Pictured above: our lovely hotel in La Barra, CasaZinc.
Scene-setter: Punta del Este is a resort city roughly in the middle of Uruguay’s Atlantic coast. We stayed in nearby La Barra, a low-key town between Punta and Jose Ignacio, summer playground of the South American rich and famous. Our personal scene-setter was our former therapist, who is originally from Buenos Aires and, like many Porteños, visits the Uruguayan coast regularly. She gave us tons of recommendations and generally got us pumped to explore the area. But since you probably don’t know our therapist, which is your loss, your scene-setter can be Suite Punta del Este, by the prolific tango composer Astor Piazzolla. If you’re a tango fan, you’ll know it. If you’re a 12 Monkeys fan, you’ll also know it as it formed the basis for the soundtrack.
Pound-the-table recommendation: At Parador La Huella, a handsome monster of a restaurant sitting on beach sand in Jose Ignacio, there must be 100 outdoor seats and another 50 that are indoor-outdoor. If you’re like us, when you’re by the ocean you want to see, smell, and taste it and get that good beach hair thing going, which means you’re liable to ask for the outside table even when it’s chilly. Normally this leads to shivery misery, but at La Huella your androgynous server will save the day by offering up the most delicious cream-colored alpaca blanket/shrug/serape/wrap. Yup, our PTT for this wonderful stretch of Uruguayan coast is a sweater…at a restaurant.
Back-pocket fact: The chivito is the national sandwich of Uruguay, and should you ever find yourself there it would behoove you to seek one out. It’s basically a steak sandwich with fixin’s, but those fixin’s separate the boy chivitos from the men chivitos. David Tanis over at the New York Times provides a seemingly solid recipe with consultation from Ignacio Mattos of Estela.