What's the best thing about being a food writer? The eating, of course. But coming in at a close second is getting to know the chefs, bartenders and restaurateurs who make your city delicious. And that's not just because friends who love to cook are always feeding you — they also always know where to eat. The food scene in Buenos Aires is young and evolving, with more innovative projects popping up all the time. The savviest way to explore it is to ask the ones leading the way.

The Chef: Andres Plotno, Owner and Head Chef, El Zanjón del Gato

Photo by Kevin Vaughn

Plotno is the young chef behind the innovative San Telmo bar that turns all the norms of running a small brewery on its head. He did away with the usual greasy fare served alongside craft beer and opted instead for a seasonal menu that values fresh produce and meats rarely seen in casual establishments — pickled chorizo and deep-fried quail, anyone?

The Place: Parrilla Peña

“If I had to choose just one spot it would be Parrilla Peña. I love everything about that place — from the wine list to the beef empanada that they give you as a starter. And the meat, obviously. That goes without saying. The meal of champions is a bife de chorizo (sirloin strip), ensalada mixta (simple salad), French fries topped with garlic and parsley and a chorizo.”

The Chef: German Sitz, Co-Owner and Chef, La Carcineria and Chori

Although nearly every aspect of Argentine cuisine has been experimented with over the last half-decade, one tradition seemingly remained too sacred to touch: the asado. That is, until German Sitz and his partner, Pedro Peña, opened La Carniceria, a modern parrilla that puts twists on dishes found at weekend barbecues, giving them flavors a traveled palate will appreciate.

The Place: Peron Peron

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Sitz's go-to is another hyper-Argentine restaurant, Peron Peron: “I love going to Peron Peron because it really tastes like food made at home. The dishes are very typical Argentine food that your grandma would make you. The tripe stew and empanadas are my favorites.”

The Chefs: Nico and Matias Totake, Chefs, Nueva Casa Japonesa

Photo by Kevin Vaughn

Nico mans the kitchen as head chef of Nueva Casa Japonesa, turning out a small selection of ramen and udon. His brother Matias pops in from time to time to experiment with new dishes and build what will hopefully become a permanent fixture on the menu: high-quality nigiri.

The Places: Matsuoka and Niji

Nico's pick is the traditional sushi house Matsuoka: “Juan Matsuoka was one of the first sushi chefs in Buenos Aires. He started out in the '90s and has always respected quality ingredients and traditional techniques over the fusion that is popular here.” Matias's is Niji, a mother-daughter enterprise that functions out of a hidden-away home in Belgrano. "Keiko Kawakami came from Japan with a very clear vision to cook food that is eaten every day in Japan. The care she takes in her food is spectacular."

The Chef: Moises Dagui, Owner and Head Chef, Vinotinto Cocina Andante

Dagui worked in kitchens across his native Venezuela, the United States and Buenos Aires before opening his modern rotiseria, a neighborhood takeout joint where he switched out standard milanesa and fries for a healthy menu that changes daily.

The Place: Gran Dabbang

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Dagui's choice is conveniently located just blocks from his own restaurant, and happens to be the most popular restaurant among the chefs I asked. Gran Dabbang is a small eatery that started a craze for small-dish menus with its fusion of Indian and Southeast dishes done with a South American twist. “It is a restaurant that never ceases to surprise me. I love it,” Dagui said. Although the menu has evolved since its 2014 opening, Dagui recommends the two classic dishes — lamb curry and pakora.

The Chef: Clara Inés, Co-Owner and Cook, Matambre Comida Salvaje

Photo by Kevin Vaughn

Inés caught our attention earlier this year with the "choriburger," a delectable chorizo and ground beef burger. Matambre kept us coming back with a menu of handhelds — none of the dishes require utensils.

The Place: Mishiguene

Inés said that she felt an ideological kinship to her friends at El Zanjón del Gato. But her experience at Mishiguene, a contemporary restaurant in Palermo serving cuisine of the Jewish diaspora, has yet to be duplicated. “I went expecting to travel to a faraway land, but what happened was me finding something within myself," she says. "Nostalgia is my favorite emotion, although it is one that is difficult to create, and that is exactly what happened with [head chef] Tomás Kalika. When I tried the ice cream I felt like I was back home with my father in the middle of winter reliving the presence of someone I love so much with something as ‘simple’ as a plate of food. Saying thank you to them wasn’t nearly enough.”

The Chef: Pablo Park, Owner and Head Chef, Kyopo

Photo by Kevin Vaughn

In the neighborhood of Floresta lives a vibrant Korean-Argentine community with a secretive and traditional dining scene. After working in Vancouver and Seoul, the second-generation Argentine Pablo Park opened a contemporary restaurant that joins flavors from the United States, Mexico and East Asia.

The Place: Elena

Park's pick is the Four Seasons restaurant famous for its dry-aged beef: “I don’t have a lot of time to eat out, so although I like to try new restaurants we usually end up returning to Elena. I know a lot of the cooks and the quality of the food and service is always perfect.”

The Chef: Diego Fanti, Head Pizzero, Cosi Mi Piace

Photo by Kevin Vaughn

Earlier this year, Cosi Mi Piace joined the ranks of pizzerias that offer a throwback to traditional Italian pies over the thick-crusted, cheese-heavy porteña pizza. With a hydroponic garden upstairs to grow fresh herbs and produce and Argentina’s first factory to make chocolate from the bean soon to open, it’s worth a visit.

The Place: Alo's

Fanti, who also shared his admiration of Gran Dabbang for “the obvious talent of chef Mariano Ramon,” ultimately settled on Alo’s, a small farm-to-table restaurant in an isolated suburb just outside of the city. “Alejandro Feraud made his way in a very difficult time with a lot of passion and will. That’s really what the restaurant is about: passion. And you can see it. The menu changes constantly and is completely renovated every season, but the dishes stay in your memory forever.”

The Chef: Javier Criado, Head Chef, Aramburu

Criado recently joined the team at Aramburu, one of Latin America’s most consistently highly ranked restaurants and the city’s first to exclusively feature a tasting menu. After wrapping up a night at the disarming bistro, which features an 18-course tasting menu, he heads to nearby El Zanjón del Gato.

The Place: El Zanjón del Gato

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“They know me there and I always feel at home. It’s a relaxed place and they really treat everyone very well. And, of course, they have a menu with quality dishes at really good prices. I almost always order the beet salad with Patagonzola cheese and honey. The draft is all craft beer, which is another must for me.”

By Kevin Vaughn

When Kevin isn't writing about Buenos Aires food and culture, he's guiding travelers to Buenos Aires with his intimate arts and lifestyle tours via Buenos Aires Art Tours. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.