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Forget those plastic replicas in the shopping centres. These are the real thing out in the neighbourhoods of Montevideo. It’s not going to be easy to find a seat during the World Cup with Uruguay playing and the country bordering World Cup host Brazil.

The classic venues are locally-owned fast food joints.

La Pasiva, El Mundo de la Pizza and Costa Azul have branches in Pocitos, Punta Carretas, Ciudad Vieja and Carrasco.

But if you are after character then you have to check out…

All day every day – La Marañada

La Marañada
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The old guys at the far end were clearly habitues. They got set up with an entire bottle of Johnny Walker as soon as they walked in. 12 noon.

La Marañada, Joaquín Requena 1394 almost Av. Rivera, Cordón Tel 2409 2517 is wholly dedicated to soccer. It has just been redecorated but the owner Hugo has fortunately kept most of the memorabilia that has clearly been hanging on the walls for decades. La Marañada has been dedicating itself to sport and carne since it was opened by a Spaniard in a garage over half a century ago ago. We’ve spotted sports journalists and the like holding court.

I have a lot of affection for this little parrilla. What to order? There are a bunch of Marañada specials for two people . A classic is steak and sweetmeats (entrecot y molleja) at 580 pesos including a side dish which is usually salad or fries or baked potato (sides are known as “guarnición”).

For larger groups, the parrillada familiar is an enormous mixed grill which can fill up anything between 4 and 7 people, depending on the voraciousness of their appetites and costs 990 pesos. It also includes guarnición.

La Marañada opens seven days a week from 11am till 4pm, and 7pm until closing. Hugo assures me that they will be staying open after 4pm if a match is still on.

Weekends and evening replays – El Golazo

El Golazo, Brito del Pino 1317 bis, Pocitos Tel 2707 3376 is Montevideo’s unofficial soccer HQ frequented by Uruguayan Football Association members and players. Last time we were there two pro basketball players, clearly from the US and playing in Uruguayan teams, were on the next table. They were mocking some bad move by a rival side on the TV.

"The Unfinishable" - a high-end mixed grill rarely experienced...
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“The Unfinishable” – a high-end mixed grill rarely experienced…

The brasero de carnes is a high-end mixed grill featuring FIVE choice beef cuts (picaña, ojo de bife, pulpa, entrecot and that old classic asado) and one lean pork cut (matambrito de cerdo). It’s been called “The Unfinishable” and I can testify, even our family of three voracious carnivores ends up with left-overs to take home. It costs about 950 pesos.

The Stella Artois is ice-cold and there are two big TV screens. Decor mixes local football and basketball shirts brought in by clients. The owner, Eduardo, supports two tiny local clubs – Liverpool and Goes.

Open every day including weekends from 8pm till midnight and from 12am midday on Saturday and Sunday. Eduardo is off to the World Cup himself and its unlikely that the staff, who have day jobs, will open up during the day midweek. So visit El Golazo for replays and weekend matches and soak up the atmosphere.

I’m a vegetarian. What should I order?

Check out the roasted stuffed pepper (morrón relleno), which is often not on the menu, but if you request it can be rustled up in a jiffy. It comes with melted cheese and olives and ham. To get it without the ham order “Un morrón relleno sin jamón” (oon mo-RON ray-ZHE-no seen ha-MON – I’ve given you the Uruguayshan pronunciation).

I live on air. Where can I watch for free?

If you are just after atmosphere, the best place to watch the World Cup will be the esplanade of the Intendencia de Montevideo on the main avenue 18 de julio. The Uruguay games will all be shown there and the avenue will likely be closed and the streets packed. All Uruguay games as well as the semi-finals and final will be shown there too. How to get there  (google map).

Did you know that Uruguay is the most successful international footballing nation ever?
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