Many visitors come to Uruguay to slow down. The country is most famous for its white sand beaches where you can lie by the Atlantic, legal marijuana if the sand and sun don’t quite relax you enough, and a food culture that centers on nap-inducing meats. Life is calm here, which makes it a perfect family destination. It’s often said that global culture changes come to Uruguay about 20 years late.
The capital, Montevideo, is a bit of a different story. The relaxed, family-oriented vibe is there in residential neighborhoods such as Carrasco, Punta Gorda, Parque Rodó, or Palermo, where it’s still common to find children playing on the sidewalk during the day. But the center of the city is far livelier, especially the constantly expanding culinary scene. A miles-long river path offers access to the coolest neighborhoods, making it easy to explore the coastal metropolis. Classic restaurants such as García, El Palenque, or Café Misterio share space with contemporary operations like De Morondanga and República. Even among the art deco and midcentury modern architecture of the Old City, you’ll find plenty of trendy cafes and new restaurants taking up residence in historic buildings.
This is a meat-eating country, and there are more parrillas (steakhouses) than any other type of restaurant. Cuts from the entire cow, from guts to tail, are cooked over wood fires, very close to the flame, in keeping with centuries of tradition. However, in the last decade, a new generation has begun to change the culinary scene. The trendiest spots focus on small plates, or raciones, while sourdough bakeries and restaurants focusing on vegetables and fish are becoming more popular each day. When in doubt, find yourself a chivito, the king of late-night, post-bar food, which Anthony Bourdain described as “the apex of the sandwich making arts.”
Based in Montevideo, Uruguay, Marcela Baruch is a journalist, food critic, and sommelier. She contributes to a variety of international publications, is the co-author of three books, and can be found blogging at PeregrinaGourmet.com.Read More