite selections.

Empanadas freshly made and staying warm

Empanadas are a must order here, both baked and fried, not only because they are delicious, but they also ensure the arrival at your table of both the housemade chimichurri and salsa criolla. The version of the latter that is made here is about the best you have ever sampled and you will find yourself spooning it over everything for the rest of the meal and asking for more before you leave.

Check the board behind the empanada counter to see if the specials interest you. On one day it was an empanada de entraรฑa cortada a cuchillo ($3.25, below with chimichurri and salsa criolla), stuffed with hand-cut skirt steak. On other visits, the classics like beef, chicken, spinach, and cheese were ordered and not one was a miss, if you are unable to eat more than one with your meal, make sure to get a half-dozen to go.
Empanada entraรฑa cortada a cuchillo
Another classic that Argentinians can spot from a mile away is their bread-y pizza, which almost always has olives and roasted red peppers on top whether in the capital or the countryside. An individual pizza Buenos Aires ($12, below) has thin slices of salty Spanish ham laid over mozzarella and the tiniest bit of tomato sauce.

Pizza snobs will probably be turned off by this style, but it is fun to bite into the soft doughy snack. A look around to other tables and the Argentinians enjoying a taste of home should wash the snobbery away. Something like 60% of current citizens of Argentina have some quantity of Italian roots in them, and while things like pizza and pasta have definitely changed over the decades since mass-immigration, both are a big part of everyday life to this day.

"Buenos Aires" individual pizza

If you have ever backpacked in Argentina or traveled on a budget, or heck are just someone who enjoys eating food, you have probably had a choripan ($10.50, below). You can find the sandwich at a fancy restaurant, but the best way is to order from the many outdoor grillers or even (literal) holes in the wall that sell them all day and night. One delicious link of delicious Argentinian chorizo sausage is grilled, split open and stuck on fresh bread with some lettuce and tomato.

This is another good excuse to use the salsa criolla, the oils and sweet peppers and tomatoes of which combine brilliantly with the sausage. They also have the filet mignon lomito sandwich which Uruguay and Argentina fight over, as well as a chimichurri burger and a couple different milanesa options. Even those customers that come alone have plenty of eating options, and you will see many taking advantage by eating these sandwiches at the counter.

Chori pan

If you are with a big enough group and want to enjoy one of those milanesa options, an even better way to try it is as a plate. The milanesa de lomo ($19, below) is an upgrade from the "plain" steak version to a filet mignon, breaded thinly and quickly fried. These tender pounded out steaks are easy to cut through with even a butter knife and deeply satisfying even when eaten alone.

The plates come with a poop emoji-shaped side of mashed potatoes that are whipped and creamy and full of butter and garlic, delicious. Squirt the wedge of lemon over the milanesa and you are set for a great meal. Order a glass of the house label malbec ($8.50, not shown), and life starts to seem free of worry.

Milanesa de lomo with mashed potatoes

Despite all of these options, you will find it hard not to come here and order one of the parrillas, which are constantly coming out of the kitchen and being delivered to just about every table. This is the symbol of Argentinian food, and for good reason. Argentina is proud of its meats, and Mercado Buenos Aires is a great place to sample this culture.

An order of one of these is also another way to both acquire and require an unlimited amount of the chimichurri and salsa criolla, which will be supplied as necessary. If you do not think it will be possible to live life at home without either, they sell larger portions to go if you ask.

Parrilla completa with added chorizo

The parrilla completa ($45, above) offers two types of steaks and plenty of dark meat chicken. A parrilla Argentina replaces the chicken with a few links of chorizo, or you can add one (or more!) links individually for $4 each like this one above does. The chicken has a delicious marinade and is super juicy while the skirt steaks and short ribs are left more to shine on their own and be enjoyed with the sauces.

Argentinians more used to eating the insides of their animals will be happy with the parrilla Buenos Aires, which combines the skirt steak, short ribs, and chorizo with blood sausage, sweetbreads, and beef entrails (chinchulines).

Spinach ravioli

And those pasta options on the menu might be as surprising as the pizza for those that are not familiar with eating out in Buenos Aires, but do not pass them by if you have the opportunity. There is nothing more porteรฑo than an order of lasagna or spinach ravioli ($15.50, above), which comes with the option of a cream sauce or tomato sauce.

The very friendly server gave the secret tip to combine the two and the half-half mixture was the right move. While the dish might sound like a vegetarian option, it is definitely meaty with stock in the sauce that gives it a wonderful rich flavor in addition to the vegetable.

Complimentary pepitas

After such a delicious meal and almost popping, a plate of complimentary pepitas (above) with guava paste showed up for each diner to enjoy. Such a simple cookie, but thoroughly delicious, making you think twice about not filling up a pastry box to go.

Valley Argentinians are so lucky to have this central location to come to for all their needs, it is truly a one-stop shop for just about everything available here in the north. Mercado Buenos Aires is definitely a must for anyone living nearby, but also worth the drive if from a different part of town.


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