Summary: Great grilled meats at low prices in a convivial atmosphere.
The Bay Area may be almost completely devoid of Argentine restaurants (the sole representative of this breed is El Raigon, a very expensive steakhouse) but there are veritable hordes of them in Southern California. That's a good thing, for while Argentineans eschew elaborate and time-consuming dishes, have little use for herbs and spices and little variety in their cuisine, they can grill meat like nobody else in the world. So it's no coincidence that while most Argentine restaurants serve pastas and round their menus with empanadas, milanesas (breaded meat filets) and salads, it's really at the grill where they show their stuff. Buenos Aires Grill is not exception.
I had gone to this Northridge restaurant before. It's a favorite of my family and is quite close to my parents' home, so when one Sunday night in May 2005 I invited my sister and dad out to dinner some place close, Kathy immediately suggested we go there. As before, it was a good choice.
Buenos Aires Grill occupies a nondescript space in a strip mall near a Target. Some red/white/green tiles around the opening to the kitchen suggest that it might have once been an Italian or Mexican restaurant. Currently, its walls are decorated with soccer paraphernalia and beer signs, though an exposed brick wall gives it a classier look. But it's the people - the customers as much as the employees - who give the place a fun, convivial atmosphere. When we arrived at 8:30 PM on a Sunday night, the restaurant was nearly full with friends and families engaged in lively conversations - not all of them Argentineans. The crowd didn't diminish until 10 PM or so, and even then there were people just being served. The place is child friendly in that Argentinean way, in which you just expect parents to take their children along wherever they go - even when we left there were other small children around. But it's just a friendly sort of place, where the waitresses treat you like a friend ("I know you from some place," said the cute waitress, using the informal "vos" to my 70 year old dad. She probably didn't but he was flattered at having been noticed) and you can imagine running into or making new acquaintances.
The menu includes the inevitable empanadas ($1.50) and other appetizers ($4-9), milanesas ($10-12), pastas ($10-14), salads ($4-7), pizzas ($13-17 for family size ones), sandwiches ($5-10) and grilled meats ($11 to $30). The most expensive grill specialties, the parrilladas, include several different grilled meats and serve (at least) two. Alas, when we visited they had ran out of several of the choices.
Kathy ordered a Lomito Sandwich ($10), an unadorned sandwich consisting of bread, a filet mignon steak and melted provolone cheese. She declared it good, though not as good as in previous visits. I thought the steak was wonderfully tender, but it could not compete in flavor with the cheese (mild as provolone is), still I thought it was quite good. My dad had the Buenos Aires Sandwich which I liked even more. This included sirloin strips sauteed with red and green bell pepper slices and onions smothered with chimichurri sauce. It was very, very tasty and a bargain at $6. Both sandwiches were a pretty good size.
I ordered the entraņa, an outside skirt steak, grilled and lightly covered with chimichurri sauce. This is not always the most tender of cuts, so I was at first worried that the regular (rather than steak) knife at the table would be unusable, but I had no problems cutting the meat. It was delicious and while it was a good size, I still didn't want to share it at all.
We also got french fries and Provencal fries. The french fries were good, though a little bit soft, and didn't really taste like Argentine fries. The Provencal fries were a disappointment. Last time they'd been french cut potatoes with a tasty onion and parsley sauce. This time they were round sliced potatoes, probably baked but not cooked all the way through. The sauce didn't have much flavor. Next time I'll try something else.
For dessert we all split panqueques de manzana (an apple crepe - $5). These were two panqueque pockets filled with apple slices and dulce de leche, covered by caramelized sugar and decorated with chocolate syrup. Save for the apple, the panqueques were great. They were served warm and the dulce de leche and chocolate merged very nicely. The apples, however, were completely out of place there. Not only did the flavors not combine well, but the apples were undercooked. Next time we'll order the plain panqueques de dulce de leche.
Service was friendly but unreliable. They were clearly understaffed, and the waitresses/waiters were running from table to table. Drinks weren't refilled, plates not cleared out quickly, etc. But when I asked the waitress at the last minute to change my potatoes, she was happy to do it.
In all, we had a great dinner and I'm sure we'll be back.
Went back to the Buenos Aires Grill last August, 2013. We ordered one of the parrilladas, which fed 3 easily. The food was excellent. Molleja was also great, as well as fries. Really, a great place to go for great Argentine food in the Valley.
During my last trip to LA (November 2006), I went back to the Buenos Aires Grill, taking my husband, father, sister and daughters along.
It was a Sunday night again, around 7:30 PM, and the place could not have been more crowded. Indeed, it took us about an hour to get a table (far longer than the 20 minutes they''d said), in that time Mike had to take our youngest back to my parents'', as she was too tired to wait any longer, and my oldest (who''d refused to go back with Mike) almost fell asleep on my lap while waiting outside. In other words, don''t come here on Sundays until much later unless you want to wait. The food, once again, was amazing. This time my father and sister ordered one of the parrilladas (the Buenos Aires one, I think, about $24), which came with a bunch of different meats, all of them delicious. There was so much food, they only ate half of it. That may have been because my father had actually started the meal with a huge plate of sweetbreads (not on the menu, but you can ask for them), which he ate almost by himself - though Kathy helped. Sweetbreads are impossibly cheap in America - this whole dish was about $4 - but extremely expensive in Argentina. Given how fatty they are, that''s probably best. Even I have to admit that they were very good, they had a strong grilled taste that almost - but not quite - made me forget that I was eating a gland. Imagination finally overcame hunger.
I had an entrañña sandwich, just like last time, and I enjoyed every bite, though it wasn''t as big as I remembered it. I think next time, I''d order the dish instead. Mike had an empanada (good), a chorizo (good) and something else that I can''t remember. Oh well.
Food wise, the only down of the evening were the provencal potatoes, which just like that time resembled potato chips, and were hard and not very tasty. I ordered them at the recommendation of the waitress who must like them much more than I.
Service, once again, left much to be desired. The waitress was again very friendly, but in her efforts to ingratiate each table (and she is very good at it, she makes you feel like she''s known you forever and you are a friend at her home), she couldn''t keep track of our order. She forgot altogether Mika''s cheese empanada - a particularly sad point, as that was all Mika wanted to eat. By the time it came, she was too sleepy. The owner apologized profusely and gave us four meat empanadas to take home. The owner is also very nice and friendly and bantered with my father for a while about River Plate having lost that day''s game.
We also were supposed to get french fries with the parrillada, but they never came.
In all, I love the food and the atmosphere at the Buenos Aires grill. I just have to remember to go with plenty of time, be willing to put up with slow and spotty service, and enjoy it for what it is.
Buenos Aires Grill
8856 Corbin Ave.