Nearly a year ago, the burger boom was in full swing and I was tired as all hell about it—it still does feel like more of a plague than a blessing. So, we published an article about three burgers in Buenos Aires that were worth all the hype. I repeat, three burgers worth the hype. Not the three best. Not my three favorites. Just three good burgers amongst a sea of shit patties covered in unnecessary add-ons like canned pineapple and blue cheese. The comment section quickly filled up with heated debate and stuff about my mom. I heeded some of the suggestions, laughed at others (Dean and Denny’s, really?) and have come back with three more that probably aren’t your favorites, either.
Tierra de Nadie | Av. Avellaneda 588, Caballito
On a Monday night when the cold settles in along the bottom of the spine, there is a swarm of people spilling out onto the street. Most have cold frothy beers that make my own hands feel frosty. No one seems to care. This is how it always is at Tierra de Nadie, a small burger bar nestled between a pharmacy and a vegetable stand in mostly residential Caballito. Whether it’s peak summer weather or the middle of an unusual cold front, there is always a line of twenty-some people waiting patiently for a seat. Tierra was amongst the first to specialize in burgers back in late 2012, when owners David Sovilj and Guadalupe Peralta Herrera decided to open a shop dedicated to North American and Mexican dishes. The wraps, burritos and Caesar Salads fell off the menu and a dozen burgers remained.
Neither were formally trained and instead used the combined experiences of briefly living in the United States and working at mega-yanqui outpost Kansas to create a burger menu that is extensive in volume but weighted down by simplicity. Emphasis is placed on a handful of high-quality ingredients split into simple combos on cheese stuffed burgers, ‘wilds’ and double patties. The burger meat is ground daily while bread bakes fresh in the oven. Nine classic sauces also make the rounds.
The Wild TDN is the most unusual on the menu. The patty comes topped with slightly charred sweet breads and generous slabs of eggplant escabeche; the blackened flavor of the former and vinegar bite of the latter are tempered by earthy arugula and a simple white cheese. The Chili Queen is a relatively new addition to the menu. Grass-fed buffalo takes the place of the classic ground beef and is topped with shredded cheese, guacamole and chili con carne. The guac brought out the butteriness of the chili and both added a sloppy mess that is happily scooped up with french fries. My personal favorite is the Jim Beam Bourbon Burger, basically a Patty Melt. The burger is shaped rectangular and served on homemade sandwich bread that comes with a thin layer of caramelized cheese that adds an extra crunch to the toasted bread, crispy fried onions and cheddar. Always make sure to specify medium-rare unless you want well-done, which is what’s traditionally ordered.
If you can’t mess with the lines, a larger shop around the corner with a wood-burning grill and the return of tacos and burritos is said to open in the coming months.
Pony Line | Posadas 1086, Retiro
Long before Maxi Togni introduced burgers to his own menu at DOGG, he insisted that the best one to be had was Juan Gaffuri’s 45 day dry aged hamburger at the Pony Line. I winced my nose at the idea of Buenos Aires’ best burger being at the swanky lounge of the Four Seasons Hotel and expected the platitude of a trend taken too far served with a starchy white napkin. I was wrong—mostly. It does come with a starchy white napkin (polished silverware and an attentive waiter, too) but out of the three spots, was the messiest of the bunch.
The small bar menu is packed with different high end interpretations of common lounge dishes—tapas, sandwiches, salads, and a selection of homemade ‘charcuterie’, get that cured duck! And despite what looked like a bunch of midday meetings of local ambassadors and business men, everyone, even the woman dressed in a tailored all white power outfit, were eating hamburgers. There are two options. The classic is a mix of Angus short ribs, tenderloin and Wagyu rib cap. Despite being overshadowed by the dry aged option, the classic is worthy of similar accolades. The dry-aged is 100% tenderloin, aged on-site for 45 days before being grilled to a perfect medium-rare. The toppings are simple—crunchy iceberg lettuce, a few thin slices of tomato and herby aioli that is thrown on with a heavy hand and spills over onto the fries (and your hand). It gives space for the meat, which is intensely buttery with a slight gamey flavor, to shine, with a price tag that comes close to rounding $400, it better.
DOGG | Blanco Encalada 1651, Belgrano and Lavalle 1134, Tribunales
Togni’s career love song to North American-style street foods began one summer day in Staten Island. During an extended eight year stay in New York and Washington D.C. working upscale gigs for both the Hotel Elysee and the Argentine Embassy, his plans to return to Buenos Aires to open a high end restaurant were foiled by a hot dog on the grill. A totally normal North American tradition was the first time Togni had seen a hot dog outside of the corner kiosco. Thus began a “fascination for the passion that people put into such simple, traditional foods like a Philly Cheesesteak or a hamburger.”
Togni would return to Buenos Aires in 2009 and four years later opened the first DOGG on San Martin. The small gourmet hot dog spot decked in clean white subway tiles marked the beginning of a casual dining revolution that would eventually creep out of Microcentro and slowly invade the rest of the city. The concept was always simple: quality ingredients for dishes normally associated with crappy fast food. First, he made traditional hot dogs to wary customers who didn’t understand why a hot dog cost more than a few pesos.
Last year DOGG opened its third location in Barrio Chino, one step closer to Togni’s long standing dream of opening an American-style diner. With the new location came burgers, which are made in the style of a North American fast food joint. Grass-fed Angus beef is rounded into thin patties that are char broiled over a grated grill. The wildest ingredient is a juicy and full-flavored chili with emphasis instead being placed on simple flavor combos. The Bacon Burger was the clear favorite, a classic mixture of gooey cheddar cheese, extra crunchy bacon and vinegary homemade pickles. The burger was cooked medium-rare upon request and because of the thin patty, was juicy without bleeding into the bread, which was spongey and slightly sweet. Hot sauces like Cholula, Valentina and Louisiana Hot Sauce rotate in and out; a light homemade barbecue and subtly spiced Mexican mayo are always on hand.
The common thread here is that no one is attempting to re-invent the wheel; no bullshit, genuine burgers that are poised to stand the test of a tired trend.