Carnivorous Cravings: ...to The Bloody Last Drop - part III

This is the third and last installment of the poor Sr. de la Torre's bovine ramble through our fleshy steakhouses...

10 Dias, 9 Parrillas: A Trilogy (Part III)

DAY 8:           Gardel Grill

We have this theory that parrillas, like certain other things, must be cheaper outside Roma/Condesa. But the online menu for La Evita on Reforma proves our theory wrong. And when I find the online menu for La Rural on Insurgentes in Colonia Napoles, they don’t even list prices, which brings to mind the old saying, “if you have to ask, you can’t afford it.”

So we head for Rio Lerma in Cuauhtemoc instead, home to Quebracho (which is pretty good for a chain restaurant parrilla by the way), the mass-market airplane hangar-like Don Asado (such a shame what that franchise has become), the unknown quantity that is Berretín and Gardel Grill, which I went to once a couple years ago with some friends and I remember being pretty good. We opt for Gardel Grill, and as we enter, something is different from how I remember this place…it’s kitted out for office workers.

We order the 600 gram bone-in asado de tira to share because at 185 pesos it’s the most economical steak on the menu, cooked to medium-well. There’s an impersonal feeling here I can’t quite put my finger on. The meat is still crackling when it arrives and it’s definitely fattier than the asado de tira at Los Uruguayos. This is not necessarily bad in and of itself, but as we proceed eating, the cut becomes progressively fattier, to the point that I’m finding some bites that aren’t even edible.

VERDICT:     The lowest cost cut of meat is no excuse for serving the cheapest value. For what it’s worth, I saw quite a few customers ordering pasta. We won’t be back.

Gardel Grill
Rio Lerma 171 between Guadalquivir and Ebro, Colonia Cuauhtemoc
5533-3466 | 5514-0714
Arrachera: 350 grams / 190 pesos
Asado de tira: 600 grams / 185 pesos
Vacio: 400 grams / 190 pesos

DAY 9:           La Parrilla Argentina

We didn’t realize until we were ordering that La Parrilla Argentina is a chain; we just came here on the recommendation of an acquaintance whose office is nearby. This place is cantina large, with a capacity of easily 200 people and a preference for old bolero music—when we walk in, José José’s voice is manhandling the sound system. There’s a very old-school feel here and I have no doubt that during Friday happy hour this place is thumping. The waiter assures us the asado de tira is not too fatty and we order it medium-well. The meat explodes with flavor to the point that I forget that there’s chimichurri, picante or any other condiments on the table because really, this doesn’t need anything extra on it.

VERDICT: This place is great if you can get your boss or sugar daddy to pay for it.

La Parrilla Argentina
Lafragua No. 4, corner of Monumento a la Revolucion, Colonia Tabacalera
5566-5542 | 5566-5667
Arrachera 350 grams/154pesos, 700grams/303pesos
Asado de tira 350 grams/173 pesos, 700 grams/308 pesos

DAY 10:         La Biela

Luisa says this is the last we eat parrilla for a long time so I should order carefully. I’m picking vacío. The prices here (not to mention the previous two places) raise the question of how Roma and Condesa parrillas could be the cheapest priced in the city and our temporary theory is that the Roma and Condesa parrillas are a) competing with each other and b) where the Argentines and Uruguayans go to eat, versus out here in middle-class colonias, like Napoles, where Argentine grill is considered something exotic, and therefore priced accordingly.

There’s an old maxim in journalism: “Show, don’t tell.” So why don’t I just show you how juicy the vacío is here:

Unfortunately, juicy in this case doesn’t necessarily equate to more flavor. The vacío at Escarapela was definitely better, and in contrast to the previous parrilla, I find myself leaning a lot on the chimichurri here to enjoy the meat.

VERDICT:     This is a relaxed old-school mom-and-pop outside of Roma/Condesa. It’s pricy, but I like the atmosphere here. Also, Chiandoni’s famous homemade ice cream is two blocks away.

La Biela
Dakota 305, corner of Pennsylvania, Colonia Napoles
1107-6549 | 5687-9763
Arrachera 350 grams / 215 pesos, 600 grams / 320 pesos
Vacío 350 grams / 215 pesos, 600 grams / 320 pesos
Asado de tira 600 grams / 290 pesos

When he’s not eating meat, Ulysses de la Torre is an emerging markets consultant and maintains a blog about finance and economics in developing countries at www.divergingmarkets.com.



Carnivorous Cravings: Meaty moments -part II

This is the second part of a three part series on where to eat the best arrachera in el D.F. by guest researcher Ulysses de la Torre.

