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Barbecue Heaven on Earth! I found Barbecue Heaven! The most incredible assemblage of barbecue eateries in the galaxy…all at an old general store market in Montevideo, Uruguay. Welcome to the “Sitio Historico Gastronomia, Galleria de Arte et Artisanias”: the Mercado del Porto. The Mercado is a huge building in the old port area of Montevideo that has been turned into a barbecue wonderland. Walking into the huge hall was a culinary shock, which I may never recover from. In front of me were blazing barbecues, to the left were blazing barbecues, to the right were blazing barbecues. The building is filled with 15 asado (barbecue) restaurants, all with flames shooting up from the grills, every inch of hot iron covered with grilling meats, punctuated by an occasional red pepper, whole onion, or potato. The Café Veronica was a blaze of Fellini-like color of red, and pink, and seared brown. There were whole lambs, suckling pigs, half chickens, and every possible cut of beef that you’ve ever imagined, all sending heavenly scents into the air. And there wasn’t a single empty chair in the entire 200-seat restaurant. I sat and enjoyed a huge lunch of empanadas, beef ribs, grilled intestines, blood sausage, and sweetbreads. Each dish rich with barbecue smoke, tender, incredibly flavorful (no sauces to hide the natural flavors) meat and frankly the best barbecue I’ve ever tasted. For a vegetable I did have a side salad. They do offer up chimichurri sauce (a light mix of olive oil, garlic, vinegar, bay leaf, oregano, and pepper) on the side, and a salsa-like criolla sauce (chopped red and green peppers, onions, tomatoes, parsley, and salt) as well, but I seldom saw anyone add anything to their food other than a contented sigh. Almost every cut of beef known to man is available can be enjoyed here, including: Short loin, rib set, brisket, navel plate, rib plate, short ribs, eye round, outside flat, knuckle, rump cap, eye of rump, top sirloin, tri-tip, strip loin, tenderloin, skirt (thick and thin), flank steak, inside skirt, Spencer roll, rib eye roll, chuck roll, neck, shoulder clod, blade oyster, chuck tender, shin shank, heel muscle, thick skirt, tongue, cheek meat, tail, liver, kidney, heart, sweetbreads, brains, tripe, honey comb, spleen, tendons, head meat, lips, and even grilled intestines. If you put all these pieces together I think you could assemble a whole cow.
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