Traditionally, Avenida San Martín Oeste, about two kilometers west of downtown, is San Juan’s gastronomic axis, but some new downtown options are worth exploring.
San Juan ’s greatest simple pleasure is the fresh-squeezed orange juice from the mobile carts around and near Plaza 25 de Mayo—only about US$0.25 for a paper cup of sweet chilled refreshment.
For specialty sandwiches—large enough to be a meal in their own right—the best choice is Pirandello (San Martín 3105 Oeste, tel. 0264/426-0260), which has indoor and outdoor seating.
For pastas, pizzas, and draft beer, the cavernous Un Rincón de Napoli (Rivadavia 175 Oeste) has zero atmosphere but prices that aren’t much higher than that.
The classic Club Sirio Libanés (Entre Ríos 33 Sur, tel. 0264/422-3841) has genuine Middle Eastern ambience and hospitality; the diverse US$10 buffet includes items like kibbe, tabbouleh, and stuffed grape leaves, but the à la carte menu is also good value.
Under the same ownership, Hostal de Palito (Avenida Circunvalación 278 Sur, tel. 0264/423-0105) serves some of the same dishes but offers a more diverse meat and seafood menu, with a particularly good wine list of local vintages. Portions are abundant, and prices reasonable (around US$8 for entrées).
Remolacha (Avenida Jose I de la Roza 199 Oeste, tel. 0264/427-7070) is a popular downtown parrilla that is almost impossibly full on Sunday afternoons. Soychú (Ignacio de la Roza 223 Oeste, tel. 0264/422-1939) is a tradition in vegetarian tenedor libre.
Il Duomo (Avenida Libertador San Martín 1802 Oeste, tel. 0264/420-1827, US$10–20) is a parrilla that also has a superb Italian menu—or an Italian restaurant with superb parrillada—that serves upscale versions of beef, stuffed gnocchi, and Spanish desserts like natillas, with both indoor and outdoor seating.
Over the last few years, De Sánchez (Rivadavia 61 Oeste, tel. 0264/420-3670) has carved out a gourmet niche for its meats, seafood, and pastas. It’s simultaneously a classy book and CD shop, embellished with larger-than-life photo portraits of classic actresses Zully Moreno and Tita Merello, smaller representations of literary figures like Julio Cortázar and Ernesto Sábato, and even photos of Elvis and Frank Zappa. It’s pricey, with entrées in the US$10–15 range, but the kitchen is outstanding and there’s a fine local wine list.
Alongside De Sánchez, the same owners run the simpler and cheaper Bar Ó (Rivadavia 55 Oeste, tel. 0264/422-3066), which specializes in pastas and standards such as milanesa but prepares some uncommon variations such as agnolotti stuffed with venison or smoked chicken (US$5).