Eating out in Montevideo

By Karin Ledl
Karin Ledl
Montevideo may be a small city compared to Buenos Aires or New York. But when it comes to going out to eat, there are still many options.

It’s not easy to choose between the varied Montevideo restaurants offering  French, Italian, Armenian, Mexican or even Indian cuisine.

And that’s not counting the local “parrilla” (barbeque restaurant) and an array of other possibilities for any taste and budget.

Though it’s impossible to review all of the good restaurants in Montevideo, I will offer you some of my personal favorites.

But first, I would like to introduce you to the typical local cuisine, the “parrilla”.

The typical “parrilla” foods
The meat barbeque restaurant or “parrillada” is without a doubt, the most important local fare.

Red meat, chicken or pork; vegetables and stuffed potatoes; everything is cooked on a grill over wood coals.  (Be warned that if you order your meat “well done” it may arrive to your table almost charcoaled.)

A typical “brasero” or barbeque for two usually includes the tender cuts of steak (Bife de chorizo), Flank steak (Tira de asado), Fillet (pulpa) and pieces of chicken.

There is usually also sausages (chorizos) and blood sausages (morcillas –you choose between sweet with raisins or savory), served alongside grilled kidney (riñon), intestines (chinchulin) and sweetbread (molleja) on a large platter with hot coals underneath to keep the feast warm.

The large meal is traditionally accompanied with a salad and fries. But if that is too much, it is also possible to order just a steak or a chicken breast with a tomato cut in half that is sprinkled with oregano (tomate a la rueda).

When dessert time arrives, the “Postre Gaucho” (cheese and a thick quince paste) or a “flan con dulce de leche” (sweet custard with caramel sauce) is surely going to satisfy most anyone with a sweet tooth.

Parilla at the Mercado del Puerto - image by Karin Ledl

Montevideo parrilla restaurants

La Perdiz (Guipuzcoa 350, tel: 2711-8963; every day 12:30 pm - 3:30 pm, and 8 pm - midnight) is said to be one of Montevideo´s best parrillas. It has a relaxed atmosphere and moderate prices, but is usually full, so you should definitely make a reservation. For the less carnivore inclined, there’s also excellent pasta dishes and good grilled fish.

Inside the Mercado del Puerto - by K. Ledl
Mercado del Puerto (Market of the Port) 
You will find a lot of parrillas gathered inside and around the market near the port. Though tourists abound, most parillas here are good choices. Amongst them are:

El Palenque (Perez Castellano 1579, tel: 2917-0190; Mon. - Sat. noon - 1am; Sun. noon - 5pm) which offers both parrilla and fish choices.

Estancia del Puerto (inside the Mercado) offers a feast not only for the taste buds, but also for the eyes. A huge barbecue over a big fire is commanded by the same chef or “parrillero” for more than 14 years. 

The smells of meats, pork and roasted boniatos (sweet potatoes) start to entice from afar. This is my personal favorite, and I like to sit at the bar area around the barbecue fire. There’s also another area with tables that may be more comfortable, and in summer definitely fresher as it is air conditioned.

Both Argentina and Uruguay dispute the title of the best parrilla in the world. In front of the World Trade Center, La Vaca (26 de Marzo 3572, tel. 2622-5077) which literally means “the cow”, is co-owned by three Argentine and Uruguayan friends who decided to solve the dilemma and offer the best possible meat on the market. To a large extent, this promise is fulfilled in their generous portions and excellent service.

Montevideo International cuisine

In the early 20th century, many small bars/general stores (bar/almacen) opened in Montevideo. The space was divided by an imaginary line between the area where men could have a whisky or a gin sitting at small tables, and another area for buying everyday necessities for the local families.

Café Bar Tabare (Zorilla de San Martin 152, tel: 2712-3242, Mon. – Sat. 8 pm - 2:00 am) is one of the survivors of those early bars. It was founded in 1919, and in those days some celebrities, like tango singer Carlos Gardel, was often seen having a gin or a “cañita” (sugar cane liquor) and then sometimes offering an impromptu concert.

