By Amy Zavatto | October 1, 2008 | Food & Drink
THE SPIRIT OF THE GAUCHOS—South American cowboys who roamed the endless grassy plains and mountainsides—is alive and well in New York City, and all you steak-loving, lambchopping, empanada-eating fans have plenty to enjoy in our fair city. We’ve found a meat locker’s worth of juicy, chimichurri-drenched South American-style meateries where the simple ingredients are nothing less than amazing.
If a 13-hour plane trip to Buenos Aires isn’t on your agenda this month, a few minutes on the F train will get you to the closest thing this side of Mendoza. Light streams in from wood-framed doors that open onto the sidewalk, illuminating seablue walls hung with Argentine memorabilia and a ceiling, decoupaged with pages from the magazine El Gráfico. But as buzzy and fun as the dining room feels, meat lovers are bound to have eyes only for the mains, like ojo de bife—a 16-ounce rib eye drizzled with chimichurri; sirloin for two marinated in brandy, olive oil, rosemary, thyme, and sea salt; and tender, juicy, grilled baby lamb chops with Malbec syrup. 152 Stanton Street, 646-602-2004.
Gigantic cuts of Argentine-style beef are the order of the evening at this spare, simple meatopia. Photos of the capital hang on the brick and plaster walls, and the entertainment is as likely to be a soccer match on the giant-screen TVs as traditional Argentine tunes. But besides the grilled, aromatic authenticity and the likes of such staples as chorizo, sweetbreads, and blood sausage, one of the best things about this little East Village spot is that its prices remain fairly reasonable. Few of the entrées venture over the mid-$20 mark—even the bone-in rib eye ($25) and luscious plate of short ribs ($19)—and they’re complemented by an equally fair, all-Argentine wine list, pouring out plenty of bargains in the $20-to-$30 range. 513 East Sixth Street, 212-228-2775.
The tiny dining room at this Midtown steakfest gets packed quickly, so be sure to call ahead for a seat if you want to get your mitts on the thin filet mignon cutlet swathed in the grill’s namesake sauce, or the thyme-y, juicy breast of Magret duck with sweet potato dumplings and creative twists on steakhouse sides like creamed Swiss chard. For those who have their doubts about the health effects of the meat industry’s penchant for growth hormones, you’ll be happy to know that Chimichurri’s menu boasts options for organically farmed beef and chicken, and you’ll find a small but varied by-the-glass Argentine wine list that’s more than Malbec. 609 Ninth Avenue, 212-586-8655.
This spiffy Brazilian rodizio may seem more refined than rough-and-tumble rancher, with its Wine Spectator Awards of Excellence for its outstanding, broad list and its lofty dining room with honey-wood frame and ecru-leather chairs—but the flavor is all churrascaria. The entertainment value alone of having a suckling pig arrive at your table, where a man with a gigantic, scary knife elegantly slices the thing to smithereens, almost makes you forget that you actually get to eat it, all the better accompanied by pão de gueijo (cheese bread, that is), fried golden plantains, and fried polenta. No, there’s not much green here—but, hey, is that really why you came? 316 West 49th Street, 212-245-0505.
HACIENDA DE ARGENTINA
Warm, cozy, and fit for all sorts of canoodling, the Hacienda isn’t exactly what you’d expect to find on the UES, but here it is. Wedged into a nondescript, ho-hum spot between a parking garage and a drab apartment building, this warm, authentic little charmer with its long, broad wood tables, thick-wood-frame chairs, ornate mirrors, and exposed-beam ceiling transports you to an ancient mountaintop retreat in Salta and is entirely worth the schlep Uptown. Start off with the smoky, garlicky chorizo; grilled, sharp provolone cheese and bruschetta topped with tomatoes and chimichurri sauce; or one or three of the halfdozen house-made empanadas, and then move on to the low-and-slow grilled cuts of grass-fed beef, like the juicy shell steak and buttery, salty filet mignon. 339 East 75th Street, 212-472-5300.
We’ve long been fans of this sexy Tribeca haunt— the perfect combination of authentic Argentine cuisine and modern, cosmopolitan Buenos Aires sensibility. Everything here is proudly of that steakshaped country—from the cut-wood slab bar and the textile accents to the bent-branch artwork on the walls to the all-Argentine wine list and food. And, of course, the chef de cuisine herself, Patagonia-born Natali Machado (who makes some of the most delicious empanadas you’ll find in the five boroughs). Bring along your favorite carnivore and order the sirloin for two—a salty, peppery, rosemary- and thyme-spiked piece of succulent grilled beef marinated all day in olive oil and brandy. 329 Greenwich Street, 212-965-8560.
photograph by Esther Montoro