Bars and Cafes in Montevideo

Bar and Café Reviews

Bar Roldós, Mercado del Puerto, Old Town

Founded in 1886 as a grocery that served booze on the side, the Roldós is the most enjoyable watering-place in the Mercado del Puerto and (along with a score of other historically notable cafes in the city) gets tax breaks to prove it. Long before the Port Market became a tourist attraction, the Roldós was serving its trademark medio y medio – a mix of white wine and spumante – to thirsty workers propping up its polished wooden bar. The drink ($130 a bottle; $30 a glass) makes a great aperitif before attacking a plate of barbecued meat and chorizo at Rol2, its sister establishment across the passageway. Bar Roldós also serves decent coffee. Open every day from 9 am to 7 pm. www.roldos.com.uy; tel. 915 1520.

Cervecería La Pasiva, Av. 18 de Julio corner Ejido, Centre

With its bland formica tables and mainly middle-aged clientele, La Pasiva's main drinking and dining area appears at first sight no different from the countless other cervecerías (taverns) in the city centre. But take a moment to admire the swirling art deco lamps, the self-conscious columns that ring the bar and the decorative beer barrel that stands in splendid isolation in a corner and it may occur to you that this is somewhere a bit special. Best known in town for its hot dogs ($18 each) eaten with mustard prepared to a recipe that's a closely guarded secret. Befitting their almost mythical status, the dogs at La Pasiva are kept in huge pans of simmering water in full and admiring view of the punters. Attracts a younger crowd at night. Open every day to 1 am weekdays and 3 am at weekends.

Bar Tabaré, calle Zorrilla de San Martín corner Tabaré, Punta Carretas

Ninety years ago the space now occupied by the über-trendy Bar Tabaré was a general store catering to local fishermen. Just a little of those less fashion-conscious times remains: A cozy bistro-like space (the original shop, to the left as you enter) with a wealth of exposed wood harks back to an era before BMWs and gold Amex cards. Additional seating on a mezzanine level at the rear of the bar affords a good view of the customers downstairs in the bar, or the perfect spot for an intimate drink, depending on the table you choose. Long drinks list; good, brisk service. A pity, then, that the food (amateurish chicken curry, uninspiring fish dishes) is so underwhelming. Main courses, should you be tempted, average US$15. Close to the Sheraton. Has live music from time to time. Open every evening except on Sundays. www.bartabare.com; tel. 712 3242.

Café Philomène, calle Solano García corner Miñones, Punta Carretas

A little jewel. It's difficult to imagine a better refuge from Montevideo's biting winter winds than the Café Pilomène. This is a coffee and cake shop which serves home-made quiches at lunchtime (just US$5 with a side salad) as well as alfajores (large cookies with a caramel filling) and brownies. Not the first establishment in the city to plump for a Beatles-meets-bossa nova soundtrack set on a seemingly permanent loop, but somehow it works in the cozy, stress-free interior, with its period wooden floors and colourful choice of wallpaper. Has seating outside in the summer months. Open Monday to Friday from 9 am to 8 pm, Saturday from 11 am to 8 pm. Tel. 711 1770.

Café Misterio, calle Costa Rica corner Rivera, Carrasco

Attracts more blonde ladies than any other bar in the city. On weekend nights this otherwise calm corner of the wealthy residential district of Carrasco is a veritable chaos of Mercedes and SUVs looking for a suitable berth. Very select, if more than a tad superficial, the Café Misterio is a rarity in Montevideo: a bar that has a proper bar area for socialising. So it's good to know that subdued orange lighting makes everyone look just that little bit younger and more alluring. Ostentatious displays of fizz and scotch purposelessly adorn the bar – which is a shame as the interior is actually quite nice. Expensive drinks; acceptable food. Open at lunch but really a night-time place. Tel. 601 8765.

Bar 62, calle Barreiro corner Chucarro, Pocitos

Longstanding watering hole in the city's southern suburbs. Named for the number 62 tram line that, starting in 1951, connected Pocitos with the Plaza Independencia. This is the place to go if you're in the mood for a mojito or a caipirinha. Trendy but essentially unpretentious and popular with students, the gilded youth of Pocitos, media types and resident foreigners. Serves full meals and has a rather idiosyncratic menu ranging from sushi to grilled meats. Works best as a place for a drink and a nibble given that the downstairs space especially (there is upstairs seating, too) can get noisy. Watch out for the $50 cover charge if you eat here. www.62bar.com; tel. 707 3022

El Viejo y el Mar, Rambla Gandhi corner Solano García, Punta Carretas

A short walk from the Sheraton, El viejo y el mar serves fish and seafood dishes in a dining area with a strong – verging on overbearing – nautical theme. Come in a gale and you will hear the wind roar around the simple wooden structure as you eat seafood spaghetti (US$12) or scampi (US$18). But what makes the place so attractive – and why it's listed here as a bar rather than a restaurant – is the large outdoor seating area with uninterrupted River Plate views. A good place to nurse a cool drink and watch the ships sailing by on a hot night. Feeling especially romantic? Esperanto, further along the Rambla to the east (at the corner of calle Comercio, in the district of Buceo) has indifferent food but unbeatable views of the Montevideo sunset. Tel. 710 5704.

Expreso Pocitos, calle Benito Blanco corner Av. Brasil, Pocitos

Now 100 years old and a classic. Popular with the city's well-heeled political class (and particularly the leading lights of the Blanco party) the Expreso is a joint with a split personality – but in the nicest possible way: there is hardly a customer below the age of fifty during the day, while on weekend nights the place is a favourite pit stop for local youth out on the town. The owner stated recently that his establishment had never been burgled. Its long operating hours might be the reason – the Expreso is almost always open for business. Serves nice hot sandwiches and Irish coffee. Courteous and brisk service. On exiting glance upwards: the bar is on the ground floor of the El Mástil building, an art deco masterpiece. Tel. 708 1828.

Bar Tranquilo, calle 21 de Septiembre corner Roque Graseras, Punta Carretas.

It may seem unimaginative to call this bar tranquilo but it sums the place up nicely. When the sun sets on Pocitos beach and the crowds begin to disperse, Bar Tranquilo starts to fill up – despite its location a little distant from other watering holes. The outside tables catch the sea breeze on balmy nights, making it a great place to relax and chat into the early hours. A favourite of couples and gossiping girls. The food ticks all the boxes: tapas, milanesas, salads, pastas, good homemade chips and meat and fish specials that change frequently. They aural menu is no less varied: British/US indie, reggae grooves and offbeat dance tracks. Open every day from lunchtime until 2 am on weekends and 1 am on weekdays. www.tranquilobar.com; tel. 711 2127

Barba Roja, Av. L. A. de Herrera corner Iturriaga, Pocitos

Until a couple of years ago the city's youthful drinking scene was concentrated in the Ciudad Vieja. It has since migrated to the stretch of Luis Alberto de Herrera just below the gleaming towers of the World Trade Centre. Here you'll find Barba Roja. It's the kind of place you'll either love or hate: its patrons ooze money (or pretend they do); a bouncer stands at the door, arms folded; and its brew-pub beers are served in tiny measures. On the other hand the booths are comfortable and the Tex-Mex food is broadly acceptable. Enough, therefore, to serve as a decent venue for a previa – a "warm up" – before hitting the nearby Lotus nightclub at 2 or 3 am. One nice touch: the menus are made from old LP sleeves. Less nice: sullen service. Open every day from 9 pm until late. Tel. 622 1256.