Top 10 Authentic Food Experiences in Montevideo – Part 1

In a land with more cows than people (yes, 1 person for every 4 cows), Uruguay has more than beef to offer culinary travelers. Even as South America’s smallest country, the cuisine is diverse and has been influenced by the traditions of the indigenous people and European immigrants. It is not unusual to find Italian restaurants selling pizza and pasta as well as the beef the country has become famous for.

Our quest to discover the authentic food of Uruguay took us to Montevideo, the capital. Here, we spent time visiting the local markets and food stores, connecting with local Uruguayans and discovering the Montevideo local food specialties.

Montevideo is only a 2 to 3 hours ferry ride away from Buenos Aires. If your travels to South America take you close to Uruguay, be sure to stop in and discover the Montevideo local food scene.

Check out these authentic food experiences in Montevideo. We share 5 in this article and the next article will have the second half.

Let’s go discover what Montevideo has to offer foodie travelers.

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1. Share a Mate and Visit Museo del Gaucho

Mate (pronounced MAH-tay, not the synonym for friend) is a very popular traditional beverage in Uruguay, Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay. In Uruguay, it is considered the national drink and a “Drink from the Gods”.

In Montevideo, you will see Uruguayans walking around clutching onto a thermos flask and slurping from leather mate cups. What they are drinking is Mate, which is made from the infusion of yerba (dried mate plant) and hot water.  “Yerba” is basically dried leaves and twigs from the tree species llex paraguayensis.

Mate is like coffee in that it has caffeine, it’s like tea because it is steeped in hot water, but that’s where the similarities end. Unlike coffee and tea, mate is consumed in social situations and the same gourd and bombilla (metal straw) are used and passed around from one person to the next.

There are many benefits to this drink. It is highly nutritious and contains Vitamin A. It is also a diuretic and used as a stimulant to reduce fatigue and suppress appetite. It is also said to help boost one’s metabolic rate and has a host of powerful antioxidants that boost immunity and protect against colds and flu. You can read more about our experience with Mate in Uruguay in our article: Any Time Is Mate Time In Uruguay.

Montevideo Local Food

Head out to the Museo del Gaucho for an in-depth exposition about mate.  After you’ve toured the beautiful palatial building, pick one of the nearby restaurants and order yourself this special drink from the Gods.

Montevideo Local FoodMuseo del Gaucho

Where: Museo del Gaucho, 18 de Julio 998,  Centro barrio (neighborhood), Montevideo, Uruguay.

When: Monday to Friday 10am to 4pm.

What to see: The History of Mate.

2. Try Morcilla Dulce At Mercado del Puerto – A Parrilla Experience

You may already be familiar with blood sausages or morcilla. In Uruguay, morcilla dulce is a local specialty that you don’t want to miss out.

They are sweet blood sausages made with sugar, raisins, and ground nutmeg. Be surprised at how sweet these sausages really are. The caramelized sugar on the sausages combined with the raisins and nutmeg makes them taste like a dessert. Have your first “sausage dessert” experience here.

Montevideo Local FoodMorcilla Dulce and Chorizo Sausage

One of the best places to experience morcilla dulce is at Mercado del Puerto in the Ciudad Vieja (Old City). Market only by name, this Montevideo former old port market building (built in 1868) has an impressive iron structure.

This market is now made up of a pavilion of restaurants dedicated to selling meat. These parrillas all share the common elements of open fires with varied cuts of meats and sausages cooking tenderly to perfection.

Although it is a bit touristy, with restaurant staff fighting for your attention while presenting their English menu, it is worth a visit. Look around and seat yourself at a counter that appeals to your taste buds. Enjoy watching the asador maneuver the parrilla while enjoying your morcilla dulce with a glass of wine.

Montevideo Local FoodMercado del Puerto, Montevideo

Where: Mercado del Puerto, Rambla 25 de Agosto de 1825 228, Montevideo, Uruguay.

When: Monday to Sunday from 12pm to 5pm. Weekends are usually more lively.

What to order: Morcilla Dulce.

3. Enjoy Tartas from Confiteria Saratoga and Watch The Sunset on  La Rambla

Tartas are delicious savory pies similar to quiche. They are a puff pastry filled with different ingredients from ham and cheese, to different kinds of vegetables. One of the most typical tartas in Uruguay is the Pascualina. This tarta is stuffed with spinach and hard boiled eggs. It is typically eaten cold and during Easter, when meat consumption is restricted.

