While it’s true that Uruguay’s steak rivals even Argentina’s, there’s a lot more than just meat on this country’s menus. A long history of European immigration alongside influence from Brazil and the Río de la Plata makes up the nation’s culinary tradition. From gourmet pizza to wood-grilled seafood, and everything in between, here’s our pick of the very best restaurants in every corner of Uruguay
La Cocina de Pedro
Restaurant, South American, Steakhouse, $$$
Tucked away on an unassuming street in Palermo, La Cocina de Pedro is one of Montevideo’s top dining destinations. Juicy steaks and tender pork sizzle away on the open grill as suited-and-booted waiters serve sparkling wine and local lagers. To start, the bruschetta is magnificent, while the beetroot ravioli stuffed with goat cheese, walnuts, and chives is a main menu highlight. For smart service and clever dishes, La Cocina is unmatched in the capital.
Bistro, South American, $$$
A world away from the meat-heavy menus of Montevideo’s parrillas, La Fonda in Ciudad Vieja is a vegetarian’s dream. The restaurant’s rustic dishes, written up on a little blackboard outside, change daily according to what’s fresh in the kitchen. Classic plates might be spinach-stuffed ravioli with pine nuts and basil or sticky glazed ribs. The vibe is homey, the staff eager, and the wine unmissable.
Bar, Restaurant, Gastropub, South American, Mexican, American, Fusion, $$$
Bar Americano is Montevideo’s take on a Texan saloon: all dark wood and long sofas, with burgers, salads, and quesadillas on the menu. There’s often live blues, a fantastic selection of liquors, and a clientele covering everyone from lone businessman to Argentinean tourists. Try the grilled chicken salad with honey-mustard dressing or French-inspired blue cheese and caramelized onion burger. Then go all-American with an apple pie and pint of IPA for dessert.
Bar, Restaurant, South American, Spanish, Tapas, Dessert, $$$
This tiny bar on a street corner in Palermo looks like it might have stepped straight out of an indie film. The bar is bedecked with mismatched lampshades and movie memorabilia, complete with a resident griffon pup. The short menu doesn’t offer much in the way of choice, but the cooking is superb nonetheless. Try the tasty tapas at lunchtime or branch out with one of the specials, which might be bondiola stuffed with blood sausage and dried fruits in a rich red wine sauce. Brunch on Sundays is a special treat.
Lo de Tere
Restaurant, South American, Seafood, $$$
Uruguay’s party town, Punta del Este, has plenty of fine dining spots. Lo de Tere tops the list with spectacular harbor views, an enviable wine list, and fresh seafood. The menu’s highlights are red tuna carpaccio (with a citrus and ginger dressing) and nautilus (a dish of shrimp, baby squid and octopus with black olive and avocado). Don’t turn up too hungry as the perfectly presented portions are fashionably small, but do go early for a serious discount.
Parador La Huella
Restaurant, South American, Seafood, $$$
The restaurant that has put Uruguay on the foodie map, Parador La Huella is the epitome of chic beach shack dining. Warm and inviting, with an undeniably hipster vibe, it’s the haunt of sun-blushed locals and celebrities alike. Perfect in the blistering summer months, the bustling kitchen and driftwood-inspired dining room are open to the elements. Head here for off-the-boat seafood cooked over a wood-fired grill and some of the best exotic cocktails outside of Brazil.
La Huella is closed in June.
Restaurant, South American, $$$
There are just 12 tables at Maldonado institution Si Querida Petit Resto, run by Chef Santiago Martín Marrero. With its open kitchen, Basque-inspired décor, and old world atmosphere, it’s a hidden gem well off the beaten track. The garage-restaurant hybrid doesn’t take reservations, though it’s worth waiting around for homemade food with heart. Think broccoli gnocchi, roasted wild boar, and sorrentinos stuffed with goat cheese and almonds in tomato jam.
Cantina del Vigía
Restaurant, South American, Italian, $$$
Another outpost from Federico Desseno, who helms the kitchen at José Ignacio’s Marismo, Cantina del Vigía in Maldonado is a little slice of Italy in the Uruguayan countryside. Famed for its double wood ovens, this laid-back yet imaginative spot serves enormous thick crust pizzas, hearty lasagna, and a unique baked provoleta (Argentine variant of provolone cheese) to a lively crowd.
Gastropub, Restaurant, South American, $$$
Quirky gastropub Bar MissFusión in picturesque Colonia del Sacramento is worth taking time out from a day of sightseeing for. The walls are hung with local artists’ work, and there are regular live music shows in the balmy summer evenings. It’s a great spot for lunch with a selection of artisan sandwiches and artful tapas crafted from locally sourced ingredients. Go for the grilled pepper and gruyére whole wheat sandwich with pesto, and don’t pass up a tipple from the inventive cocktail list.
La Perla del Cabo
Restaurant, Gastropub, South American, $$$
The last thing travelers expect to find in Cabo Polonio, a rocky outpost on the Atlantic coast sans electricity, is fine dining. But exist it does. La Perla has all the trimmings of a rustic gastropub on the Cornish seaside with food to match. Try the famous algae fritters or asparagus bruschetta to start, and follow it with a plate of giant langoustines paired with a glass of local tannat and an unbeatable view of the ocean. Note that the restaurant is closed throughout Uruguay’s winter and reopening in September.