South America Living

When Is A Menu Not A Menu?


It’s one of the hallmarks of the Latin American lunch. Found both in the humblest of bars and the most elegant of restaurants. Enjoyed by folks on a budget as well as those in need of a quick bite consisting of something more than a sandwich. Yep — I refer to El Menú del Dia.

For the newbie, the word menú is often their first encounter with a “false friend” as my Spanish teacher called them. Because a menú is not a menu of individually priced plates — that would be carta. Nor is it the special of the day, as many travelers assume. It is a set meal. Or prix fixe menu. There are no options. No substitutions. And you can expect to get good, decent food delivered to the table fairly quickly.

Quite simply, a menú is an affordable, filling, and quite often tasty weekday lunch. As a typical example, a restaurant/bar will provide you with bread, soup or salad, a main course usually consisting of meat or fish with some rice (ah…the ubiquitous rice) and veggies on the side, dessert and a drink of your choice (often including beer or wine) for, depending on the country and the establishment, $3 – $7 per person.

If you’re staying for a while in a specific town or city, find an establishment you like — they often offer a discount to folks who purchase a predetermined number of meals in advance. So — check it out. Look around. Determine your options.

The practice of offering a Menú del Dia was instituted by governments in order to offer an affordable meal for the common worker. The practice has spread to the tourism industry and now establishments, in many countries, are obligated by law to offer a set lunch menu at a fixed price.

So — take advantage of it! And, as always, Buen Provecho!

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