"Vegetarians are a chef's worst nightmare" fumed Anthony Bourdain. Tony, this is for you:

10 Dias, 9 Parrillas: A Trilogy (Part II)

DAY 4:           Casita de Buenos Aires

Prices speak louder than words and what I’m drawn to at Casita de Buenos Aires is that not only is 500 grams the smallest arrachera but it comes with complete side salad and costs 170 pesos. Think about that. It implies 300 grams for 102 pesos. The rest of the menu speaks for itself.

The arrachera is soft and subtle and I can definitely taste the grill, but it’s not fair to compare it to yesterday’s entraña since it’s a different cut of meat. This place oozes nostalgia, sells fresh homemade empanadas out of the storefront fridge to take home with you and is a perfect place for an afternoon comida. The only downside: given its location in a still-refurbishing area of Roma, doors close at 7 pm. But if you’re in the area during daytime, there’s no reason to not be here eating meat.

VERDICT:     Great value for money. We’re definitely coming back to try their other cuts. Also—the kitchen is run by women.

Casita de Buenos Aires | Queretaro 188 between Monterrey and Medellin, Colonia Roma
5574-2204 | 7 days, 13:00-19:00
Arrachera: 500 grams / 170 pesos
Asado de Tira: 500 grams / 180 pesos

DAY 5:           Los Uruguayos

We walked by El Zorzal at Tamaulipas and Alfonso Reyes and saw that 400 grams of arrachera cost 212 pesos, so we continued down Atlixco past Juan Escutia until we arrived at Los Uruguayos. I generally dislike theme restaurants, but once in a while you find one that pulls it off, and Los Uruguayos has temporarily convinced me I’m in a small village in Las Pampas. The stereo is playing South American trova until a live accordion player shows up. I’m about to say this feels like more of a date spot than anything else so far when Luisa says one thing this place definitely is NOT is a date spot. As I’m reconciling this difference of perception, I notice that the only other customers during a Monday lunch are older men with large stomachs.

On the menu, a couple of things strike me: 1. They actually have picaña, imported from Uruguay, which explains the 240 peso price. 2. For the first time, the asado de tira is cheaper than the arrachera—500 grams for 140 pesos—and even cheaper than Casita Buenos Aires, which means it’s clearly time to try that. I order it medium-well on account of it including the bone and from the first bite I understand everything. This is a rougher cut and a rougher taste and a lot more smoke. The training wheels have just come off.

VERDICT:     I’ve since learned that two other people we know, one of them an Argentine sommelier in our building, cite this as their favorite parrilla and I can see why. We’re definitely coming back here.

Los Uruguayos | Atlixco 38A between Juan Escutia and Antonio Sola, Colonia Condesa
5553-7375 | Sunday – Wednesday 13:00 – 19:00, Thursday – Saturday 13:00 – 23:00
10% discount for home delivery
Arrachera:  400 grams / 150 pesos
Asado de tira: 500 grams / 140 pesos (with bone)


Honestly, I need a break. I spent today eating nothing but vegetables and then for dinner we went to our friend’s dinner party and met an Uruguayan guest who said his favorite cut is vacío. So I guess that means vacío is next.

DAY 7:           Escarapela

I’ve been here as often as I’ve been to El Hornero, and it’s just as small—the Che/Maradona/etc. homage aside, it looks and feels like you’re sitting in a wine cellar. Escarapela is never empty, but considering its location in the heart of Condesa, still manages to keep a pretty low profile. Escarapela’s centrality still has its drawbacks though, specifically that it consistently has the worst strolling musicians I’ve heard in the entirety of the six-odd years I’ve lived in Mexico City. Seriously, the musicians are as bad as the meat is good.

Anyway, today is the day I order a vacío while Luisa orders arrachera, both cooked medium. And today is the day I become a grown man. The arrachera is as dependable as it always is here. But whereas arrachera is a ride on a freshly paved street in some leafy suburb, vacío is an offroad romp through the outback. Basically, this engine’s got a lot more horsepower—juicier, fattier, fuller.

VERDICT:     It feels weird to say this, but I don’t think I’ll ever eat arrachera again.

Escarapela Condesa | Nuevo León 62, between Parras and Laredo, Colonia Condesa
Phone: 5211-4444
Arrachera: 330 grams / 125 pesos
Asado de tira sin hueso: 330 grams / 128 pesos
Vacio: 330 grams / 135 pesos
See Part I of this article

When he’s not eating meat, Ulysses de la Torre is an emerging markets consultant and maintains a blog about finance and economics in developing countries at www.divergingmarkets.com.

*          END PART II            *


Carnivorous Cravings: where's the beef?

For the first time in the history of Good Food in Mexico City, I turn the podium over to a guest writer, while I explore the Good Food of various points of mysterious Eastern Europe and the more familiar Occident.

