Austinites get into a real lather when it comes to brunch. We love brunch! An Austinot favorite, Buenos Aires Café–Este, has begun serving brunch on Saturday. It’s a standout among local brunch menus, with delicious dishes you won’t find anywhere else.
I was invited to taste the brunch at Buenos Aires with owner/chef Paola Guerrero-Smith. She filled me in on what’s new with her 14-year-old Austin restaurant, including the Saturday brunch and revamped wine list.
Thank you to Buenos Aires Café for hosting me for the purposes of this review. These are my honest opinions.
So, What’s for Brunch?
Where else can you get a fritaffle, a fritatta stacked between two mini-waffles? The fritatta is thinly sliced layers of potato and egg with bacon, Parmesan, and mozzarella, similar to a Spanish omelette. Buenos Aires plays up the savory flavors of the Fritaffle with a red pepper reduction and crema drizzle. And it’s a perfect example of Argentinian inspiration with a nod to Austin’s obsession with waffles.
Another complete brunch original (and my absolute favorite) is the coconut French toast. The chef starts with pineapple bread, then soaks it in coconut milk. After this, it’s prepared like French toast and adorned with toasted coconut flakes, powdered sugar, and edible flowers.
I love that it isn’t too sweet, but it definitely hits the spot. And for those with a sweet tooth, pour on the accompanying brown sugar glaze.
I also tried the sweet potato pancakes, served with a tart blueberry compote. Buenos Aires also has a stellar pastry menu with all new brunch items. This pastry case would fuel the Sugar Plum Fairy’s dreams for weeks!
Everything is made in-house and reflects owner Guerrero-Smith’s Argentinian roots with an Austin touch. The chef brings an additional note to the Buenos Aires menu, as he is half Peruvian and half Puerto Rican.
The Saturday brunch is the latest in a series of menu changes that occur about every four months at Buenos Aires. These updates and additions accommodate for local and seasonal changes in ingredients. However, they are also an integral part of the overall philosophy of the restaurant.
The Buenos Aires Philosophy
“Here are our roots, who we are. We’re making my grandmother’s recipes, my mom’s recipes, honoring those roots and traditions while opening our hearts and embracing where we are, in Austin. I personally have lived here longer than I lived in Argentina, so Austin is also my hometown.”-Paola Guerrero-Smith
Guerrero-Smith and her team have been serving Argentinian, and other inventive cuisine, with consistency and creativity for nearly a decade and a half. The restaurant celebrates its 14th birthday this year.
Buenos Aires Café has a second location at Hill Country Galleria that opened in 2010. This location is run by Guerrero-Smith’s mother, owner and chef Reina Morris. The menus for each restaurant share core items, though the specialty and seasonal menus vary and cater to the disparate communities.
The mother-daughter duo has won over a legion of loyal customers, with more people discovering Buenos Aires Café all the time. In an era of restaurants opening and closing every month in Austin, it’s a pleasure to treat ourselves to the tried and true, the one we know we can count on.
It’s comforting to see a well-established business holding strong in the era of east Austin’s manic growth. With such solid roots, Buenos Aires has a devout group of regulars from across the city.
On any given night, you may catch Guerrero-Smith chatting with locals at a table or toasting them with bubbly. Former employees also come back to dine there, and current employees come in on their days off. I worked in restaurants for 10 years, so trust me: this is an excellent sign of quality.
Dinner and Lunch Fare
The classic dinner menu encompasses a variety of Argentinian specialties. The traditional empanadas are popular enough to have a place on the lunch, dinner, happy hour, and brunch menus. Don’t miss out on these tasty, savory pastries filled with meat or veggies.
Of course we have a classic Argentinian specialty, the parrillada. It’s a platter of five types of expertly grilled meats (with add-on options). Guerrero-Smith herself is an Argentinian-certified Master of Grill.
Don’t forget the drool-worthy chimichurri sauce made fresh daily. I would eat this by the spoonful if I could.
The heavenly gnocchi quartet includes pumpkin-cinnamon, sweet potato-chipotle, cilantro-jalapeño, and potato-herb gnocchi tossed with roasted red peppers, artichoke hearts, mushrooms, haricots verts, and Parmesan. It’s finished with crema and house-made parsley, red pepper, and balsamic reductions. It’s decadent, yet the flavors are subtle.
Guerrero-Smith has been beefing up her wine menu, as she loves wine. She told me about the changes in the wine-making industry of Argentina that encouraged her to add to her own Argentinian stash. Her wine list is not restricted to Argentinian selections, though. Guerrero-Smith is equally versed in international and even Texas wines.
On the Buenos Aires lunch menu, the sandwiches served on house-made bread are big hits. The Lomito, with angus beef tenderloin and chimichurri, is one of the signature dishes. You can also order from a handful of salads, grilled meat, and pasta dishes at lunch.
Amazing Cocktails at Happy Hour
I’m a little shocked that Buenos Aires doesn’t have a line around the block for happy hour. So, tell your friends and belly up to the bar.
Happy Hour specials:
- Monday Vino: half-priced bottles of wine all day
- Wednesday: 20 percent off all day for service industry
- Monday-Friday, 3 to 6 p.m.: $3 empanadas, $5 glasses of select wine and cocktails
- Bar only, 3 to 6 p.m.: half-priced appetizers and drink specials
Milonga Room Speakeasy
We’ve written about the cozy, sexy, inviting speakeasy below Buenos Aires a few times since its opening. Milonga Room is the perfect place for an intimate evening on the town. Like similar under-the-radar spots, it draws a fascinating crowd. I suggest sitting at the bar, and striking up a chat with your neighbor or bartender. You never know where the conversation may take you.
As of summer 2019, Milonga Room has a new Google number to call for reservations and the secret code to get in: 512-886-1920.
➡️ Keep reading: Austin’s Speakeasy Secrets (Shhh): Milonga Room
Austin has become a culinary destination, and a mind-boggling number of options are out there. Please keep this treasure in mind when planning your next dining adventure.
The inventiveness of the brunch menu, and the delicacy and subtle flavors of the exquisite pastries, interesting cocktails, and Argentinian standards come together to make Buenos Aires Café–Este a wonderful place. Throw in a fantastic, curated wine list and cozy ambiance, and you’re in for a treat.
Guerrero-Smith told me what she’s most proud of across her 14 years of business. “To me, leaving my architecture program and coming to help my mom by running this restaurant was like going back to school.” She had to fully immerse herself in learning every aspect of the restaurant business, from cooking to working on the books to washing dishes.
Support Local, Taste Global
I want Buenos Aires to be around a long, long time. This local business earns its place in Austin’s restaurant echelon every day by cooking with care, and adapting to seasonal ingredients and neighborhood personalities. And they are really nice people.
Let’s get out there and support this excellent eatery. The brunch is insanely good, and the whole vibe of the place is wonderful!
1201 E. 6th St. and 13500 Galleria Circle #120, Beecave, TX – Website
@theAustinot wants to know:
Which new Saturday brunch dish are you dying to try at Buenos Aires?
The original version of this article was published Jan. 27, 2015.