The Mercado del Puerto (the port market) is the best kind of market–one devoted entirely to sizzling, grilling, dripping meat. If you make your way through old town to the port, you won’t be able to miss the place as the aroma is unmistakable starting a few blocks away. Make sure to give yourself a day or two or four to eat lunch here (unless you’re a vegetarian, in which case once would probably suffice).
The building dates from the 19th century and looks like an old British rail station (and it looks very similar to Montevideo’s abandoned rail station on the other side of town). Inside the place is chock full of restaurants which each have their own bar and table area. Their menus are remarkably similar, and I ate at four of them over the week I was there. They were all amazing.
The food is centered around meat cooked over wood fire on parrillas. Traveling by myself, I ordered à la cart items (the sausage was the best I’ve ever had in my life). However, I was a little jealous of the larger groups gathered over silver towering bowls of meat bigger than a Thanksgiving turkey. I would have ordered one and taken back the leftovers, but I couldn’t bring myself to ask the waiter for enough food to feed the Uruguayan National football team.
There are also seafood and vegetarian options. I tried seafood one day and it was so yummy. If you only go once, I would suggest meat. But if you can get seafood at another trip, it was worth so good.
A Few Tips:
- Every restaurant had at least one person who understood English, but even without it was pretty easy to communicate.
- The restaurants on the inside seamed a bit cheaper than the ones on the outside (although it was lovely sitting in the square).
- Every restaurant I went to had their own wifi.
- Every restaurant seemed to have their own spin on the chimichurri sauce that goes with everything. Don’t skip the chimichurri!
- If you drink a lot of water (like I do), bring a bottle or two with you. The water costs really add up!
- Go hungry. Like really, really hungry.
- The Museo del Carnaval (The Carnival Museum) next door is doable in about 30 minutes. They have costumes and displays from Uruguayan carnival. However, it’s not a must-see if you’re in a rush or short on cash.