In late November 2018 I took a short shuttle flight from Santiago to Mendoza, just on the other side of the Andes. I wanted to take the bus for what would have been a spectacular journey, but unfortunately my employer wouldn’t let me just in case something went wrong. All the same, it was the fulfillment of a long held ambition to visit the principal town in Argentina’s premier winemaking region. I had seven nights there, two of which I spent in the Uco Valley, a couple of hours drive south of Mendoza city (see later posts). This post is about food and drink options in Mendoza itself. You’ll find everywhere on my map.
It would have been rude not to celebrate my arrival in Argentina with a huge meat feast…
El Patio de Jesús María (High Intermediate A), 788 Avenida Boulogne Sur Mer, patiodejesusmaria.com.ar
This is the best parilla (grillhouse) in town according to just about everyone and my experiences bore this out. I had their mixed grill (also known as a parilla) for $580 which began with a Criolla, a meat pie looking for all the world like a mini Cornish Pasty.
Next a Chorizo (pork sausage), a Morcilla (blood sausage) and some Achuras (entrails), lost the pic sorry. Then the main event with assorted cuts of veal and pork. The Bife de Chorizo was really good (A) but the Costillitas de Ternera (veal ribs) was just specatacular (A+). I nearly kissed the parrillero (grill chef) when he came back to ask if I wanted a repeat of anything.
Of course, this required a bottle of some of Mendoza’s finest Malbec. My helpful young waiter recommended the Tomero, an oak barrel crianza, which hit the spot (A).
For dessert I was interested to try the Queso y Membrillo (cheese with a thick quince jelly, a Spanish standard) and was intrigued to receive three different kinds of membrillo (sweet potato and pumpkin as well as quince I think) with some bland young cheese and walnuts. It was way too sweet for me and I only managed half (C+). I enjoyed the chilled limoncello with it though (B).
El Patio is at the far end of Avenida Arístides Villanueva which is Mendoza’s principle entertainments street. You’ll find heaps of bars along here for pre- or post- dinner drinks. I quite liked Hangar 52 at #168 which has a good variety of craft beers and a terrace on the pavement where you can sit outside on a hot day.
My favourite bar though was Cachita’s at 784 Sarmiento which Lonely Planet has as the best place for cocktails in town. I went a few times and had a good rapport with the friendly bartenders who introduced me to La Fuerza, an Argentinian vermouth, which worked well in my Negroni (B+).
Cachita’s is handy for this next place which is just over the road…
Azafran Restaurant (High Intermediate C), 765 Sarmiento, azafranresto.com
Everything is right about this place except the food. The staff are lovely and it’s a beautiful space, and you can opt to eat in the ‘wine cellar’ (actually a ground floor display room) surrounded by top notch local wine. However, despite being beautifully arranged, my selections just didn’t taste very good (C). The sweetbreads and meat were essentially okay but their flavours were spoiled by the sauces, purees and mash that came with them. And visually so much green and brown on the plate did little to entice me. Fortunately their wines saved the day. By all means go, you may have better luck than me.
I didn’t bother with dessert because on the same crossroads you have a choice of two good ice cream parlours diagonally over the road from each other…
Heladeria Famiglia Perin (Elementary B+), 799 Avenida Sarmiento, www.facebook.com/FamigliaPerinHelados/
This is the better of the two, certainly in terms of atmosphere and popularity. Their artisanal gelato is also authentic (the shop was opened in 1947 by three brothers who emigrated from Veneto). I kept it trad on this occasion with scoops of hazlenut and dulce de leche (B+).
And over the road…
Ferruccio Soppelsa (Elementary C), 2 Avenida Emilio Civit, www.soppelsahelados.com
This parlour has a rep for being experimental but many of the ices I’d heard about weren’t available when I went. The staff aren’t particularly friendly either and the cavernous room was empty and soulless. However, their Malbec infused ice cream was interesting (C+).
Another spot I like is on the corner of Chile and Montevideo streets…
Bröd (Intermediate B+), 894 Chile, brodbakery.com.ar
A good brunch spot where you can drink a good coffee sitting outside on their very pleasant patio. Their small bakery does a good medialuna (a kind of croissant, either salty or sweet) and I enjoyed their submarino (a chocolate bar in a coffee).
And on the other side of the courtyard…
Winery (Intermediate A), 898 Chile, www.winery.com.ar
The best wine shop in the capital of Argentinian wine. I picked up a few choice bottles of Malbec to take home (Fin del Mundo was my choice) but I also discovered Dulce de Leche Baileys here (A).
And a few more places I visited that are worthy of mention are…
Via Civit (Intermediate B+), Residencial Sur, 277 Avenida Emilio Civit, www.facebook.com/via.civit
An old-school Mendocino cafe with good coffee and a small brunch menu. I enjoyed a nice salad with smoked salmon, avocado and capers here (B). A good spot for a quiet read in elegant surroundings.
And for a change…
Cocina Poblana (High Elementary B), Residencial Sur, 217 Arístides Villanueva
Good, cheap Middle Eastern food (kebabs, hummus, falafel, dolmas etc) which was a welcome change after days of badly cooked European food.
And unfortunately one to avoid…
La Lucia (Intermediate D), Avenida Sarmiento 658, www.laluciagrillbar.com.ar
Horrible service and mediocre food although the space is nice. However, there’s no need to come to this tourist trap when there are lots of other parillas to choose from, including the excellent El Patio de Jesús María above.
I stayed at the Hotel Argentino www.argentino-hotel.com.ar, at 455 General Espejo, which is well located opposite the pleasant park in Plaza Independencia. The breakfast and bed rooms are a bit cramped but it’s basically okay. There’s a pool apparently but I didn’t notice it.
There’s a good laundry, El Lavanderia de Xime, on the other side of the park at 338 San Lorenzo.
I bought a cheap SIM card and changed money on Avenida San Martín (see my map).
Although Mendoza is quite a pleasant town, there isn’t that much to see or do in the city itself, or at least not that I’m aware of. All the interesting wine related activities seem to be out in the countryside, more of which next…