On the Uruguayan coasts the gastronomy occupies a place almost as important as the beaches: there are located two of the national undertakings that integrate the prestigious ranking “Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants”, dozens of choices for where to enjoy the Uruguayan seafood, varied options to try (and fall in love) with the chivito, without missing the pizzas and snacks, paired with wines -the tannat is the national classic-, Uruguayan craft beers and summer cocktails.
In summer (from December to February) the options are multiplied with proposals “golondrinas” that only open for the season, but most of the places we have decided to recommend here are open all year, so that you can enjoy them during whichever month you choose to visit.
IN THE PENINSULA
Lo de Tere is located in the Port designed for demanding palates and pockets / Photo courtesy of Lo de Tere
Uruguay is not left out of the international trend of craft beers and Capi Bar (Calle 27 between Av. Gorlero and calle 24, Tel. 4243 8103) has its own production, under the Capitan Beer label, added to other national variants such as Davok, Volcánica and Cabesas. The gastronomic options to combine them include pizzas, salads, hamburgers, chivitos, calamari, ceviche and fish. Located across the street, the Bigote Food Truck Garage (27th Street between Gorlero Ave. and 24th Street) offers a covered food patio with food trucks, where you can choose between pizzas -in the traditional form or in cones-, chivitos, hamburgers, sandwiches , salads and other fast food selections. Both establishments frequently include live music. Also a casual and moderately priced option is Olivia Restó (Calle 21 and Rambla Artigas, Tel. +598 4244 5121), located half a block from the Port: from its terrace you can have lunch or dinner overlooking the bay.
More demanding palates and pockets will find in the Port to Lo de Tere (Rambla Artigas (Mansa) between streets 19 and 21, Tel. +598 4244 0492), with an author’s menu under the charge of the chef María Elena Marfetán, who combines products of season, the best Uruguayan meats and a carefully selected fish and seafood. There you can eat a la carte, or select a menu of five, six or seven courses. Another favorite option among local gourmets is Cuatro Mares “Four Seas” (Calle Capitán Miranda, 2 de Febrero Street, Tel. +598 4244 8916), located very close to Punta del Este’s lighthouse. As the name suggests, the specialty is fish and seafood; and also offers tapas, ideal for those who want to try a variety of flavors accompanied by a caipirinha or glass of wine.
Chivipizza is the youthful, economic and relaxed option of Boulevard Gourmet / Source
On the corner of Roosevelt and Pedragosa Sierra avenues, near the shopping center Punta Shopping, a circuit known as Boulevard Gourmet was born due to the concentrated quantity and variety of gastronomic proposals; Every so often, gastronomic fairs take place in which restaurants and cafes open stands on the streets with lower prices: check with your hotel or Google to find out when the next one will take place!
The restaurant La Bourgogne (Av. Pedragosa Sierra and Av. Del Mar, Tel. 4248 2007) is located in this area, by French chef Jean Paul Bondoux, and has the privilege of being part of the prestigious “Latin America’s 50 Best” ranking. It is not suitable for all budgets, but it ensures a unique experience.
On the other side of the island, economic and relaxed is Chivipizza (Pedragosa Sierra, San Ciro, Tel. +598 4247 7777), ideal for trying Uruguayan chivito accompanied by fresh drinks such as caipirinhas, daikiris or frozen mojitos.
If your wish is to enjoy an afternoon snack or a good coffee after the beach, you will not be disappointed by the Felix Caffè (Pedragosa Sierra and Av. Del Mar, Tel. +598 4248 3125). There complete tea for two includes scones, hot sandwiches, cakes, tartlets and cakes, all prepared on sites. These delights can be enjoyed inside the, in their garden – they offer warm blankets for cool evenings – and they also offer the food to-go. If your plan is a tea-dinner, there are also sandwiches, omelets, cocktails, wines and sparkling wines.
