Mealtimes in Uruguay and restaurant opening hours are similar to those in Argentina – breakfast and lunch at “normal” times and what can appear to be a shockingly late dinner.
But read on, and I’ll help you get aclimatised.
Restaurant opening hours
Breakfast* – around 9am until about 11am. Though it is possible to find some restaurants in more commercial neighbourhoods like Ciudad Vieja and Centro opening around 7.30am. Hotel restaurants of course open early.
Lunch – from 12 noon until 3pm. The locals will arrive at 1pm so to avoid waiting for a table arrive before then. Most restaurants stop serving by 3.30 or 4pm.
Dinner – from 8pm till closing. Uruguayans typically go out for dinner at 9.30 mid-week and even as late as 11pm on weekends. So you can get served from 8pm but expect to be the only people in the place for the next couple of hours! Closing hours in a popular restaurant midweek may be about 1am and later on weekends.
Restaurant schedules – check Facebook
In Uruguay, restaurants and shops tend to use Facebook for their marketing. So if you want to check up on opening times of a given restaurant rather than TripAdvisor, visit their Facebook page which they are much more likely to keep updated.
Do I need to make a reservation at a restaurant in Montevideo?
Very few restaurants will even take reservations – perhaps because of the nation’s infamous lack of punctuality. So if you want to get a table straight away at a popular place, get there before the locals ie by noon for lunch or 8pm for dinner and problem solved.
You may be surprised to hear, given the late dining hours that the typical Uruguayan work day is 9am till 5pm with just an hour break for lunch.
So how do they do it, these Uruguayans? How can they eat dinner so late?
The secret is that on their way home from work they’ll typically stop off at a bakery or fancier confiteria (a cake shop – they don’t usually sell bread) to pick up something for their merienda (tea-time).
This is typically bizcochos (savoury pastries) or masitas (sweet ones), which they’ll scarf down with mate or coffee. Then they’ll take an hour-long nap. And then it’s time for dinner!
When in Rome…
While you’re in Montevideo, I’d definitely recommend you get into the same habit – wicked early evening snack, delicious siesta, decadently-late dinner – that way you can take advantage of all the shows and music, which also start 9pm at the earliest and often much later.