Let’s be honest. On a raw, wintry day, tucking into a big bowl of soup feels like the only rational activity. When your feet have been damp for what feels like weeks, when you no longer remember what a blue sky looks like, when all you want is to stop shivering, there’s no better remedy, no better balm for the soul.
But for some strange reason, soup isn’t really a *thing* in Argentina. I blame Mafalda. Sure, there’s locro, and lentil stew, and carbonada – all criollo staples that we love to gorge ourselves on when a national holiday rolls around, but they’re not a valid representation of the soup genre. No sir. I’m talking about everything from tomato to pumpkin to chicken noodle to pho to hot and sour and beyond.
Luckily, as the local palate continues to evolve, everyone seems to be coming around to the concept of soup as a delicious way to satisfy the appetite. It’s really that simple.
Yes, I know, the badass Peruvian hole-in-the-wall joints have been serving perfect spicy caldo de gallina for ages, and Barrio Chino knows its way around steaming bowls of noodles and broth like it’s nobody’s business (RIP Asia Oriental lunch counter). Don’t @ me.
But why not mix it up a bit? Those stand-by favorites will always be there to hold your hand when you’re tired of exploring something new and ready to fall back into their arms once again. Wait, we’re still talking about soup, right?
We’re bidding a collective farewell to the sad, salty, dehydrated instant-soup packets that should actually come with trigger warnings and diving into the good stuff. Without further ado, here’s a roundup of some of our favorite spots for getting your soup on in Buenos Aires.
Sunae Asian Cantina
Is there anything that Christina Sunae can’t do? While I get nostalgic for the glory days of her puerta cerrada in her Chacarita home, the newest incarnation of the restaurant she runs alongside husband Franco is one of the city’s best. Complex, spicy, brilliant – the dishes are just so damn good you won’t know what hit you. The diversity of the menu is overwhelming at first, but when you realize that you’re in expert hands – the team holding things down in the kitchen slays all day, every day – you can throw caution into the wind and order pretty much anything.
Much to the delight of many a Palermo Hollywoodense (go with it), Sunae recently incorporated lunch service, with an affordable menu that changes daily. Of the two dishes on offer, one will always be a soup, which is probably the greatest piece of news I’ve gotten since… ever?
Most days, I hope that I’ll be able to dive in to a giant bowl of Pancit Molo. In Filipino, pancit means noodles, and Molo is the town in the Philippines that made it famous (brb booking flights to Molo). Essentially, it’s pork wontons in a chicken scallion broth. It’s simple perfection without being boring; remember that sometimes, less is more.
The soup comes loaded up with crunchy noodles, fresh scallions, and a boiled egg for extra pizazz. Fresh pickled veg served on the side makes you feel ~*healthy*~ for about two minutes, which is a nice treat.
Sunae Asian Cantina – Humboldt 1626
De los Frutos
At the far end of Av. del Libertador, just before the chaos of actual microcentro begins, lies De los Frutos. It’s a complete ray of sunshine on a block that is otherwise utterly unremarkable, and the food that comes out of the tiny locale on a daily basis brings joy to the tums of everyone in the neighborhood.
DLF’s vibe is simple: fresh, homemade, easy sandwiches and salads that break with the monotony of typical almuerzos oficinistas nearby. What’s great, though, is that they’ve incorporated more elaborate hot dishes (what up, chicken curry) and soups into the repertoire.
On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, get there early – like, before 12:30 if you can swing it – and snag yourself a cup of tomato soup. You’ll be instantly transported back to your childhood, though this is a considerable upgrade from the watered-down Campbell’s that was the first thing you learned to prepare on the stovetop while your parents were out on the town.
The best part about De los Frutos isn’t the uber-friendly service or the décor that’s managed to transform a small space into an effortlessly cool downtown gem. It’s Clover, the in-house dog who probably won’t pay too much attention to you, but will gladly pose for an Insta-snap while you wait.
De los Frutos – Av. del Libertador 256
OPIO is a hip little gastropub nestled in the tranqui part of Palermo that lies beyond Av. Scalabrini Ortiz. Just around the corner from neighbors La Alacena, NOLA, Proper, and A Nos Amours, it fits right in as a laid-back spot ideal for anything from a night out with friends to a cozy date.
A cherry red door belies a low-lit space with high ceilings and a graffiti-style collage along one of the walls (created by chef-owner Tatu Rizzi himself). You can choose to sit at the communal table in the middle, sidle up at the bar, or be antisocial and grab one of the tables in the window. There’s always a solid playlist flowing through the speakers; note that if you arrive later on the weekends, there’s bound to be a wait.
OPIO’s menu is a mash-up of different Asian flavors, with a heavy slant on street food classics and other staples. While I love the green spinach curry that’s served over a crunchy rice cake, I switch it out when the temperatures drop. My new go-to is the prawn soup, with its spicy broth, wheat noodles, and vegetables, topped off with a nice runny egg for your oozy pleasure.
What’s perfect is that it leaves enough room for perhaps my favorite dessert in all of BA: the peanut butter mousse that will put even the most tried and true Argentine diabetic palate to the test.
OPIO – Honduras 4415
Fewer things give me as much joy as tucking into an early dinner on a Sunday night at Saigon. I love racing for a spot in one of the windows, the perfect people-watching perch as the masses come and go from the Market just around the corner, and sipping on a pint while I wait for my order to be ready. I love that there’s no table service, I love that the staff is so insanely friendly despite always being packed to the gills, I love that I can go there with my dog, I love that their food is just so damn good.
Perhaps it’s because I come from a place just down the road from the largest Vietnamese commercial center on the East Coast, but one of the things I miss the most about home is being able to feast upon a big bowl of pho. Thanks to Saigon, I can get my fix without dropping fifteen hundred dollars on airfare.
After scarfing down some garden rolls to take the edge off, I wait patiently for the main event. The broth is rich and flavorful, while the bean sprouts and herbs give it the fresh, crunchy contrast I crave. The crowds may be jostling around me, but for that moment I’m in another place entirely, and it’s nothing short of bliss.
Saigón – Bolivar 986 & Marcelo T. de Alvear 818
Ever since Bao Kitchen opened up shop in a former hair salon (I swear this city has more peluquerías per capita than anywhere else), it’s been a beacon of Taiwanese home cooking in the middle of downtown Retiro. Whenever I’m feeling sick, hungover, or emotionally unstable, I order a giant bowl of the Hun Tun soup and don’t look back. Everything is prepared in-house with the highest quality ingredients (I’m looking at you, organic chicken and eggs), which means you get to be extra smug as you slurp it all down.
Hun tun are delicate pork and shrimp wontons that happily float around with some fresh spinach in a chicken broth that is flavorful af and will heal your soul – and then some. Be sure to ask for some extra spicy sauce to get the full curative effect.
Bonus track: If you want something a little more hearty, go for the pumpkin, coconut, and chicken curry soup. It’s aromatic and filling without being too heavy, with just a hint of spice to keep you warm on the walk home.
Bao Kitchen – San Martín 960