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Stay-at-Home Orders Lead to Changes at Argentina’s Steakhouses

2020-5-15

People no longer join long lines to get a table at Don Julio, a well-known steakhouse in Buenos Aires.

Since Argentina’s government ordered people to stay at home on March 20, the restaurant has had to change. Don Julio has become a high-end butcher, with plans to sell street food.

Pablo Rivero, the owner of Don Julio, said the goal was to keep alive the feeling of a corner grill, or ‘parrilla.’ That idea, of a local eatery, is central to Argentine culture – much like a cafe in Paris or a pub in London.

A woman walks her dogs in front of the facade of the Don Julio steakhouse, as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, in Buenos Aires, Argentina May 11, 2020. Picture taken May 11, 2020. REUTERS/Agustin Marcarian
A woman walks her dogs in front of the facade of the Don Julio steakhouse, as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, in Buenos Aires, Argentina May 11, 2020. Picture taken May 11, 2020. REUTERS/Agustin Marcarian

“We are not going to lose it,” Rivero said, “so it is a question of finding a way of getting through this.”

Argentines have been told to stay at home unless they are considered a key worker or are buying food or essential goods.

The stay-at-home order has meant restaurants and cafes are closed, while small bakeries, grocery stores and butchers remain open.

“The idea of the butcher shop is to give people a shade of Don Julio,” said Rivero. He said they would not deliver cooked meat because it was hard to keep up the quality. He added that his business is making plans to sell street food.

“This way we can engage people in something that can represent an income until activity restarts,” he said.

Rivero said his 100 employees were still working during the nationwide lockdown - either in the butcher shop or helping to remodel the restaurant.

Gaston Riveira is the head of La Cabrera, another of the city’s top parrillas. He said the restaurant was experiencing difficulties during the lockdown, which has been extended to at least May 24.

“We are in a difficult moment because there is no tourism and Argentines are not going out because of the quarantine,” Riveira told the Reuters news agency. He added the restaurant had “transformed into a food factory” doing deliveries on a reduced menu.

The coronavirus crisis has hit international demand for Argentine beef, with many restaurants closed, from Asia to Europe. That information comes from Mario Ravettino, president of Argentina’s meat exporters group.

Francisco Palazzo lives with his girlfriend in Buenos Aires. He said it was important for people to be able to get a taste of normality. Before the lockdown, the 28-year-old usually ate an ‘asado’ mixed grill three times a week.

Recently, Palazzo said he bought cooked meat, sausage and black pudding from a parrilla that was now doing take-out.

“It was late, and it made us want to eat an asado [barbecue] and continue with our old habits,” he said.

I’m John Russell.

Juan Bustamante, Maximilian Heath reported on this story for the Reuters news agency. John Russell adapted the story for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in This Story

steakhouse – n. a restaurant that serves mostly steaks

butcher - n. someone who cuts and sells meat in a shop; a store that sells meat

key – adj. central, major or important

shade – n. comparative darkness and coolness; the darker part of a picture

deliver – v. to carry or transport something

income – n. money received; wages or pay

lockdown – n. a security measure to prevent people from entering or leaving an area

tourism – n. the operation of vacations and visits to places of interest

menu – n. a list of food available at a restaurant

habit – n. the usual way of behaving