Even if you know nothing about Mendoza, Argentina, you do know this is one of the best places in the world for wine. Argentinian wine is known worldwide, and what goes great with world-renowned wine? World-renowned food.
The two go hand in hand, and Mendoza, Argentina, loves its cuisine as much as it loves its wine. After a recent visit to Mendoza, where I sampled both (with gusto, might I add), I have returned with a host of options for where traveling gourmets can sink their teeth into the very best of the destination. Here are nine places to eat local in Mendoza, Argentina.
Note: I ate at some of these restaurants as part of a press trip, but I am confident in recommending each establishment I’ve mentioned here as among the best in Mendoza.
A quick Google search on the best restaurants in Mendoza will make one thing certain: Azafran is a must-try. Words like "impeccable," "fantastic," and "exceptional" flurry around the TripAdvisor reviews, and speaking as someone who has actually dined here, I can confirm that it is as good as they say.
The food is a blend of South American and Mediterranean flavors, and steaks and seafood feature prominently, alongside succulent and tender pastas and risottos. The interiors are whimsical and cozy, with half the restaurant bedecked in dark woods and shelves lined with jams, oils, and artisanal products, and the other side light and airy with a checkerboard floor and a few wooden and copper antiques.
But the best area to dine in is the private wine cellar, which is lined with hundreds of bottles of local Argentinian wine. A circular table is at the center, and diners have a view of either inside the restaurant or out to the street.
Fuente Y Fonda
Eclectic and colorful, Fuente y Fonda has an elevated menu that’s executed in a casual and comfortable space. Evocative of someone's home dining room, the tables are casual, with some even being communal. But don't be mistaken, the dishes and recipes are stick-to-your-ribs succulent, using local ingredients to craft delicious goodies like churrasco, Milanese, and parmigiana.
Don't forget to try the cheese empanadas, or the canelones, a traditionally Italian pasta dish that’s been adapted for an Argentine iteration. If you’re traveling with a group, the communal table in the back is perfect. If not, the two-tops are cozy enough for a romantic date night. Dine early, or do so the Argentine way. When I was there, the restaurant was still packed at 10:30 p.m.
Pan And Oliva
You’re not coming to Mendoza and skipping the wineries. In fact, visiting the wineries probably ranks highly on your to-do list. And if you’re staying in Mendoza proper, one of the closest wineries you can visit is the Santa Julia Winery in Maipu, which is about a 30-minute drive from Mendoza City.
Bodega Santa Julia is part of the 754 acres of wine estates that make up Mendoza’s Familia Zuccardi empire. The philosophy behind the vineyards is to be as sustainable as possible, and also to give back to the community. This is why a foundation, school, and daycare services, employment opportunities for family members, and more are provided for everyone involved with the operations of the vineyard.
The vineyard includes the restaurant Pan and Oliva, located next to the olive oil factory (yes, Familia Zuccardi produces olive oil, as well). The restaurant focuses on olive oil as its central ingredient, and vegetarian dishes feature prominently, which can be a welcome break from the typically meat-centric specialties that Argentina is known for.
The gorgeous restaurant features exposed beams in the ceiling, a black-and-white floor, rustic accents, and an outdoor garden, making it more evocative of a country kitchen than a restaurant. Tip: Just down the road from Pan and Oliva is Casa del Visitante, also part of Familia Zuccardi. Here, you can get the absolute best empanadas in Argentina, and yes, that’s an official title. Chef Chacha was given the title at the annual Feria Mataderos earlier this year.
Santa Y Pecador
Bright and airy with a beautiful outdoor dining patio that overlooks Mendoza’s Avenida Sarmiento, Santa y Pecador is a wonderful stop for an al fresco weekend brunch. Inside it looks like a chic, country kitchen, while outside the patio is draped in vines and greenery, giving it a secret garden vibe right in the heart of the city.
The menu is subject to change, but what diners can expect are fluffy omelets, colorful salads, and hearty main dishes like lamb stew, homemade pastas, and, since we are in Argentina, gorgeous cuts of steak. Arrive early on the weekend (around 1 p.m.) to snag a seat outside for brunch. And be sure to order a bottle of something local, like the sparkling Santa Julia cuvee.
