If you’re coming from Buenos Aires, you’ll realize that the cuisine in Montevideo is very similar to that in BA (lots of meat). That said, here are a few places I went to that I thought weren’t terrible and certainly worth it if you’re looking for something Uruguayan.
I didn’t realize this is some sort of chain restaurant but I think it’s a massive chain. I didn’t realize how many locations there were just on 28th de Julio street. I think I may have seen 3 on 3 consecutive blocks. Once you start looking for it, it’ll probably be all you see.
I went to the one next to the fountain with all the locks on it. It was ok but I didn’t understand why the servers didn’t clear any of the tables. I went in for a late lunch and although the place was deserted, it was pretty quiet. That said, it seemed like all the tables had trash and dirty plates from people who had already eaten, paid and left.
When I asked for a table, they just told me to sit wherever I wanted and after I sat down, someone came by to clear and clean the table. I didn’t get it but whatever. I ended up ordering a chivito (a Uruaguayan dish that I’d describe as cheesesteak sandwich with a lot more ingredients (like olives, hard boiled egg, and tomatoes). But here’s why I recommend this place. They have this horseradishy/vinegary mustard that I believe is only available at their stores. And it’s really good. It isn’t like yellow or deli mustard but has a bit of a bite to it. It’s certainly very good and worth the price of admission to try it.
A friend recommended this place to me and when I was meeting a mutual friend for dinner, we met here as well. This is a small restaurant that might seat 20 people if we include the outdoor area and bar area. It’s tiny. But the food they push out from that tiny kitchen is amazing. When I went, there were 3 of us and we ended up getting a number of dishes that we could all try. It was fantastic.
I would recommend coming here for lunch or an early dinner (we had gotten there around 9:30pm and it was pretty busy). That way you can enjoy the space without being cramped in. I can’t recommend one item on the menu because I don’t remember what was ordered. But I didn’t have a single bad bite there and I loved it. The drinks were also very popular (although I didn’t drink anything) and it seemed to be a fairly young and locals scene there. It is located a few blocks off the main street but it’s worth the stop if you’re in the area.
This is a café/restaurant located in on the main street of 28th de Julio and is right next to the fountain with all the padlocks. It’s the perfect place to stop for your afternoon tea or coffee and have something sweet like their churros with chocolate sauce, cake, or ice cream. I had their version of the chivito here as well and I thought it was ok.
It certainly has a touristy vibe to it and they were quick to ask if I wanted an English menu (which I gladly accepted) but there were also a lot of locals there as well. Some were sipping on their coffee and reading the paper while others were just enjoying an afternoon with their spouse or friends. In any case, I thought it was nice. It might be a little expensive (in the $10USD range) but I wasn’t mad.
I came here as my final dinner in Montevideo. I wanted to a steak and wanted to try something new as well. This is a block off the main street but it was popular with tourist and locals alike.
There are certain times where I wish I were traveling with someone. When menus offer a deal for 2 people where a nice variety of food comes out, that is one of those times. I was tempted to order the meal for 2 knowing full well that I wouldn’t come close to finishing it but I really did want to try everything. Instead I ordered NY strip and a chorizo and blood sausage on the side.
The chorizo sausage was fantastic and I loved every bite. The blood sausage was obviously softer but had so much flavor it’s hard to choose which one I liked better. I guess if I’m forced to pick, I’d say it was the chorizo.
Then came the steak which was cooked fine and with the chimichuri sauce they provide, it was great. The one thing I noticed was that they didn’t put salt and pepper on the tables in Montevideo so El Fogon was no exception. Sometimes, you do need some extra seasoning though and the chimichuri didn’t have the salt and pepper bite you kind of want in a steak.
Although I got there “early” by local standards (8pm ish) the place was jam packed with people by the time I left which was about 9pm. Every table and seat was filled with guests and I was glad I came when I did.
The whole meal was about $1000 which is about $30USD and I was impressed by the amount of food for the price point. A steak dinner like that would certainly cost a lot more in the US so I thought there was value there. That said, it isn’t the cheapest meal you’ll find so if you’re trying to find cheap eats, this probably isn’t your place.
Also, you’ll be tempted to eat at the Mercado Del Mercado located right off the docks at the start of the touristy part of the old city. You can’t miss it because you’ll see the smoke coming out and even better, smell the smoke and the meat cooking. The smell is absolutely intoxicating. But, the restaurants there know what they’re doing and know why you’re there. Walk around and look at all the different cuts of meat that are grilling on an open flame. But also be prepared to pay for that meal as well.
Well there you have it. These are my 4 places to check out if you’re in Montevideo. As much as I love going to local spots, I sometimes need to have things dumbed down for me. I appreciate a menu I can read in English even if it is touristy. The alternative is trying to figure out the menu or asking for a recommendation and to be honest, recommendations never turn out well. The person means well and isn’t doing anything to make my dining experience worse but many times, the person will just point to the most expensive thing on the menu or get the most “vanilla” of menu items ie pizza or spaghetti. It just doesn’t always turn out well. So go to Montevideo…enjoy some great food and try a chivito. It’s delicious.