One American's epic quest for breakfast in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
The Quest for American Breakfast in B.A. Finally Reaches It’s End
When you first leave home you are tantalized by all the new tastes of whatever country you happen to be traveling to, when people ask you what you miss about home you confidently reply, ‘Nothing.’ Fast forward four months, and you haven’t seen a bagel or Eggs Benedict on your plate in what seems like a lifetime. Now when people ask what you miss about home you loudly proclaim, ‘The FOOD, oh, and my family.’
You know it has become an issue when every weekend morning you bang on the wall and shout ‘BREAKFAST’ to your roommate, then you frantically try to googliar American breakfast and only come up with other expats lamenting the lack of the same. You then crawl your tired (possibly hung-over (cough)(cough)) butt to the local grocery store and try your best at making your own. However, it is never the same when you have to put effort in to feed yourself. Half the beauty of breakfast is slouching in your chair, chatting to your friends over coffee while you wait for the deliciousness that is sure to follow. This was the slightly manic point I had recently reached when I saw IT, like a shining oasis in the desert.
Amaranta Café, located at Junin 1559 in Recoleta, was the oasis. ‘BRUNCH’ is written in large letters across the picture window façade and there are pictures of bagels smothered with various mouth-watering toppings below it. Needless to say I ran across the road, almost being taken out by a car, to see the menu. One look and we were inside making small yelps of happiness. This place has got what the homesick traveler wants; I’m talking pancakes, omelets, huevos rancheros, eggs Benedict, and a great array of delicious sandwiches and salads. After eating there I decided I had to sit down with one of the three owners, Humberto Rodas, and find out what his secret was.
Rodas, his wife Eugenia, and their friend Paula all share ownership of the restaurant. They have all worked as chefs in varying capacities for many years. Rodas worked for Royal Caribbean cruise lines as a chef, Eugenia for the Hyatt hotel and Paula owned a restaurant/bar in Cordoba.
Rodas told me that Amaranta started off as a “…coffee shop like any other.” The only thing that made them special was a board outside promising some Starbucks-esque coffees, and they served waffles, omelets and bagels. However, they did have the advantage of a good location. The barrio of Recoleta is home to a lot of expatriates and they began filtering in.
These expats were feeling that same ache for some good ole American food, and began requesting things not on the menu, and Rodas began making them. As he says, “If we can make it, it’s a pleasure for us.” The expats actually shaped the menu, which has changed three times since their opening in 2007. Originally hash browns and bacon were sides you had to pay extra for, until everyone started requesting them on the plate, now they’re included. When a group of people from Los Angeles started frequenting the restaurant the breakfast burrito joined the menu. There is even a breakfast named after a regular customer, ‘The Ron’. Rodas says, “Most of our customers we know by name.” just as a good breakfast joint should be.
Most of the restaurants recipes have been tweaked or even completely overhauled by customer suggestions. For example, the huevos rancheros were originally done New Yorker style by scrambling the eggs until a customer from New Mexico came in and wanted them his way. Figuring he was closer to Mexico, and probably had the more authentic recipe, they now use his ‘way’ and fry the eggs. The recipe for the eggs Benedict came about after Rodas did a short stint as a private chef for a British man in Bariloche. The man asked for eggs Benedict, Rodas cooked it, and when it didn’t meet the man’s standards he gave Rodas his recipe, which they now use in the restaurant. Their skills at making muffins, scones, and bagels come from working in a tea house for a period of time.
It helps that all their ingredients are made from scratch and from produce bought locally. From the yogurt to the bread to the preserves, even the bagels, which Rodas says took a year to perfect, are made in house. The only things that aren’t are the maple syrup which he either has friends bring back from North America or buys from a company that imports it to Bolivia, the bacon, and the medialunas. He says “They are typically Argentinean so I just buy them frozen” from an Argentine company.
While Amaranta is aimed mainly at North American customers the Argentines are warming up to it. “They come in and eat bagels and ask if they are like the ones in New York.” He says that “We’ve got them eating sandwiches and salads now.” which originally weren’t popular because the salads already have dressing on them opposed to putting your own.
Rodas says his favorite dish is the ‘bagel a caballo’ which is a take on an traditional Argentine dish, the bife a caballo which is grilled beef, French fries, and two fried eggs. The bagel version is an open faced sandwich with melted cheese, grilled beef and two fried eggs. He likes it because it has melted cheese and eggs which he credits with keeping his business alive, “We crack 400 eggs in one week.” With all the omelets and egg dishes going around, makes sense.
Why should you check out Amaranta besides the food? Rodas says it’s a good price, about $33ar, the food is homemade, the ambiance is great and “It’s a place (where) you have a choice to have your meal the way you want it, you just have to ask us.” The other great thing about this place is it’s a part of the minihostel.com network, so if you present your card you get a 10% discount on your meal.