Buenos Aires is an incredible city to eat in! It has food from just about every single corner of the planet. From Chinese to Italian, you name it, it’s probably here. It’s important to remember, however, that eating out is different in each country. Every country is going to have its own rules regarding tipping, how to order, what is and is not polite, and Buenos Aires is no exception. Fear not, because I have some tips for how to become a pro at eating out here!
Tip #1: Don’t forget to tip your waiters and waitresses!
While they are paid more here than in the United States, it is still very common to tip about 10% at restaurants and cafes. If you think the service is especially good, feel free to tip more!
Tip #2: Sometimes there is a charge on the bill called a cubierto.
Restaurants may give you some bread when you first arrive. While this is free in the United States, it is not free in Argentina so it will show up on your bill as cubierto, or a cover charge. It is important to note that this is not a tip, so please see tip #1 and tip your waiter/waitress properly!
Tip #3: You will not normally receive tap water at a restaurant.
If you do ask for water, it will come in a bottle and with a glass for you to pour it in (and it’s not free). The staff will not check up on you so if you want another bottle, you must signal for them to come over. Also, if you just ask for water, you will receive carbonated water! Make sure to ask for “water without gas,” or “agua sin gas” in Spanish, if you do not want the carbonated water.
Tip #4: Always carry enough cash on you.
Be sure to carry cash to pay for your meal because there are many small cafes and restaurants that do not accept credit or debit cards. It’s also a good idea to have cash on you because sometimes your card may not work like you want it to.
Tip #5: Prepare yourself for a different set of hours for mealtime.
Breakfast is usually around 8:00 AM – 10:00 AM, lunch is 12:00 PM – 3:00 PM, and dinner is 9:00 PM – 12:00 AM. Many restaurants may be closed between meal times, particularly the smaller ones. If you’re hungry, however, many cafes will be open!
Tip #6: Bars are common places to stop for coffee.
The name is misleading, but you can certainly grab a cup of coffee there!
Tip #7: It usually takes a long time to get your check.
Like I had briefly mentioned in tip #3, the staff won’t check up on you very often. If you’re in a rush, make sure you ask for the check immediately after ordering. If you are ready to leave and would like the check, simply motion to your waiter/waitress with your hand, like you’re signing a check, and ask for it. In Spanish, say “la cuenta, por favor.” This may be a rude thing to do in the United States, but it’s completely normal in Buenos Aires!
Tip #8: Try placing your order in the local language!
If ordering in Spanish, use the phrase “Puede ser….” to say what you would like to order. Example: Puede ser pizza sin aceites.
Tip #9: Have fun and try new things!
Maybe you’ll like it, maybe you won’t, but it’s all part of the experience. Buenos Aires is an incredible destination for food from around the world, so I would strongly encourage you to step a bit out of your comfort zone and have something new.