Menu prices are rising in historic Colonia, and I don’t think they always represent good value. The best inexpensive meals can be found at the local restaurants outside the historic district where a chivito al pan, (the classic Uruguayo sandwich comprised of a thin steak, bacon, egg, cheese, tomato and lettuce), can be found for around US$5. Most visitors, however, will eat in the historic area so the following are some places with a good reputation. Note that most restaurants in Colonia seem to open and close on the whim of the proprietor so it pays to telephone before you go.
Restaurant La Florida (Florida 215, Tel: 93 036)
Here an antique-filled house has been transformed into a sophisticated restaurant. This is one of the most ambitious and upscale restaurants in Uruguay and certainly the best in Colonia. The space consists of several adjoining rooms decorated with antique and vintage memorabilia, all very charming and quaint. Each room has its own special character and just one or two tables. The menu features Continental cuisine with eclectic and personal touches by owner/chef Carlos. You can try mussels in a blue cheese-curry sauce or a tenderloin of beef that is actually cooked to your specification. Carlos has a home-made version of pate de foie gras and there is a variety of truly fresh fish seasoned and cooked perfectly. La Florida is located near the entry gateway to the old city on Calle Florida.
Pulpería de los Faroles (Misiones de los Tapies 101, Tel: 30 271)
There's nothing particularly special about the pastas and grilled fish this tavern-style restaurant does, but the 300-year-old stone house it's in is gorgeous. Outside tables on the Plaza Mayor are the perfect place for a coffee or drinks and nibbles.
Sacramento (Calle del Comercio and De la Playa, Tel: 29 245)
It's in the heart of the Barrio Histórico, but the chefs’ fresh take on local ingredients is very now and the decor is postmodern. The fish of the day comes in a cashew crust and chilli sauce, the juicy steak with potatoes and bacon, and the minty, garlicky lamb is served with fried polenta chips. Set on a quiet corner, the renovated old house is light and breezy during the day, and its modern, dark wooden tables are candlelit at night. There are a few outside tables when the weather is kind. Local wine is served by the glass.
El Torron (Av. Gral Flores 46)
This place is set in an old tower overlooking the water. The back deck makes for a cozy, intimate spot for a romantic dinner and is also good for cocktails at sunset. The portions of food were large but nothing to write home about in terms of taste. The server wasn't terribly friendly. Great place to just chill and enjoy the views of the river while having a beer. Food however, was disappointing.
Patrimonio ( de San Jose 111, Tel: 24 254)
This smart modern lounge bar and restaurant is new on the scene but has been an instant success and I see why. The bar is modern and dramatic while the restaurant area on the back deck is classy but casual with a lovely river view.
Restaurant dos Puertos (Santa Rita 40, Tel: 30 556)
This is a very attractive restaurant, located in an ancient house with iron bars on the windows, brick walls, and tables on the sidewalk. The sidewalk is a good place to enjoy lunch under an umbrella, watching the street life. They serve a complete parrillada with meat, kidney, chorizo, morcilla, potatoes, and sweet-potatoes large enough for two which can be washed down with a great Tannat (red wine). For dessert, try a flan with dulce de leche or dulce de leche pancakes.