Today the Café Bar Tabare is also a restaurant, but most of its interior is still original--like the marble table where the groceries were sold and the wooden floors. The food is good, but here, it's the ambiance which captures most patrons.

A small restaurant that is definitely worth mentioning is Sucre Sale (Boulevar Artigas 1229, Mon. - Wed. 9 am - 8 pm, Thurs. and Fri. 9 am - midnight, tel: 2402-7779; no credit cards accepted).

Located inside the Alliance Francaise, it is easy to overlook. But that would be regretful, since chef and owner Hugo Soca, who is a professor at Gato Dumas culinary school, prepares amazing fresh creations every day--mostly French cuisine.

I have rarely tasted a Coq au vin better than here. The décor is spartan, but the food is wonderful. Leave some space for dessert: his meringue tarts and chocolate and maracuja creations are a welcome grand finale to any meal.

If the mood strikes for American style food, there is no better place than Man vs food (Claudio Williman 611 at the corner of Francisco Ros). This restaurant prides itself of huge portions, so go hungry. You will find many expats and a fun, relaxed atmosphere.

If you are out for a luxurious dining experience in Montevideo, Rara Avis (Buenos Aires 652, tel: 2915-0330; Mon. – Fri. Noon - 4 pm and 8 pm - 2:00 am; Sat. 10 pm - 2:00 am) provides the best setting in town.

This opulent restaurant is located by the Solis Theater. Definitely a formal dining experience (the rooftop garden offers a slightly less formal option). It is expensive, but the impeccable service and food add to the glamorous feeling.

If you would like to absorb the settings at a lower cost, the bar is open Monday through Friday from noon until 2:00 am and Saturday from 8 pm until 2:00 am.

Montevideo Italian 

Da Pentella (Luis de La Torre 598, tel: 2712-0981, every day 8:30 pm - closing, and Fri., Sat. and Sun. noon - 4 pm) is a small restaurant with lots of character – just like the Italian food they serve.

Chef Marcelo Banchieri, who studied in Vancouver, Canada and Italy, offers not only the typical pasta but also lighter dishes, like the fish of the day with vegetables and quinoa. However, the King Craw ravioli are still the star of the menu. The ambiance is relaxed and the service friendly.

Fellini´s  (Jose Martí 3408 at the corner of Benito Blanco, Pocitos; tel: 2706-9252) is also a small but charming restaurant, usually brimming full and maybe a little loud, but definitely a fun place. Pasta dishes are good, but what is surely worth trying is the “semifreddo di amaretto”, a dreamy dessert made of almonds and ice cream.

Montevideo sushi, Asian and fusion cuisine

Located on the World Trade Center plaza is Bamboo (2628-0002, Mon to Wed 9:00 am - midnight Thurs. - Sat. 9:00 am - 2:00 am) which offers good rolls and sushi.

Bar 62 (Miguel Barreiro 2592, tel: 2707-3022; every day 10:00 am - 2:00 am, except Sunday 10:00 am -4 pm) got its unusual name from the trolley bus line 62 that had a stop directly in front of the door for many years. 

It is housed in an old building and boasts an original antique marble top counter. The sushi is excellent, and the cocktails there are known as one of the best libations in town.

In the Pocitos area, Sacramento (Williman 594, tel; 2710-0245) offers a fusion of Peruvian and Uruguayan sensations and flavors. The salmon ceviche is, in my opinion, even better than the one I had at “La Rosa de los Vientos”, the most popular restaurant in Lima.

The secret lies in cutting the fish into the smallest possible pieces so that it absorbs the maximum of the marinade flavors. Paired with an impeccable Pisco sour, it makes for a beautiful dinner. In the basement, there’s the wine cave with slightly more moderate prices.

Café Misterio (Rivera 1700 corner Costa Rica, Carrasco, tel: 2600- 6211) may be located a bit out of the way in Carrasco –but the food is well worth the trip. The atmosphere is lovely and relaxed, and the sushi is excellent as well as the various meat and fish dishes. At night, little candles adorn the tables, lending to its intimate and romantic air.

