Three choices, all completely different one from the other, and not a parrilla in sight.
Reconquista 587 Tel: 2915 6852
Craving veggies? This lunch-time restaurant serves more creative food than the usual Uruguayan steak, including vegetarian dishes and good home-made soups. Be prepared to wait for a table if you go after 1pm.
It is located a lovely, colonial building with a central courtyard. La Pasionaria also includes a gift and book shop specialising in unusual gifts by local designers and crafts people and a boutique featuring Uruguayan designers . Rossana the owner speaks great English and is very knowledgeable about Uruguayan art and design.
Ciudadela on the corner of Canelones
You’ll never get a bigger, tastier meal for less in Montevideo. This hole-in-the-wall cantina (and I say that as someone who loves holes-in-the-wall) looks out over the rambla and has tables and chairs outside whatever the weather.
Uruguay’s “folksy” president Pepe Mujica came here for lunch on his first day in office. Perhaps it was because he appears to have been separated at birth from waiter Juan Carlos.
Food specialities are oven-roasted meats and pasta. For meat I recommend the ternera (chunk of veal) or asado (ribs). Sides include roasted potatoes and sweet potatoes as well as the usual Uruguayan side dishes. Pasta lovers rave about the abundant canelones – one plate is usually enough for two to share.
Santa Catalina is usually crowded with young people sitting outside drinking ice-cold beer, especially in the evenings. The adjoining Ronda Cafe and Bluzz Bar just around the corner makes this location especially popular with 20 and 30 somethings. We have tried to pin the owners down on opening and closing times but to no avail. They tell us they are open 24 hours a day except Sundays however, with no notice at all Santa Catalina may be closed for the day and twice a year for the entire month (usually January and October as far as we can calculate) – leaving us desolate.
Bartolome Mitre 1386 between Sarandi and Rincón Tel: 2915 3231
This place stands out for its elegant art-deco building, its adventurous “urban cuisine” and the excellent price of their set menu.
Good-size portions, extremely fresh fish, unusual vegetable servings such as fresh pea purée. The set menu has three courses including a drink for 800 pesos.
The art-deco building is an ex-police station and the bathrooms downstairs are where the cells used to be! Dueto is open Monday to Saturday for lunch and dinner.
At our guesthouse literally dozens of our guests have insisted that we include Dueto in our recommendations – we had one Colombian couple who loved it so much they ate there three times in two days – each time choosing different dishes from the set menu!
I haven’t included the infamous Mercado del Puerto which The Guardian once described as “Disneyland for carnivores” because despite the fact that I love the atmosphere, it is one of the most expensive places to eat meat in Montevideo. That would be fine, but I have have not eaten consistently well at any one stand. If you are going to pay top dollar, you expect great food, right?
So, I tend to recommend people to go but choose something like morrón relleno (grilled red pepper stuffed with cheese, olives and optional ham) or some of that great offal which I started to eat after I got to Uruguay, and then go elsewhere for your main course.
However if someone does have a recommendation for a stand in the Mercado where you have consistently eaten well, I will be the first to go try it!