This three part series on where to eat the best arrachera in el D.F. will give any good vegetarian nightmares worthy of a George Romero film. But this one ain't for the rabbit food set. Read on, bloody meat-eaters:

10 Dias, 9 Parrillas: A Trilogy (Part I)

By Ulysses de la Torre

The idea was to find the best Argentine arrachera steak in Mexico City. But anyone familiar with this corner of the food universe should already see problems with the premise. First, although arrachera is served at many Argentine parrillas here, it’s a northern Mexican cut; second, there are too many Argentine parrillas to try them all by deadline; third, what about Uruguayan parrillas?

With those caveats in mind, my wife, Luisa, and I set forth to see what we could find.

DAY 1:           El Hornero

This wasn’t supposed to be anything like the movie where the guy eats McDonald’s every day for a month, but that’s what I’m thinking of right now. We’re beginning at El Hornero because we’ve been here enough that the two Argentine owners know us and it’s intimate enough—capacity is three dozen—that if you catch it at the right time, the owners might sit and chat. Tonight turns out to be one such night.

Matias says what he serves as “arrachera” (what I ate) is called entraña back home. Since opening three years ago, I’ve tried everything here, but never with the aim of comparing it in a meat-off. So what about the arrachera/entraña tonight? It has the requisite smoothness of a decent arrachera, plus the added punch of a marinade. Also, Matias says it’s kosher. Over dessert, we tell him of our parrilla challenge and ask which meat is a must-have for any worthwhile parrilla. Matias says asado de tira. He also says there’s no difference between Argentine and Uruguayan parrillas. So what’s already apparent on day one is that this is about more than just arrachera.

VERDICT:     El Hornero is one of our standbys. And whenever I finish a meal here, I’m always kind of sad it’s over.

El Hornero | Cordoba 148, between Zacatecas and Guanajuato, Colonia Roma
5584-5413 | 044-55-3948-7088 | Monday – Saturday 13:00—21:00, home delivery, cash only
Arrachera: 350 grams/140 pesos
Asado de tira: 350 grams/145 pesos

DAY 2:           Quilmes

For breakfast, I ate all fruit, and for lunch, all vegetables. So guess what it’s time for?

We’re determined to avoid chain restaurants, but we made an exception for Quilmes on a friend’s recommendation. It’s cavernous—two floors—and unlike El Hornero, where even the clientele was Argentine, Quilmes targets Mexicans. I’m sure Sunday brunch is busy, but tonight, Friday, it’s more empty than full. Quilmes has been in Condesa since the pre-hipster days and as if to accentuate this fact, we watch a hipster walk in with his girlfriend, look around, and murmur to her, “aquí no está padre güey.” But the girl insists and they take a table.

Prices are higher and the music is disastrous (Phil Collins, El DeBarge…need I go on?). The walls are absent of the Che/Maradona/Evita/Gardel montage typical of many parrillas, instead plastered with futbol jerseys and flat screen televisions. The arrachera is unmarinated and uniformly smooth and I can taste the charcoal. Nothing exciting about this, but it does the job. I don’t usually pay attention to the quality of picante sauce, but its watery taste compels me to take note.

VERDICT:     Not bad, but given this city’s proliferation of parrillas, I see no need to return. And there’s no way the owner would ever sit with us for a chat.

Quilmes | Alfonso Reyes 193, between Cholula and Saltillo, Colonia Condesa
5516-1438 | 7 days
Arrachera: 350 grams/165 pesos
Asado de tira: 350 grams/235 pesos
DAY 3:           Cuareim 1080

Fate has delivered us here. We were headed elsewhere in Polanco, but while looking for a parking spot, wound up in front of Cuareim 1080, an Uruguayan parrilla named after a Montevideo artists’ commune closed by the military dictatorship in 1978. Since it’s Uruguayan, instead of Che/Diego/Evita is artwork from the original commune and Uruguayan folk rock on the stereo. Here’s how real Cuareim keeps it: arrachera isn’t even on the menu. The waiter says their closest meat to arrachera is entraña, so I order it medium (as I generally do) and when it arrives, it has no side dish, which is fine considering I’m up to my neck in vegetables the rest of my waking hours.

The meat has slightly more fat and some skin and I can taste the grill. Also, it’s clear Quilmes was missing last night—there, the meat was smooth and decent quality, but it tasted diluted, like the picante sauce. Here, the flavor is jumping off the plate.

VERDICT:     This place is cool, and rather understated for Polanco. Like El Hornero, I’m hearing a lot of southern cone accents, and also like El Hornero, it’s cozy—good for a private party where you want to be able to take over the joint.

Cuareim 1080 | Newton 105, between Masarik and Lamartine, Colonia Polanco
5531-7448 | Monday – Saturday 13:00-21:30, Sunday 13:00-19:00
Entraña, Asado de Tira: 300 grams / 150 pesos, side not included

When he’s not eating meat, Ulysses de la Torre is an emerging markets consultant and maintains a blog about finance and economics in developing countries at www.divergingmarkets.com.

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