Argentina Brings New Meaning To The Term 'Late-Night Dinner'

The day's been long, you're finally home from work, and it's time to eat. Often, late-night dinners mean meals of convenience — things we've pillaged and pried from the cupboards by the dim light of an open fridge. Late dinners in America tend to be a one-off occasion or a symptom of an extra-long work week. That's not the case in Argentina, where dinnertime doesn't start until well after the sun has gone down.

When people think of the culture of late eating, they often think of Spain and the idea of the afternoon siesta — that is, taking a break during the hottest part of the day and resting before a late-night meal. Argentina rarely comes to mind when in fact, the reality is that they tend to eat even later. During the week, people tend to sit at the table around 9 p.m., but on the weekends, nine can be considered early, with most people sitting down around 10 p.m. and later for dinner.

Dinner runs late into the night but offers delicious food

While breaking in the middle of the day is less and less common in Spain, it's not uncommon in Argentina for stores to close for a few hours in the afternoon. The break in the afternoon corresponds to the hottest part of the day and can last from around 12:30 until 5 p.m. This is particularly true the farther you get out from larger cities and towns. Shops and cafes reopen their doors ahead of evening shopping, but plenty of restaurants don't open prior to 9 p.m.

In Buenos Aires, it's not unusual to see the city streets filled with people well past midnight — adults and children alike. Many streets are lined with restaurants and bars offering fare like fugazza (Argentine pizza topped with mozzarella, onions, and oregano) and empanadas to hungry people strolling the city. And if you're wondering whether those late nights translate to late mornings? They sure do. Breakfast in Argentina doesn't begin much before 10 a.m. and is usually made up of coffee and toast or pastries.

Steak is a popular choice at dinner

Pizza and pasta are standard fare in the late-night dining scene, but they are only part of the country's vibrant food culture. Argentina is world-renowned for its beef, a product of its long ranching history, and prominently featured on its menus. Parrillas are Argentine steak houses that focus on providing freshly prepared steaks and barbecue, known as asado. Often, roasting meat is displayed in full view of the customers and the windows along the street to entice passersby.

Usually paired with chimichurri, the country's beef is served to highlight its natural flavor and simple cooking methods. It's humble in approach and presentation but offers so much in taste and flavor. In an interview with Food & Wine, chef Francis Mallmann explained the simple style: "Once your ingredient comes in contact with the heat, don't move must respect that first contact. Even if it's not exactly in the right place, leave it alone. Otherwise, you will break the crisp surface that begins to form and dry out your food." Simple preparations allow the beef to shine for all that it has to offer — and it has a lot to offer.

So when you're planning your next Argentinian getaway, don't plan on sitting down to eat your steak at 7 p.m. Make sure you're prepared to be patient for a late-night feast.