Confiteria Saratoga is one of the best deli-bakeries in Montevideo. They have fresh bread and pastries baked daily as well as prepared meals. Order one of the many tartas and ask for it caliente (hot). If you like spinach, get yourself tempted by the Pascualina.

Tarta Montevideo Local Food Authentic Food Quest

Confiteria Saratoga is located in Pocitos an upscale neighborhood, about ten minutes from the centre of Montevideo. From the Confiteria, walk to La Rambla, the main avenue on the waterfront. Stroll on La Rambla and enjoy your tarta while watching the sunset on the Rio de la Plata.

La Rambla Montevideo Local Food Authentic Food QuestLa Rambla, Montevideo

Where: Confiteria Saratoga, Manuel Vincente Pagola 3291, Montevideo, Uruguay.

When: Monday to Saturday from 8am to 9pm.

What to order: Tartas or Pascualina

4. Drink Tannat, The National Wine of Uruguay at Bodega Bouza

Tannat is the signature grape of Uruguay, and your trip to Montevideo would not be complete without tasting this local and famous grape. Bodega Bouza in Punta Carretas is about 30mins from the center of Montevideo and the best place to experience this wine.

This family owned boutique winery offers tours of the bodega, wine tasting and a restaurant. They even give you a tour of the private classic car collection of Mr. Bouza, which features more than 30 antique cars and motorcycles. For more, see our previous post Bodega Bouza: A Unique Experience in Uruguay.

Bodega Bouza Montevideo Local Food by Authentic Food QuestBodega Bouza entrance

The Tannat grape growing process at Bodega Bouza is very selective. The grapes are grown without using pesticides. Unused grapes are used to fertilize and nourish the soil. The vines are spread about 2 meters apart to allow the grapes to get the maximum sunlight. This enhances the flavors of the wine and ability to obtain great quality wine.

If you have never tried Tannat wine before, be prepared to enjoy some of the best wine you will ever have. The experience at Bodega Bouza is outstanding. The tour is led by knowledgeable guides, the wines are fantastic and the food at the restaurant is incredibly delicious.

Tannat Montevideo Local Food Authentic Food QuestImmpresive Bouza Tannat Parcela Unica

Where:  Bodega Bouza, Camino La Redencion 7658,  Montevideo, Uruguay.

When: Guided tours: Monday to Friday at 11am, 1pm and 4pm.

What to order: Wine tasting with Tannat wines.

5. Make a Stop For Lehmeyun, Montevideo Local Food from Armenia

The Armenian community in Uruguay is one of the oldest in South America. Most live in the capital, Montevideo. Many of the Armenians are third or even fourth-generation descendants of the first wave of immigrants coming from the Ottoman Empire. They brought the Armenian cuisine to Uruguay and in particular, Lehmeyun.

Lehmeyun is a round, thin piece of dough topped with minced meat (most commonly beef or lamb), minced vegetables, herbs including onions, tomatoes and parsley. It is then baked and served warm.

Lehmeyun Inside Montevideo Local Food Authentic Food Quest

One of the best place to have it in Montevideo is Erevan, a popular Armenian restaurant. Conveniently located five blocks from Playa Pocitos, the most famous beach of Montevideo, it is a great place to have lunch. Join the local crowd and appreciate the Uruguayan immigration culture through its food.

Lehmeyun Fast Food Montevideo Local Food Authentic Food Quest

Where: Erevan Cocina Armenia, Ellauri 1308,  Montevideo, Uruguay.

When: Monday to Sunday from 12pm to 4pm and from 7pm to 12am.

What to order: Lehmeyun.

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In Summary

In Montevideo, you will find varied cuisines and food options. While it may not have the international acclaim of its neighboring countries, the food is no less delicious. Experience Montevideo local food scene at its best by participating in any of the highlighted activities.  Follow in the foot steps of this DIY authentic food tour. Discover how the capital of this small country will surprise and delight you with their local food, wine and mate.

We broke down this article in two parts so that you could take your time to enjoy theses experiences. In part 2, you will discover the next 5 of the top 10 Montevideo authentic food experiences

Have you tried any of these Montevideo local food specialities before? Tell us which ones in the comments below.