Piedra Infinita Cocina
Part of the Mendoza experience is venturing out to the countryside to take in the views of the towering Andes that loom in the distance beyond miles and miles of vineyards. A day in the vineyard is a vital part of any Mendoza experience, and there's no more picturesque spot than the Uco Valley south of the city proper.
A visit to Zuccardi’s vineyards and winery in Valle de Uco provides not only delicious views for the eyes but a sensational treat for the belly at their Piedra Infinita Cocina. Inside the beautifully designed welcome center, visitors can stay for lunch overlooking the vineyard and the Andean peaks.
Start with a glass of sparkling wine next to the fireplace in the dining room, which is wrapped in floor-to-ceiling windows for unparalleled views. The lunch menu was set with tender eggplant and local trout with a side of sauteed potatoes and followed by the main event: a grilled prime rib festooned with golden potatoes, green salad, and a fragrant chimichurri.
The sleek and stunning design is what draws you into Josefina Resto, but what you are staying for is the phenomenal cuisine, which fuses Spanish, Italian, Mexican, Peruvian, and Asian flavors to create something truly unique. But first, let's start with the decor. A combination of wood, glass, steel, and pops of color, Josefina Resto boasts a modern, industrial-chic design that flawlessly mixes swanky cosmopolitan with rustic and artisanal.
Beautiful light fixtures are evocative of solar systems, while the tiles on the floor pop with colorful designs and paintings explode off the tan-colored walls in pops of purple and red. And then there's the food. When in Mendoza, empanadas are a must, so be sure to start with those. There is also a heavenly beef tartare and fried green ravioli stuffed with ricotta, tomato, and basil. Heartier options include a braised pork sandwich, salmon in a teriyaki dressing, or the very classic skirt steak with chimichurri butter, salad, beets, and fennel.
France meets Argentina at this cozy and colorful bistro in the heart of Mendoza. Anna Bistro provides a beautiful outdoor garden setting for a glass of wine and a taste of Mediterranean and South American flavors. The stunning outdoor patio is surrounded by exposed brick, down which vines creep. A trellis covered in greenery hangs over the rustic patio, draped in purple flowers and illuminated by delicate lanterns. It's like dining in a fairytale.
But this is only the beginning because the food tells the rest of the story. The bistro serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. One of the most classic dishes here is the smoked salmon of the house, served with fluffy brioche. For dinner, lamb cooked in malbec for eight hours is an absolute treat, as is the beef smothered in a succulent mushroom sauce.
A slice of Paris comes to the streets of Mendoza when you enter this chic minimalist streetside cafe. Rustic, hearty country cooking is what distinguishes the menu, with dishes including lasagna Bolognese and rib eye with a criollo sauce. Another highlight are the lab meatballs served with peas and basmati rice and the tender, juicy wagyu steaks.
Looking for a light breakfast? Maria Antoineta's menu is bright, flavorful, and perfect for meeting up with friends. Go light with coffee and avocado toast, or try the omelet with local cheese and a side of bacon. There are also eggs Benedict, poached eggs, pastries, fresh fruits, and granola.
There is no better way to make the most of a sunny day in Mendoza than an outdoor meal or glass of wine on the sun-drenched, white-washed patio of BROD. This local favorite is an outdoor cafe in the heart of downtown, steps from the Plaza Independencia. Start with a light breakfast of fresh baked pastries or fluffy eggs, or sit down for the full brunch menu in the bright courtyard.
In the afternoon, there is a selection of sandwiches and salads, plus smoked salmon, jam and cheese, and bagels with smoked pancetta and egg. After 9 p.m., a selection of pizzas and bruschetta become available. The coffee here is impeccable, as is the fresh lemonade with raspberries or mint. And, of course, it wouldn't be Mendoza without a glass of malbec or chardonnay, though many patrons opt for the vibrant Aperol spritz.
Don’t have time for an all-day event? Use the delightful takeaway window for a coffee and snack on the go.
Visiting Argentina? Read up on six things to know before you go, and while you’re there, venture outside the city to meet Devil’s Throat, Iguazu Falls’ incredible waterfall.