What time is dinner?

October 20, 2005

It is Saturday, four minutes past midnight at La Lucia - Sandwichs & Bar. Our waiter, a college student type clad in a red T shirt and jeans, hustles over to take an order from a party of six people that have just taken a table by the french doors which open on to Mendoza’s bar district.

The table includes a trim man in his mid-thirties with his pregnant wife and their four year old daughter, an energetic mass of fluffy pink perched in a high chair. They are accompanied by a couple in their late sixties who I imagine are their parents and a cheerless woman, who I conclude must be a sister or sister-in-law of the mother.

There is a steady dance beat audible just below the dinner chatter, periodic cries of toddlers and the constant clank of plates and glasses. A young couple in the corner smoke an endless chain of cigarettes just a few feet from a mother rocking her baby while she eats. Three 18 year old girls baring midriff and cleavage traipse in looking for a table, there are none to be had.

The waiters deal out large flat steak sandwiches to a hungry family of eight and then hurry back to the kitchen for toasted ham and cheese sandwiches for a couple in their twenties. We have been sitting with half eaten plates pushed to the far end of the table for nearly an hour, and the waiter has walked by 20 times and not said a word to hurry us out. By our side, a family with three children under 10 years old waits for a table. After all it is only 12:30 AM, what’s the rush?

This is so Argentina! At 8 PM most restaurants haven’t even opened for the evening and no Argentine waiter ever brings the bill until you ask for it. It is not just acceptable to linger for an hour after you finish eating, it is expected. Thank goodness, because the scene is great!

Nevertheless, it is late for us and we are tired. As we get up to leave and I step over a stroller, I am stuck by how different from the US this is. The teenagers getting an early start, couples in their twenties and thirties, pregnant mothers and their multigenerational families all enjoying the cool evening, eating and drinking together late into the night, they are all comfortable together.

As we walk home I wonder what would cause the most outrage in the US? The teenagers just getting started with their drinking at 12:30 AM? No, surely the huge number of children in a bar past midnight would be worse. What about chain smoking near the pregnant mother? I can’t really be sure, but I’m glad to be in Argentina where no one seems to bat an eye.

See more photos of the La Lucia.

1 Comment »

  1. [...] On the other hand, this schedule means that people also eat dinner much later than I am used to. Jonathan and I were soooo proud of ourselves for sitting down at dinner at 11:30 pm at a bar, only to find that entire families , including grandma, parents, toddlers and pregnant women just were coming in as we were leaving. The babies were simply set into the strollers, the little kids ran around, just like at an Applebees. But it was 1 am, in the morning. Check out JonathanĀ“s take on this here. [...]

    Pingback by Soyan Says… » Four hour naps, dinner at 1 am — October 25, 2005 @ 7:07 pm

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