Argentina. Buenos Aires. Steak.
These words go hand in hand in a country that is considered to be one of the cow-meat capitals of the world. You can understand then why a lacto-ovo vegetarian like myself figured that I would either be one Argentinian trip away from my ideal weight or consume copious amounts of my trusty global vegetarian food staple – Pizza.
Safe to say, the last thing I expected on my first day in the city was to eat at an organic, vegetarian/vegan/raw food restaurant that uses pesticide free produce harvested that same day. I hit the Buenos Aires vegetarian jackpot.
Bio (pronounced “Beeyo” in Spanish), is at the corner of Humboldt and Nicaragua streets in trendy Palermo Hollywood. Over 10 years old, it is the city’s first organic restaurant and is a stone’s throw from the quickly developing condos in this scenester area of Buenos Aires.
After a 12 hour flight to Buenos Aires and lots of airplane food, walking into Bio instantly made me feel lighter. I took seeing a statue of the Hindu God Ganesha, said to be the remover of obstacles, as a good sign.
The restaurant’s comfortably small space decorated in green and pale yellow tones with simple wooden tables, chalkboard menu specials, outdoor seating and soft music felt authentically healthy.
I started with a Bio must-have – a lemon and ginger drink that cleansed the palate. A light chick pea dip with soft bread was provided as a starter by the waitress rocking what seemed to be the waitress uniform in Buenos Aires – a dress and Converse sneakers.
I took my sweet time reviewing Bio’s main dish options of lentil hamburgers, scented rice, burritos, quinoa, tofu, seitan, pasta and pizzas.
I settled on De Espinaca fresca, tomate seco y olivas con raw mesano. Yes, rather than enjoy a vegetarian twist on a local dish like the Seitan Picante Asado, I chose pizza. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, especially in a country with a strong Italian influence and incredibly good pizzas.
Happy to report that the pizza was good. Darn good. My initial reaction was that it was a bit on the smaller side than I had expected. But by the end of it, I did not have room for dessert. Well, I also owe that to filling up on the dip and bread – a bad habit when I’m hungry.
While I chose not to indulge, Bio does offer a wine list – most of the wines being organic, of course.
Since my Bio meal, the menu has evolved to include raw food options and dishes with many ingredients grown in the restaurant’s own biodynamic farms.
Bio also offers ways to live a healthy lifestyle beyond the menu. The restaurant is stocked with items like cold pressed oils, teas and natural products available for purchase.
Discovering Bio on my first day felt like finding a lake in the middle of the desert. But that opinion slowly started to fade as I found other vegetarian restaurants and options in a city that loves to eat out and eat late. For another roundup of choices, be sure to check out Tanvi Chheda’s article in The New York Times.
I walked out of Bio and into the warm, December sunshine of Buenos Aires with my tummy happy and my heart smiling after reading the message that came with my bill (that an English speaking waitress translated for me):
Nuestro miedo más profundo no es que seamos inadecuados
Nuestro miedo más profundo es que somos poderosos sin limite
Es nuestra luz, no la oscuridad lo que más los asusta
Nos preguntamos quién soy yo para ser brillante, precioso, talentoso y fabuloso
En realidad, quién eres tú para no serlo?
Eres hijo del universo
El hecho de jugar a ser pequeño no sirve al mundo
No hay nada illuminador en encogerte para que otras personas cerca de ti no se sientan inseguras
Nacemos para hacer manifiesto la gloria del universo que está dentro de nosotros.
Loosely translated (feel free my Spanish speaking friends to correct me in the comments section below):
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond limit
It is our light, not darkness that most frightens us
We ask ourselves, “Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous?”
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of the universe
Playing small does not serve the world
We are born to manifest the glory of the universe that is within us.
A great introduction to Buenos Aires – vegetarian style.