Montevideo Ethnic Cuisine

Contrary to what the name seems to suggest, Tandoory (Massini corner of Libertad, tel: 709-6616, lunch Tues. - Fri. 12:30 pm - 3 pm, and dinner Mon. - Sat. 8:30 pm to closing), serves not only Indian food but also an array of other selections, many from Middle Eastern influences.

When available, the Madrid style tripe and the Oxtail in a red wine reduction are definitely worth trying. The Wine Cave is ample and well stocked, and the chef comes to each table to comment on the day’s specials and to listen to patron’s suggestions.

Finally, if the mood strikes you for German food, Carrasco offers one of the very few options. Dackel (Gabriel Otero 6438, tel: 2600-6211) opened in 1969 and has ever since been a classic spot for Kassler (pork chops), Sauerkraut and Apfelkuchen (apple pie). Unchanged for the last 42 years, its vintage feeling adds to the charm of this hidden gem.

Whatever choice and preference you have, I hope that this introduction to some of the available food options has been useful to you, and that you will enjoy many wonderful meals in Montevideo!

This post, first published in 2011, was updated and revised by Karin Ledl in 2016. Karin is an author and co-host of the cable show, Montevideo Night. 


Anonymous said...

Hi Karin,

Thanks for this excellent article! As someone considering a move to Montevideo, it would be extremely helpful to know prices of restaurants. What is "moderate?" How much were your bills as the lower priced, medium priced and expensive places, including wine, tax and tip?

Thanks so much for your work!


Karin Ledl said...

Hi Steve,
Thank you...I am happy you liked my article! About the pricing, I considered an average of each place and classified them therefore in low, middle and high end. I´d say high priced would be any restaurant with prices over 25 dollars a main dish plate, mid priced would be anything between 10-25 US$ and low priced under U$10. The tip here is 10%, taxes are included in the price. Some restaurants have a cover charge, called "cubierto" which is about 3 to 5 dollars. You find this cubierto in any of the three categories and it is subjective and up to each restaurant to charge it or not, there is not a fixed rule. It ususally is stated in small print at the bottom of the menu. About the wines, many low priced places will have a house table wine priced comparably to water or soda (2 to 3 dollars), and bottles of wine from 200 pesos (about 10 dollars) and up. Wines in medium to high priced restaurants will usually cost more, from 12-15 U$S upward and up to over 50 dollars. For instance, a champagne bottle and a sushi plate for two at Asia de Cuba will cost about 60 U$S, without the tip. I hope this was useful and if you come to Uruguay don´t forget to join us at the weekly and monthly expat meetings! You can check out the exact dates on this same blog. We will be happy to meet you there. Cheers and enjoy!

Alvise said...

Hi Karin, thanks for your interesting article. It reminds me of my visit in Urugay a dozen years ago. The mercado del puerto is such a characteristic place, I've never seen something like it elsewhere. And the whole Montevideo is a charming town. I have been eating at "El Palenque" when I visited Montevideo, and I confirm that the cuisine was excellent and the price cheap (compared to Europe). Regards from Alvise (Rome, Italy)

Anonymous said...

Hola Karin'
I have been following your blog and find it very interesting. I am considering a realestate purchasein Uraguay, but I see mostly information on the the Atlantic side of the country. Is there a website that shows Uruguay areas other than Montevideo and Punta Del Este?

I would like to be near fresh water and possibly at a bit higher elevation. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Oh, by the way, your article on the restaruants has made be hungry - Thanks.

Paradise Uruguay said...

Dear Bob,
Thank you for your comment. I am glad you liked the article on restaurants.

In regard to properties - almost half of the population of Uruguay lives in Montevideo, and Punta del Este is one of the continent's most popular resort (with a growing full time population). These two areas are the most popular with expats coming to the country, so we tend to focus on them the most.

Uruguay does not have mountains, but there is a lovely range of hills that extend from Piriapolis on the coast, inland to Minas.

There is a large lake near Punta del Este called "Laguna del Sauce" that is located within this area of hills, and might be just the spot you are looking for.

Thanks for reading the blog! Karin