www.ProjectArgentinablog.com, a blog written by a couple who live year-round in Cafayate, has a good post on restaurants in Cafayate, catering for both vegetarians and non-vegetarians.
Most restaurants are open from 12 till 3 pm and then from 8 or 9 pm til midnight (or later). Even if a place is actually open between those times, they often are only serving drinks and a very limited menu (if any food at all).
Dinner in Argentina indeed starts very late, most restaurants don’t even start to get busy until 10 pm. That said, especially in areas with lots of tourists (Cafayate included) there are restaurants that open earlier for dinner, and even a few that are open all day.
Below are their top 11 picks for the best restaurants:
#1 Piattelli Vineyards
Situated a little bit northwest of town, and overlooking the valley, these guys serve up some of the best food in Cafayate. They change their menu periodically (in all honesty the current menu one is not our favorite incarnation). But the food and service are consistently great, and the atmosphere is lovely. They also have multiple options ‘sin TACC’ (ie. gluten-free), including yummy gluten-free empanadas (see photo above).
Because they aren’t open for dinner (yet), late lunch on Sunday is when we typically go. It’s the perfect spot in the summer to enjoy the weather, the views, the food, and glass of their Rosé (which is lovely and not too sweet).
On Sundays they typically have an asado with fresh roast beast of some sort on the parrilla. You have to sit outside to order the asado: If you sit inside, then you will order from the menu. (That’s just their system!) We always sit inside as we prefer the menu.
In the winter, it can be chilly and dark (as is true of many Argentine restaurants), so we prefer to go when the weather is nice.
To find them: Head north from Cafayate towards San Carlos, taking your first left off of Ruta 40 (just after the turnoff to Ruta 68 to Salta) and follow the dirt road until you reach the big gates to Piattelli. You’ll be able to see the 50,000 square foot building on the hillside as you approach.
They are open all day until 6pm. You can call ahead to make reservations to eat (recommended during peak times) or for a tour of the winery. Phone: 03868 405881.
#2 Viñas de Cafayate
This could easily be our number one choice restaurant in Cafayate. Piattelli probably wins out just for the location.
This restaurant is located in the hotel, Viñas de Cafayate. It has the best service and some of the most creative food in Cafayate. It’s might be called Argentine with a slightly Asian twist, but that doesn’t really do it justice.
The wine menu is excellent, the blue cheese and onion empanadas are a must try, and don’t miss the desserts- the chocolate volcano is to die for. If you’ve wanted to try a humita (a regional dish of steamed cornmeal, like a tamale but not stuffed), then go for one here… they’re the best around. Really, though, there are no bad dishes at Viñas.
Another nice feature is that they open early for dinner (7:30pm). They also close early, so don’t expect to show up to sit down after 10:30pm or so. They are open for lunch daily.
The hotel is located 2 km west of town on the road to Divisadero (shown as 25 de Mayo on Google maps). Go straight west, just to the 90 degree turn in the road. The hotel is located on the right.
During busy times of year you should make reservations: They tend to hold the tables for their hotel guests, so when the hotel is full there might not be space. Website 3868 422272
#3 Bodega Nanni
Located within Bodega Nanni, one of the oldest wineries in Cafayate, is a tiny restaurant called Retoño. The food is fresh and delicious. All of the wines on the menu are the excellent, organic Nanni wines. Try the Bonarda, or Arcanus (if they have it), for a real treat.
This restaurant probably has the most charming atmosphere around. However, it is open air, which makes dinner in the winter too cold for our taste. [Update: As of August 2014 they have enclosed the dining space!] Service can be very slow, so plan on enjoying a leisurely meal.
Open daily for lunch and dinner. (Although during slow season they might be closed on Sundays.) You can walk in for lunch, but they require reservations for dinner. 3868 638465
Bodega Nanni is located just one block to the south east of the main plaza at Silverio Chavarria 151. Walk through the entry and into the courtyard to find the restaurant. Website
Terruño is a great spot, with friendly waiters, and consistently good food. Located right on the main plaza, it’s fun to sit outside when the weather is nice- and it’s warm inside when it’s too cold out.
They have great salads and fresh soups (try the spinach or calabaza squash soup), plus many, many other options from pasta to meat. They will give you two menus when you sit down (in addition to the wine menu) and you can order off either or both. (No idea how this came to be, but it’s been this way as long as we’ve been going.)
Look for them on the east side of the plaza. They are open daily for lunch, and for dinner from about 7:30pm to late. There’s lots of seating and we’ve never needed a reservation to get a table.
The owner, Enrique (aka Pelado, or baldy), is also the waiter, although his son and various friends are often there to cover him, or to pitch in when it gets busy.
Many have said that Baco has the best empanadas & pizza in Cafayate. We also enjoy the Tortilla Baco, which is a Spanish frittata of eggs packed with veggies. The choose-your-own salads are fresh and delicious too.
With just the one waiter and a small kitchen, don’t expect a fast meal. There is even a note on the menu reminding customers to be patient.
