2014 is the year of the burger in Buenos Aires and I intend to be an expert in the matter. Five years ago and the only burger you could find was a measly frozen patty smothered in mayonnaise with a leaf of lettuce and a slimy tomato. If you wanted something of better quality, there were one of three options: shell out some major pesos, give in and go to McDonalds or make it your damn self. Then Burger Joint arrived last year and shit. got. serious. There are copy cats popping up all over the city and I personally say the more the damn merrier. I’m going to get to know them all, one burger and bag of fries at a time, and if there is a draft beer option throw that in the order too.
My first stop was Pérez-H, which is located on Defensa on the border of San Telmo and Centro. I chose it as my intro to the nuevo paty argentino (can that become a thing, please?) because I had read that the burger had been designed by Antonio Soriano, who is the head chef at one of the city’s most talked about restaurants, Astor. The simple menu isn’t creative in it’s burger combinations but is focused more on the meat itself, the philosophy being that the worlds highest quality beef comes from Argentina and so the world’s best hamburger patty should also.
Any place that calls themselves a hamburgueseria already wins major points in my book. The space is a long and skinny and the walls adorned with photos from hole in the wall burger spots from around the world. The seating is shared with two long tables that occupy the center of the restaurant and bar seating that wraps around the front window and interior walls. The burger action happens right in front of you with just a thin piece of glass separating patrons from the grill. I always appreciate the open kitchen concept, and am usually the annoying guy staring (it’s awkward just not for me) at the cook. Whoever took reins of the music that day went a little overboard, with some loud electronic music that balanced between kinda good (like this Martin Garrix song) to electro room at Terrazas territory.
I decided on the Completa, which comes with panceta, cheddar, caramelized onions, lettuce, tomato and pickles. I’m a sucker for panceta and pickles, there was really no other option for me. And at this price tag I considered trying two, seriously, $45 for the completa (one of the most expensive on the menu) with just $14 more if you want to make it a combo. Try to get another filling meal in Centro for under $60, I doggy dare you – I’m talking yummy meals, kiosco milanesa’s need not apply.
There are some interesting details that they’ve taken note of. The fries were lightly showered with higher quality coarse salt which added an extra kick of flavor to fries that were already killer. The buns were also handmade and fresh from local San Telmo bakery La Mariposa. The patty is a mixture of three different meats, which is noted on the menu, but just one bite and you can tell that this isn’t your average carne picada. My bad for not specifying that I wanted the burger cooked medium, which would have made the patty itself near perfect.
For the quality of the essentials, I was caught off guard by smaller missteps. The ketchup (let’s be real, the ketchup is just as much an essential as the meat and bun) was more choripan stand quality than gourmet. It was unbearably sweet with a thin syrupy texture, which was a shame because the fries were wonderful and crisp and I had to disdainfully dip or eat them plain. The panceta also wasn’t fully cooked. What’s so difficult for the majority of BA eateries, the go to bacon substitute is always nearly raw or burnt to a crisp with zero middle ground. When will one pig farmer realize that he can specialize solely in bacon and make a killing!? The pickles were also a little more cucumber-y than pickle-y, they tasted fine but could have added fuller flavor and texture had they been left to ferment a little longer.
Pérez-H has recently expanded to a larger second location on Maipu, making it a great inexpensive lunch choice for any downtown-ers. And even though it has a few kinks that should be worked out before they start calling themselves la mejor hamburguesa they are still a cut above the rest.
Defensa 435, San Telmo
Maipu 618, Microcentro
Hours: Mon-Fri noon-7pm; Saturdays closed; Sunday noon-8pm
Combo price (burger, fries, small coke): under $60 as of April/2014