“Open the doors to Buenos Aires or Rosario,” at Malbec Argentine Steakhouse
Walter Aragonez brings Argentina to Center City Philadelphia through authentic food and flavors.
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When Walter Aragonez first migrated to the United States from Argentina in 1999, he worked as a graphic designer.
But it was his lifelong dream to one day open an Argentine restaurant.
Along with his best friend Daniel Sollosqui and his wife Miriam Sorto, Aragonez spent several years working in the restaurant industry in New York City.
Hard work was the name of the game as he kept his eye on achieving that dream.
In 2015, Aragonez came to Philadelphia, and opened Malbec Argentine Steakhouse, effectively turning that dream into a reality.
Located on the corner of 2nd Street in Society Hill, Malbec features a robust menu of popular Argentine dishes.
“We try to transmit our Argentine culture through the food,” Aragonez told AL DÍA.
He continued, adding that the goal is, “you open the door, you feel like you opened the door of a restaurant in Rosario [his native city] or Buenos Aires, Argentina.”
Aragonez saw an opportunity to bring authentic Argentine flavors to his new home, something he felt was missing from the Philadelphia food scene.
The recipes are from his parents, the ingredients are fresh, and all the food is made after the customer puts in the order.
“We don’t pre-cook,” said Aragonez. “We try to make the food at the moment that you order it.”
If he had to pick a single most popular option at Malbec, Aragonez would say it’s the empanadas.
Customers are able to select the typical beef and chicken options. However, those who don’t prefer meat can have the choice of spinach, mushroom, or shrimp & cheese empanadas.
While meat is very prominent in Argentine cuisine, Malbec is very flexible in also providing customers with vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options whenever necessary.
“We try to serve the customer like they are not at a restaurant, but like if they are in my house,” said Aragonez.
Each year, Malbec has participated in the annual Center City District Restaurant Week, where popular dining establishments offer three-course meals to customers at a discounted price.
This year, Malbec’s Restaurant Week brunch menu included empanadas as an appetizer; a variety of omelets & sandwiches for the main course; and a choice between tres leches and flan de coco for dessert.
For dinner, first-course appetizers include a choice between empanadas, chorizo or polenta frita (fried polenta sticks); the second-course entree gives customers an option between steak, pechuga de pollo a las brasas (grilled chicken breast), milanesa malbec (thinly cut, breaded and lightly fried beef or chicken), and salmon a la parrilla (grilled salmon marinated in citrus herbs); with similar dessert options of tres leches (sponge cake with three kinds of milk) and flan de coco (homemade coconut flan accompanied by dulce de leche).
“Restaurant Week is a nice option for the restaurant and for customers,” Aragonez said.
For customers, it provides them with the opportunity to try different cultural cuisines, while the restaurant gets more exposure, and in the process, gains new customers.
Like many businesses — restaurants, notwithstanding — navigating the pandemic has been a challenge.
However, Aragonez is grateful for the help of the city, his customers, and hard-working staff, for allowing Malbec to keep its doors open amid these challenging times.
Whether it’s trying authentic Argentine cuisine, enjoying the atmosphere and ambiance of soft Latin music, being taken aback by the works of art plastered on the walls, participating in wine-tasting opportunities, or watching significant sporting events — including the 2022 World Cup, where Argentina became World Cup champions — Malbec has something for everyone.
Check out Malbec Argentine Steakhouse at 400 S 2nd Street. They are open Tuesday to Thursday from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m.; and Sundays from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. Happy hour is 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. each day.