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.
At the seaside, restaurants may open earlier. Il Tano in Punta del Diablo, thinking of families, opens from 6.30pm in the summertime.
- Tax-free eating For foreign visitors to Uruguay, if you pay with a credit card in restaurants you get the 22% VAT tax back
- Eating breakfast in the historic cafes of Ciudad Vieja (the Old City)
Please note that the reimbursement of the 22% VAT expired on March 31 🙁
Hi, the good news is that the automatic reimbursement is still valid. I can find no updates from the government however numerous guests of mine have been using their international creditcards and getting the 22% back automatically on their restaurant bills this month.
Nice article! One little correction though. We do eat late indeed, and we do love masitas also 🙂 however the real secret of hanging out all day until dinner is not masitas, it’s “mate”, the traditional (green) tea we drink all day long to the tune of a liter or two per person/day. That, and bizcochos. These are little baked goods resembling miniature croissants, danishes, and many other sweet and savory pastries. We do love masitas too, but we traditionally eat those at parties, birthdays, and new years/Christmas etc. Actually masitas are a lot like “petit fours” that french people eat during new years and similar festivities. People can go to school for several years to be trained and certified in the “construction” of masitas or bizcochos.
Thanks for taking the time to comment, Andres!
Thank YOU for hosting such awesome website about my native land! Super cool! I live in Illinois but I am actually coming to Montevideo for an international congress (of neuroethology). I took the liberty of posting a link to your website on the meeting’s website because your site will be undoubtedly very useful for the 400 or so folks that will descend on Montevideo next month. Thanks again!!!
Thank you so much, Andres! Our little guesthouse is just two blocks from the Radisson Hotel where the conference will take place, so if anyone is looking for accommodation, they should feel free to check out Casa Sarandi Guesthouse. Oh and of course, check out the Guru’Guay Facebook page for suggestions of great things to do in the evening while you are here.
There is mention of mate in this section so I thought I might ask for some advice in purchasing, not the mate itself but a calebasse and bombilla from a local artisan. Are there specialty shops or markets where I could look out for more interesting works?
We are always, always the first people to sit down in any restaurant. Maybe we need to try the merienda strategy – more food is always fine by me.
Thanks for starting the blog, it looks great and is already useful. Keep it up.