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What to Order at Don Julio in Buenos Aires, Argentina

It's one of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants and was just awarded its first Michelin star

by Terry Zarikian

February 27, 2024

Don Julio dining room / Photo: Courtesy of Pablo Domina

In 2015, when Don Julio entered Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants list at number 45, this unconventional Argentine grill never expected to be crowned number one in 2020. But not only has Don Julio been top-listed in the Latin American edition, but it also occupies the number 19 position in the 2023 World’s 50 Best Restaurants list and was just awarded its first Michelin star with an additional recognition for gastronomy and sustainability. Creator, founder and owner Pablo Rivero said to Michelin: “We carefully monitor the seeds that we sow and the animals that we breed, always thinking of the planet and using animals as an agent both for the recovery of the soil and the capture of carbon from the atmosphere. We support the concepts of rational grazing and holistic management.”

Pablo Rivero / Photo: Courtesy of Agustino Mercado

Recently I flew to Buenos Aires just to dine at Don Julio and its sister restaurant, El Preferido de Palermo, just a block down the street. But for me the most exciting part of my journey was being in the presence of Rivero, a spiritual person who oversaw the transformation of Don Julio from a mom-and-pop restaurant into the beloved and revered Palermo neighborhood steak house, now famous around the world, that it has become.

T-bone steak / Photo: Courtesy of Pablo Domina

Before dinner, we enjoyed freely poured bubbly Chandon from Argentina while morsels of ceviche and mini Argentine empanadas (the best I’ve had) teased our appetites. Scoring a table is challenging unless you know Rivero, and I witnessed a seven-year-old Brazilian girl playing on his soft side and asking if he could please give her family a table since they had traveled from so far away to eat the best meat in the world. He sat them immediately and, like in all other instances, made their visit an unforgettable one.

Wine cellar / Photo: Courtesy of Pablo Domina

Don Julio’s packed main dining room is harmonized by the susurrant sound of meat cooking over a wood fire, where the free-range, grass-fed, 21-day-aged Argentine beef is simply dressed in salt and pepper and heated in front of salivating dinners to a preferred medium-rare juicy center. Vegetables grown in Don Julio’s organic farm emphasize seasonality and are must-haves. My perfect meal at Don Julio would begin with a plate of assorted artisanal charcuterie and beef empanadas. I would share the gigantic mollejas de corazon, the handsomest sweetbread I ever laid teeth on, and the ancestral tomatoes from open-pollinated seeds dressed with olive oil, fresh oregano and sea salt. The bife de costilla con lomo (T-bone steak) must be enjoyed with grilled smoked eggplant, zucchinis and mashed potato puree with Jersey butter. This memorable bacchanalia is capped by a tasting of the best Argentine wines from Rivero’s own cellars.