Montevideo: definitely a cooler name than it is a city. To call it the poor man's Buenos Aires would be doing B.A. a real disservice; Montevideo is more of a poor man's Long Beach.
That said, I think we're both glad we went to Montevideo, if for no other reason than the meals we had at El Mercado del Puerto, an old port building filled with parillas (which I earlier called steakhouses, but which are better thought of as wood burning grills). Laura and I first saw this place on an episode of Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations, and the incredible displays of grilled meats convinced us that we had to go there. Not only were the parillas visually stunning, with their grills filled with everything from steak to sausage, tripe to blood pudding, but the food itself tasted *amazing.*
On our first trip, Laura had an incredibly juicy filet, while I tried sweet blood sausage and kidneys for the first time. The sweet blood sausage was awesome, and I ate it again that night; kidneys I will not be eating again, at least not on purpose (nor will I be asking anyone to tell me what is actually in blood sausage). The food was so good that we went back to the mercado the next day. This time, we tried a different parilla, one that had been recommended to us by someone we met in Colonia. It was even better than the first and left Laura moaning about how it was the best steak she'd ever had. We aren't big foodies, but this was a meal that made Montevideo worth the visit.
A couple amusing anecdotes about our stay in Montevideo:
--We arrived relatively late, maybe 8:30 p.m. or so. Although it stays light quite late down here, it was dark by the time we checked into our hotel. While checking in, the woman at reception gave us a map and drew a small rectangle around part of the city. She told us about different restaurants we could find in that rectangle, pointed out some places we could see tango shows, mentioned an internet place--all very helpful. Then she took her pen, crossed off everything outside the rectangle--almost the entire city of Montevideo--and told us that those areas were not safe to go after dark. Welcome to Montevideo!
--Our second day, we went to a museum of photography that had been mentioned in our guidebook. It wasn't too far, but it wasn't all that close either--it probably took us 45 minutes to walk there. When we got there, we were told that admission was free, which was nice. Then we saw why. The "museum" was, in fact, a single room with less than 20 photographs, all by the same artist. Sure, a couple were kind of cool, and the museum did have a couple of computers with thousands of old photographs of Montevideo that we could (and did) look through, but that experience was Montevideo in a nutshell: not quite ready for prime time.