Palermo Palate: Shopping with an Appetite
Whether you're heading to Buenos Aires for the first time or the fifth, chances are you'll be spending some quality time in Palermo. Especially if your to-do list includes scoping leather jackets. Ever worthier of its popular epithet, "Soho", the boutique-studded barrio is de rigueur for visiting fashion hounds, many of whom unfortunately settle for mediocre lunches at the most conspicuous cafés. Like its Manhattan counterpart, Palermo can be delicious if you know where to look. Here's a meal plan fit for a serious retail mission.
Single-origin cold brew may still be a novelty in BA, but fastidious baristas and pour-over menus are drawing coffee cognoscenti to a handful of pioneering cafés. Our go-to, Lattente, is snug and neighborly, just the place for a textbook cappuccino. Which we recommend pairing with a homemade Sicilian "fustuca". Comprised of pistachio flour, sugar, and egg whites, this two-bite, morning-maker of a confection is one of the few reasons you'll catch us cheating on our daily medialuna (by "breakfast" we meant caffeine and simple carbohydrates, naturally).
Lattente; Thames 1891
Cookbooks, condiments, and custom wood-fired ceramics line the shelves at this civilized corner café whose name is the Spanish word for "pantry". La Alacena's laidback address (a few blocks east of the neighborhood's commercial epicenter) is only the first of its charms. There's also the on-site bakery with eternally stacked sheets of cooling focaccia. And the menu of elevated Italian comfort food. And the fact that the fries are served with aioli. But most of all, there's the dark chocolate and sea salt "tartaleta". Yep, you're going to want a friend—and an espresso. Pro tip: House coconut and rum-whipped dulce de leche is for sale by the jar and well worth the hassle of checking a suitcase on the return trip.
La Alacena; Gascón 1401
Feel yourself fading? In Buenos Aires, the late-afternoon slow-down just means it's time for merienda. The daily salvation of all Palermo's peckish and weary, this cherished local ritual is also a godsend for out-of-towners unaccustomed to 10pm dinner reservations. When all of the calfskin polo boots start to blur together, follow the initiated to Ninina. Put your feet up and your shopping totes down. Order a basil lemonade or a pot of whole-leaf tea and take in the epic marble display, whose every torta, tarta, and alfajor was made on-site with organic sugar and free-range eggs. The proprietor's mother, an '80s-era pastry doyenne, supplied many of the bakery's family recipes.
Ninina Bakery; Gorriti 4738
The gentlemen of Proper weren't banking on street traffic when they took up residence inside a dimly lit auto repair shop on the eastern fringes of Palermo. You show up to experience their soulful garage cooking much in the way you'd show up for a friend's impromptu jam session. There are no hosts, no reservations, and no credit cards. Part of the appeal of Proper is in fact the absence of all the usual proprieties—the pleasure of engaging its backwards hat and bandana-clad chef-server-restaurateurs as they shuttle homemade sourdough, Ottolenghi-inspired small plates, and Mallmann-worthy churrasco between the "kitchen" (the part of the space that houses the wood-burning oven) and the "dining room" (denoted by an impressive hanging planter centerpiece). After carrot and yogurt hummus, miso-mustard pastrami, and sea bass with chermoula, all roads lead to the "Tarta Banana Split", i.e. the holy trinity of dulce de leche, banana, and dark chocolate in slice form.
Proper Restaurant; Aráoz 1676