A chivito is an Uruguayan steak sandwich… kind of. You also see them served without buns, which makes it not really a sandwich anymore. It also includes fried ham/bacon and a lot of other things, so saying that it is a steak sandwich is kind of a stretch. Steak sandwich or not, chivitos are ubiquitous in Uruguay. It seems like every other restaurant here labels itself a chiviteria.
The essential parts of the chivito are steak, fried ham or bacon (often both), lettuce, tomato, a ton of mayonnaise, and sliced, hard-boiled egg. Sometimes they’ll also have cheese or a fried egg. Sounds amazing, right? Dagwood Bumstead would get excited for this sandwich because it is huge. And for people like myself, who don’t really like mayo, the mayo isn’t even an obstacle. They use real mayonnaise here – like, actually made with eggs, and often fresh – and even I can’t say that I hate it (like I have been doing my whole life). I found this cute mini-guidebook to Montevideo that recommended that you eat a chivito only with someone you’re okay chatting with while you have mayo all over your face (even my husband admits that it’s so big it’s kind of hard to eat).
Then it starts to get weird. The Uruguayans also often add a lot of weird things like hearts of palm, pickled red peppers, green olives, and beets (!) to what would otherwise have been a lovely sandwich. The kicker is, unless you make it yourself or you want to piece through endless chivito layers, you never know what you’re going to get until you start eating it. Biting into an unexpected beet is like the unpleasantness of biting into an innocent-looking brownie and finding a walnut infestation.
As an aside, Kevin and I had an interaction with a street cart vendor the other day that leads me to believe that Uruguayans love putting lots of toppings on their sandwiches. When we asked for a hamburger with only cheese, bacon, lettuce, and tomato, she actually mocked us. I have to say though, it was an excellent burger and I would definitely go back no matter what she thinks of my plain Jane ways.
On the whole, I feel that I can’t give a ringing endorsement for the chivito. Given the choice, I will always opt for a hamburger. But the population of Uruguay is about 3.5 million, and the prevalence of the chiviteria would make it seem that my opinion doesn’t make any difference. 🙂