Meat me in Montevideo: Dining at Estancia del Puerto


People may talk about the glory of Argentine meats, but that is only because they have not yet been to Uruguay. The smaller neighbor to the north gets far fewer tourists and exports a far smaller portion of their best steak which means that most people don’t really know of the glory it represents. It is spectacular. Consider yourself informed on the topic.

There is no shortage of opportunities to eat great meat in Montevideo. Just about anywhere you turn there is a steakhouse available to get you through the afternoon or evening. Still, within that environment there is one area which stands out above the rest, the Mercado del Puerto.

Inside Mercado del Puerto, a pretty cool bit of architecture in its own right
Inside Mercado del Puerto, a pretty cool bit of architecture in its own right

The enclosed market area has a number of shops inside. Not all of them have the traditional wood-fired grill working; some apparently sell pastries or some such. We skipped right past those and pulled up a pair of stools at the counter of Estancia del Puerto. This is one of the most famous of the grills in the market, the one Anthony Bourdain ate at when he visited and one which is oft featured in trip reports and photos. I knew none of that when we sat down. It just looked the best to me and I wanted to find out if that was true.

Step up to the counter at Estancia del Puerto and enjoy.
Step up to the counter at Estancia del Puerto and enjoy.

I’m pretty sure it is.

Long-time chef at Estancia del Puerto, proud of the meats he grilled
Long-time chef at Estancia del Puerto, proud of the meats he grilled

We ordered the combo plate for two. It is served as a heaping pile of meat atop its own mini grill plate with some spare charcoal in the base to keep it warm as you engage in the almost certainly futile effort to eat what’s there. Maybe 3 or 4 people could finish the plate for 2. Maybe. Seriously, we went in pretty hungry and I felt like you couldn’t even tell that we tried. It was disheartening in a way, though the deliciousness certainly helped soothe that feeling of failure.

Our huge plate of meat from Estancia del Puerto. So very, very delicious!
Our huge plate of meat. So very, very delicious!

Our plate had a couple different types of sausage, ribs, offal and even some chicken. I later read that one guy managed to trade the chicken for lamb and I’m a bit sad that I didn’t think of that. I also know how badly I speak Spanish and am sortof happy I didn’t try; we might not have had the opportunity to stay at the shop.

Working the grill at Estancia del Puerto
Working the grill

As we were slowly winding down our dining experience, trying to decide on our next move while sipping the last of the medio y medio (sweet/sparkling white wine that is apparently a local specialty) we were joined at the counter by a local. He didn’t say much of anything at all. He was all business as he ordered and then tucked in to the plate of I have no idea what that was in front of him. I know we had it on our mixed plate and that I didn’t like it, but he didn’t hold back one bit.

A local settled in next to us at Estancia del Puerto for lunch
A local settled in next to us for lunch

Dining at Mercado del Puerto is a must-do experience in a town where there aren’t too many of that sort of thing. Hopefully you’re not vegetarian.

As a side note, it wasn’t too far from here where I got robbed. Do try to keep your wits about you in the neighborhood.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

3 Comments

  1. Uruguay has never been high on my travel list, but maybe it’s worth a day or two as a side trip from Buenos Aires. Thanks for sharing – as a carnivore, this sounds amazing.

    1. It is a sleepy little country, Becky, but there are some absolutely amazing bits worth spending some time on. I was pretty disappointed with Colonia, for example, but around town in Montevideo had things to see and do for a couple days.

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