Don’t forget to sign up for our monthly newsletter here and get your free ebook on The 5 Best Ways to Find Authentic Food While Traveling.

Savor The Adventure!

51 Comments on “Top 10 Authentic Food Experiences in Montevideo – Part 1”

  1. Okay I am a big time foodie and now you just made me add one more place to my overwhelming bucket list lol. Lehmeyun looks absolutely delicious – I mean who will not like dough and minced meet. Did you say more cows then people? Well, we need more tourists (aka people) there – now! 🙂

    • That’s great Jo…lol!!! That’s indeed why we are highlighting Uruguay. They need more visitors 🙂 Seriously, the food is surprising and delicious. The beverages are outstanding as well. Watch out for part 2, for even more unique specialties. As a foodie, definitively add Uruguay to your list. Cheers!

  2. What an informative post! I learned do much! I have never tried any of these foods or beverages but you made them all sound wonderful. It reminds me of South Africa in that meat is always a large part of the meals and as a carnivore, I love that! I appreciate your blog and will sign up for the mailing list. Thanks for sharing 🙂

    • Hi Karla, thanks so much for your support and for joining our community. That’s interesting that the food is similar to the food in South Africa. We’ve never been there and would love to visit and discover the local food specialties. Looking forward to sharing more in part 2. Cheers 🙂

  3. I have never been able to develop a taste for mate but Tannat sound right up my ally =) Thanks for sharing this my mouth is watering.

  4. Wow! I want that chorizo so badly now! And I didn’t know they had wine in Uruguay! I’ll have to try that one day. Thank you for sharing your experience. It all looks yummy!

  5. Really want to try Mate! Also the sweet blood sausage – sounds similar to something in the Philippines called “longganisa”. A sweet sausage/chorizo type of thing. Your posts always make me so hungry!

    • Thanks Mel 🙂 That’s interesting about longganisa. We’ll be in the Philippines later this year, so can’t wait to try this out. Hope you can get to taste Mate soon, it is an acquired taste, but good for you 🙂 Thanks for your comments.

  6. Lots of interesting food and drink options. I really want to try the sweet blood sausage. I have just been getting into black pudding in England (which is similar to a blood sausage) and I can imagine adding the sweet flavors would be really good.

    • The morcilla dulce is really interesting. To be honest, it took a couple of bites to get used to it and then enjoy it. Would love to taste black pudding in the U.K. That’s awesome. Thanks for your comments.

  7. Oh how this brought back memories of Argentina, we loved the food and this sound some what similar. Tanet yummmm… I forgot all about that grape makes me want to go the wine store right now. I always thought the sharing of mate was a great tradition and I hope that it is one that continues.

    • That’s wonderful to hear Rob about the memories. It’s true, there are many similarities between Argentine and food specialties from Uruguay. Agree, love the tradition around mate, though the taste is acquired. Do you like the taste? From what we saw in Montevideo, the mate culture is deep-rooted and will stick around for many years to come. Look for Tannat wines and enjoy a taste of Uruguay today 🙂 Cheers~

  8. Great list! I think I would like the Mercado best so I could have tasters from all the different shops and stalls – even if you would need to roll me home afterwards! And I’ve never tried wine from Uruguay – will have to look out for some at the wine shop next time I’m there!

    • You are right Vicki, Mercado del Puerto is a great place to start and get an overview of the local and traditional foods. Tannat wine from Uruguay is amazing. They export around the world, look for it at your nearest liquor/wine store. When you find it, get the wines from Bodega Bouza, you will be impressed. Thanks for your comments.

    • Guess what Danielle, you can find yerba mate at Trader Joe’s. If there is one in your area, try it out. Unfortunately, you will miss the sharing and social aspects of the drink 🙂 but you will get the experience. Let us know what you think. Cheers.

  9. I must say I’ve never given much thought to visiting Uruguay, but how can a country that has a museum devoted to their national beverage be missed! And the “dessert sausage?” Um, yum! Thanks for highlighting such interesting food choices!

  10. I had no idea there were 4 cows to 1 person in Uruguay! That’s quite an amusing fact! I’ve tried the traditional morcilla in Spain and was quite surprised at how much I enjoyed it. Morcilla dulce sounds quite delicious (apart from the blood, of course!). Thanks for the great list of things to try when we travel to Montevideo!