Chef Fernando Trocca is the creator of the exquisite menu at La Cantina del Vigía / Source
Punta del Este has a reputation for high prices and among the regular vacationers it is common to travel on several evenings to the city of Maldonado to enjoy a more economical menu. In the last decade there have been options for great gastronomic quality that make the visit worthy beyond just the pricing, such as La Cantina del Vigía (Zelmar Michelini 744 Tel. +598 4226 8075), located in front of the homonymous square of late eighteenth century. Owned by Agustín Benítez and Federico Desseno -the latter is also the creator of the restaurant “Marismo” in José Ignacio-, and with a menu designed by chef Fernando Trocca, La Cantina del Vigía has two wood-fired ovens from which “delights of the sea and the countryside” come out of. Even the American media chef Anthony Bourdain visited here and recommended it on his television show!
Another recommendation, located a few steps away, is the Segundo Almacen del Caballito (Zelmar Michelini 819, Rafael Pérez del Puerto, Tel +598 4227 2108). There you can enjoy a barbecue, potato omelet, mussels, calamari, horderves, salads and milanesas: in the Rio de la Plata we are fanatics of Milanesas and tend to integrate them into the weekly menu of most Uruguayans!
In Maldonado it is also worth visiting Macachín (Santa Teresa 619 bis Tel. +598 94 102 776), a restaurant that emphasizes the creative combination of local ingredients. Examples? Camembert cheese injected with homemade liquor guava (native fruit of Uruguay), gizzards with champagne sautéed in olive oil, corvina ceviche with yellow arazá or kidneys cooked in tannat over a bed of potatoes.
OVER THE BRIDGE
The Parador La Huella is one of the must-see spots in José Ignacio, located right in front of the sea / Source
After crossing the undulating bridge of the Maldonado stream, which leads to La Barra, the main street (route 10) will tempt you with multiple proposals, but you will have to leave a few blocks if you want to discover the secrets of the locals. One of them is Elmo (Calle Los Bonitos, El Cinto, Manantiales, Tel. +598 94 069 111), a relaxed place where wood predominates and at night it receives the diner with soft lighting, soft music and a clay oven. from which come homemade pizzas and pastas; Elmo also stands out in seafood dishes, and has in the dessert menu one of the best sweet milk volcanoes that can be tasted in Uruguay.
Further east, at La Juanita spa, Juana Cocina Bar (Atalaya street, Hector Soria square, José Ignacio, Tel. +598 4486 2639) is an unpretentious homestyle-restaurant offering pizzas and pastas baked in clay ovens, local wines or Uruguayan craft beers. It is also an ideal place to try dessert pancakes with dulce de leche, one of the most traditional in the country.
And, if Punta del Este is considered a top resort, the area of José Ignacio would be “the top of the top”; There, the not-to-be-missed is the La Huella Parador (Calle de Los Cisnes, Playa Brava, Tel. 4486 2279) and do not be fooled by the rustic decoration of the beach hostel or the casual look of its regulars: the restaurant owned by gastronomic entrepreneur Martín Pittaluga makes the ranking “Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants” and is the favorite of local and international celebrities. It is not cheap but it offers great value for money, the only drawback is that it is recommended to reserve a table because if not there are usually long waits.
Bodega Garzón has a haute cuisine restaurant and offers walks and tastings through the vineyard / Source
This small town about 30 minutes from the Peninsula became a gourmet spot since Argentine chef Francis Mallman opened the boutique hotel-restaurant Garzón, (Costa Jose Ignacio Street, La Capilla Street, Tel. +598 4410 2811). The prices are extremely high but for those who have the means, it is worthwhile to experience at least once in a lifetime. For guests the menu is all inclusive: breakfast, lunch, snack and dinner. Another cheaper option for those who want to visit the town without feeling it in their pockets is the cafeteria, rotisserie and Panadería de la Mama (Costa Jose Ignacio Street and La Cantera, across from the main square) which offers homemade breads, sandwiches, cakes, salads and other meals along the way.
On the outskirts of the town is the vineyard and Bodega Garzón, owned by Argentine magnate Alejandro Bulgheroni, which includes a top cuisine restaurant and also offers vineyard and olive grove tours, tastings, picnics in the countryside and even hot air balloon rides.
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By: Carina Fossati, Uruguayan, journalist and author of the blog Hills To Heels