Competing for customers in Colonia
Colonia de Sacramento, Uruguay, is a quiet, laid back kind of town with cobblestone streets lined with sidewalk cafes. Located just across the Rio de la Plata from Buenos Aires, visiting Colonia makes for a nice escape from the hustle and bustle of the big city—whether its for the weekend or just for the day.
Founded by the Portuguese in 1680, Colonia is the oldest settlement in Uruguay. For the first 70 years of its existence, the settlement was in a constant tug of war with the Spanish who had settled across the river in what is now Buenos Aires.
These days, the only battle you’ll find is between two neighboring restaurants near the Mother Church. In the race to be known as the most-eccentric eatery in town, The Drugstore and El Viejo Barrio are neck and neck. They only differ in the execution of the goal.
The Drugstore—featured in Condé Nast Traveler magazine in 2003—is a brightly decorated restaurant with polka dot table cloths. But the most interesting features of the restaurant are parked outside. Several vintage cars line the curb and have tables inside for extra seating (see photo).
While The Drugstore attracts customers with its loud décor, El Viejo Barrio has a loud server. When people pass by, he screams, “¡Vamos!” But, this guy has a few extra tricks up his sleeve. When into the restaurant to pick up customer orders, he returns sporting either Santa’s red cap, a jester’s hat, or a large foam blonde wig. He truly wears many hats.
While Chris and I were sitting at The Drugstore, a couple sat down next to us. But when they saw the crazy antics of the server at El Viejo Barrio, they defected to his restaurant. While I can’t vouch for the food, word of mouth literally draws people there.
Ferries depart for Colonia de Sacramento from the Buquebus Terminal in Puerto Madero. The journey across the Rio de la Plata takes one or three hours depending on the type of boat. Slow ferries cost 55 pesos for a one-way trip and fast ferries cost 94 pesos each way. Ferry schedules and rates are available at www.buquebus.com.