Medialunas Calentitas in La Barra. Very well established (it has a website! an Uruguayan eatery with a website!!!) and known, often reviewed, in NO way overrated. Don’t be a ding-dong and try to find something more original. Just go. Hands down the best medialunas I’ve ever had. For a while now I’ve thought of medialunas solely as the sad, deflated, chewy and too-sticky-sweet, sloppy imitation of croissants. I’ve had too many half-assed ones. It is exclusively at this place that I can appreciate them as they’re own thang, a buttery, airy, sweet, doughy, filling Argie-Uruguayan pastry. Not a croissant. Not pretending to be a croissant.
The place itself is pretty cool, representative of most of La Barra, unpretentious, laid back, a little bit hippie but just enough. Attached to a hostel (or what used to be one), the place looks a bit like the dining room of a hostel, with comfy couches and painted picnic tables and I think I even remember a hammock wafting in the wind. The window of the kitchen stays open so that the tantalizing aroma of fresh baked stuff can lure customers in. Someone’s dog and someone else’s cat are frequent visitors but instead of begging pathetically for food, they come up to you just to chill out and maybe get a little neck-rub. If you offer them a bite, they sniff, consider and then look at you and then back down as if to say “Eh, maybe later thanks. I’m good for now.” They’re satisfied.
Medialunas de manteca calentitas are a perfect snack in many situations. It can be the centerpiece at a breakfast, it can accompany tea at tea-time, it can be a something sweet and warm and comforting to sink your teeth into after accidentally swallowing way too much cold, salty ocean water from that wave that hit you in the face just minutes before. They are made fresh every half hour and only serve them fresh. The edges are delightfully crispy and flaky and layered and the texture gets gradually airier, pillowy-er and softer towards the center, which is quite literally a puffy, sweet cloud in your mouth. The surface is brushed (brushed… not drenched in, not drizzled with) a very thin layer of sugary syrup which makes it sticky and sweet. As the dough itself is not very sweet at all, this syrup adds the perfect amount of dulzor, resulting in a great balance of flavor.
The empanadas here are fantastic as well, flaky and relentlessly buttery. Carne was flavorful and even a tad spicy, the beef brown instead of gray with bits of chopped pepper and green olive poking out. The filling of the round little espinaca y ricotta (spinach and ricotta) was also very good, creamy, salty, cheesy, slimy and soft.
I’m very glad I got to show my parents this place before our drive back to Montevideo.