By Serri Graslie
Finding vegetarian eateries in Buenos Aires, "The Land of Beef," is not especially difficult these days. There are dozens of restaurants in the city that offer healthy, animal-free fare and more are popping up all the time.
Go a step further to seeking organic, however, and you'll find you've hit a wall. Despite the fact that organic farming is huge in Argentina, organic eating is not.
Still, it is not impossible find if you look closely. A handful of semi-organic eateries dot the map and most have small markets attached that specialize in natural products. By using this unique method of taste and take-away, each hopes to spread the organic gospel—one bite at a time.
Organic farming is not a new concept in Argentina. The agri-giant has been producing organic food since the 80s and today is one of the foremost organic exporters in the world. According to 2007 estimates, there are 2.9 million hectacres of land devoted to organic food production in the country, most of which is for raising beef. Eighty-percent of everything produced on that land, however, is sent elsewhere in the world.
Organic eating is a relatively fledgling concept here that has only recently started to gain popularity. Unlike the United States and Europe where the movement has been buoyed by its trendiness, Argentines have been slower to latch on to the idea. The increased cost of eating organic and a lack of understanding about what makes organic different have stymied its popularity.
But change may be on the horizon. While the selection isn't vast, there are a few restaurants in the city using organic ingredients—all of which have opened within the last ten years.
The oldest of the restaurants is Bio (Humboldt 2199) in Palermo, which opened seven years ago. Although the dining room is small with only ten tables, the location on a sunny corner and a clean green and white aesthetic throughout helps to make the space seem bigger than it is. The restaurant also has a small mercado with a limited selection.
When it comes to eating, Bio has a solid array of main dishes that range from $30-40. Pictured above is the nest of spinach with mushrooms, pumpkin okaid and rice timboloito. Owner Marisa Ledesma says the majority of their eggs, milk and vegetables are certified organic and that the rest of their food is chemical-free.
The second oldest of the restaurants is Artemisia (Cabrera 3877), also located in Palermo. Opened six years ago by couple Carolina Guryn and Gabriel Gomez, Artemisia offers a wide array of dishes in an open environment that is reminiscent of an Italian terrace. Carolina says she prefers to use organic ingredients because of their positive impact on both the body and the environment in general, but realizes she can never offer a 100 percent organic menu. If that were the case, she says, they could only feature two or three dishes at most—she makes up for the things she can't get organically by making sure everything else is fresh, as natural as possible and always free of preservatives.
The menu itself changes with the seasons and has no particular theme other than healthy, hearty food. At the moment, polenta lasagna (pictured above) is a star and also one of Carolina favorites—rounds of polenta are stacked between red peppers and parmesan, and topped with sautéed shredded vegetables and fresh arugula. Other notable winter items include pumpkin soup, Yamani rice corquetitas with quinoa salad, and citrus basil granita with peppermint and rosemary.
While many of the other restaurants have small mercados attached to their dining areas, Natural Deli takes the concept to an entirely new level. Owner Michael Legge moved to Buenos Aires from the U.K. five years ago and, once here, found that organic products were few and far between. Determined to offer quality natural products to both locals and tourists, he opened the first Natural Deli location in Palermo (Gorostiaga 1776) in 2007. A second location in Barrio Norte (Laprida 1672) followed last year and, if the economy approves, Michael hopes to expand the chain to as many as fifteen in the next few years. Having a market was Michael’s primarily motivation for opening the first Natural Deli and continues to be the area he is most interested in expanding; at the moment, they have the largest mercado section of all the restaurants.
Newest on the scene is Buenos Aires Verde, also located in Palermo (Gorriti 5657). Owner Mauro opened the restaurant just last year in September after working at a number of other restaurants. He says he was frustrated that the kitchens he was working in used many additives and preservatives and he longed to offer food that would allow the consumer to “return to the cycles of the earth and connect back with nature.” He says all of his ingredients are organic even though they are not all certified as such because “red tape” and the increased cost of licensure keeps many producers from seeking certification. Like the other restaurants, Buenos Aires Verde also offers a small organic mercado with in-house packaged grains, dried fruit and more.
Mauro is also a follower of the raw food movement and uncooked food comprises much of the menu. The dishes that are cooked are processed very little, including the seed tartita with sweet cream, cashews, granola blueberries and honey (pictured above). Other highlights on the menu include quinoa vegetable rolls with greens and pickled carrots and radishes, and the “eternal life salad” with greens, amaranth, beets and carrots.
Last but not least, links and info to the above mentioned places, and more.
Artemisia – www.artemisiaresto.com.ar
Bio – www.biorestaurant.com.ar
Buenos Aires Verde – www.bsasverde.com
Natural Deli – www.natural-deli.com
El Rincon Organico - www.elrinconorganico.com.ar/joomla/
Kensho - www.kensho.com.ar/
La casa de Ohsawa - 415 Ciudad de la Paz
MOA - Fundación Mokichi Okada Lacroze 2025
Verde Llama - Coming back soon. Comidaconvida@gmail.com