    • Hi Kim, when are you traveling to Montevideo? Don’t hesitate to reach out for any tips or suggestions. Our next post will have another 5 incredible foodie activities to check out. Look out for that post too. Wonderful that you liked the Morcilla – it is quite tasty. The morcilla dulce is unique – in that you expect it to be salty, but it is quite sweet. Uruguay is a fascinating country and the beef is excellent. Appreciate your comments.

  11. I’ve just woke up, haven’t had breakfast and had to endure reading about all these food, haha! I certainly wouldn’t mind some pascualina right now whilst watching sunset at La Rambla, or sunrise, as that’s what I’m doing now…

  12. I am so impressed with wineries that avoid using pesticides in the growing process, very rare that this happens. I wonder if it modifies the product dramatically? Lehmeyun, now that I need to try! Guess I better add a visit to the bucket eat list. 🙂

    • Thanks Anna…lot’s to add to the must try food list 🙂 Bodega Bouza does not go as far as saying they are organic meaning no pesticides, they strive to use the least amount possible and adopt natural ways of fighting the pests. Great philosophy and delicious wines. Thanks for your comments 🙂

  13. This looks so amazing. I think I would love the Mercado del Puerto, so I can try different foods and nibble on local delicacies. Trying the local foods is such an important part to understanding the local culture and truly learning about a country. I love how your articles take me there and let me experience this place.

    • Thank you so much Maria, we really appreciate your feedback. So happy to hear that our articles take you the local places and the local foods. Mercado del Puerto is quite an institution. Not only as a historical site, but also the history behind many of the restaurants within. If your travels ever take you to South America, it is worth making the trip to Montevideo, Uruguay. Cheers 🙂

  14. I am literally saving this post.
    I’ve had Yerba Matte a lot here in the states. I live close to Yerba Buena too, which makes me laugh. I’m really glad that you put what exactly yerba matte is.
    Such a great post!
    Thank you! 😀

    • That’s funny that you live close to Yerba they have lots of yerba mate in your area 🙂 How do you like your yerba mate? In Paraguay, they drink it cold and call it “terere”. Personally preferred yerba mate hot with sugar added. So glad you like the post 🙂

  15. This post takes me back to Anthony Bourdain’s episode on Uruguay, lovely food! Lehmeyun like you mentioned seems to be an adaptation of Lehmacun I have had in Turkish joints! The blood sausage sounds fantastic, I like the touch of raisins and nutmeg!

    • That’s wonderful Prateek for the link to Anthony Bourdain’s episode on Uruguay. Truly great food. That’s interesting to hear about the similarities with Lehmacun…I guess as neighboring countries, it is not surprising that there are similarities. The morcilla dulce is quite interesting. Having it sweet is unique and the touch of raisins and nutmeg is wonderful. Appreciate your comments.

  16. I have never tasted any of these dishes before but I know the dishes focused on meat will have my thumbs up! Your posts have intrigued me about the region.

    • Hi Rose, so wonderful to hear that you are intrigued about Uruguay. It is worth visiting especially for the meat. It is the only country in the world which uses a traceability system which lets you know exactly which cow the beef you are eating is coming from. Pretty cool. You would love it 🙂 Appreciate your comments.

  17. That is a country on my bucket list, at the bottom but you bumped it up. And look at the yummy food. The only I know and drink is mate but now I would like to try the rest, especially the Lehmeyun.

    • That’s awesome that you know mate. Have you tried it? Did you like it? For us , it is an acquired taste…though the addition of sugar makes it quite pleasant. Hang tight, more yummy foodie experiences coming in part 2 🙂 Really hope you can get to visit soon. It is a secret gem in South America 🙂 Thanks Evelyne.

    • Hi Chrissy, indeed the foodie experiences in Montevideo are surprising and diverse. There is such a strong and culture and pride amongst the people. Beautiful people and amazing food. Definitively with exploring. Thanks for your comments 🙂

    • Hi Helen, so glad you enjoyed reading the post. Montevideo is a great city and people are so friendly.The food experiences are unique, especially drinking mate. Do consider visiting if you are ever in South America, it is worth the trip 🙂 Thanks for your comments.


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