Baco is located just a block north of the northeast corner of the main plaza, on the corner of Rivadavia and Ruta 40.
A big plus is that they are open all day, from lunchtime til late (unless they just aren’t open, which happens very occasionally). It’s casual and easy, no reservations required. Great for kids and for large groups.
When we want a change of scenery, we head south from Cafayate to AltaLaLuna. The restaurant is located in the boutique hotel, surrounded by beautiful grounds and vineyards.
There are nice salads, vegetarian crepes, and an excellent wine list, in addition to various meat and pasta dishes. It’s a lovely setting. Be sure to sit outside on the veranda if it’s nice.
They are open for lunch and dinner daily. Because of the drive, it’s usually best to call ahead for dinner reservations, as they do fill up during the busy seasons. 387 461 0283 or 387 582 4501 Website
To get there: Drive 11 km south of Cafayate on Route 40, just past Tolombon. The hotel is on the right just as you are leaving the tiny town to the south.
#7 El Rancho
This is our go-to for an inexpensive and reliable meal. It’s a traditional Argentine parrilla, where the salads are basic (lettuce, tomato, onion, potato, beet, hard boiled egg- not mixed, but layered), the meat comes as a slab, and the chicken as either a quarter or half of a roasted chicken. They also have ‘cabrito’ (little goat) and conejo (rabbit), in addition to the ubiquitous empanadas, pasta dishes, and milanesas.
Nothing fancy, just good, basic food. We get the tortillas (Spanish veggie frittatas, not flour wraps!) and an ensalada completa. Our bill is always under $20US for two, and is usually closer to $13US for the both of us without wine (including the small cover fee per person that some restaurants in Argentina still charge).
Being a typical parrilla, they also have the normal grouchy Argentine service. Don’t take it personally, it’s just the way it is. Depending on when you go, you might get some live music.
El Rancho is located on the southeast corner of the main plaza, with outdoor seating that’s lovely when the weather is nice. Open for lunch and dinner. Closed Tuesdays (if we remember correctly).
In typical Argentine-fashion, they don’t open until 8:30 or 8:45pm- and even then, depending on their mood, they might ignore you until 9.
#8 Cafe El Sol
If you want a café for a quick bite (hamburgers, french fries, salads, fresh juices, coffee, wine), or drinks with friends or for business, then this is the best one in town.
It’s located on the east side of the main plaza, near Terruño. Check the signs as there are two cafés side-by-side, and although this one is a little less pretty than the other, the food is much better. Open all day.
#9 El Hornito
Want a really cheap and quick meal, and a taste of the ‘local’ experience?
Head west on Rivadavia about 4 or 5 blocks from Ruta 40 (around the 300 block) to find the Argentine parrilla, El Hornito, on your left.
They are open for lunch and dinner, with a sit-down menu and also a hot bar of prepared food items to choose from. They’ll heat them up and bring them to your table.
In addition to the standard meat and chicken, there are always a few vegetarian options, including the Spanish egg ‘tortillas’ and items such as stuffed veggie torte, stuffed potatoes, and more.
#10 La Estancia de Cafayate Clubhouse
Although it’s quite good- with typically very good service, in a beautiful setting- for various reasons we don’t actually go to this restaurant very often.
That said, they usually have multiple vegetarian options, and the creative chef changes the menu seasonally and uses ingredients straight from the kitchen’s garden. Sitting on the porch overlooking the valley is gorgeous, though less fun if it’s a cold or windy day.
The restaurant is located a couple of km south of Cafayate within the La Estancia de Cafayate real estate development. You’ll have to check in with the guard and tell them you want to eat at the restaurant. Then it’s a long winding drive (maybe 5 minutes from the entrance) to reach the Clubhouse. Open every day, except Mondays, until 6pm. (Though schedules may change without notice.)
#11 Pacha- Restaurant, Café and Bakery
A new restaurant in Cafayate. Owned and operated by Tomas, who was chef at Patios de Cafayate for years and also worked in the US and France. He and his wife Soleda bake pastries and fresh bread daily (the only real baguettes around).
The menu is quite international for Cafayate and includes popular items such as tacos. Not a lot of wine options, but feel free to take your own for a nominal corkage fee. Casual and small, very friendly and accommodating. The specials are always changing, and Tomas will be willing to adapt any recipe to your special dietary needs.
As of September 2015 the restaurant is open for dinner Wednesday-Saturday starting at 8pm. Open for lunch by reservation. They are often around from midday doing food prep and baking, so stop by to make a reservation for lunch or for dinner. Mondays they are closed. Eventually the aim is to go to a reservations only system (if they don’t have reservation, then they won’t be open)
Located right on the corner of Silverio Chavarría (aka Salta) and Belgrano, across from Hotel Munay and just down the street from the hotel Villa Vicuña. They also offer cooking classes, as well as special meals from time to time with unique themes such as sushi and champagne night.