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Dining in South America: Would you mind sitting by the window?

For those of you who don’t know us personally, Kathryn and I don’t really dress up when we go out to dinner — or anywhere else, for that matter. We assume that’s at least part of the reason why, in the United States, when we show up at a restaurant, we’re typically given a table in a dark corner of the back of the dining room. Or maybe we’re both just butt-ugly. Either way, we’re okay with that.

Here in South America, we’ve been showing up for dinner around 7:30 pm, which is quite late for us but quite early by their standards. When we arrive, we’ve mostly been encouraged to sit by the window. There appears to be a lot of window shopping in restaurants here, and it seems seeing happy diners brings in more happy diners.

Happy diners near the window at El Cuartito in Buenos Aires.

Happy diners near the window at El Cuartito in Buenos Aires.

This evening, after enjoying a lovely steak dinner in touristy Punta del Este, during which we held hands and gazed into each other’s eyes and made each other laugh, we asked for the check. It was almost 9 pm, prime window shopping time. A manager who spoke sufficient English came to our table to discretely offer us a coffee or dessert on the house. We figured out what he was up to and decided to play along. Although we had pretty much stuffed ourselves on ribeye, we each accepted a coffee.

I had my back to the door, but Kathryn counted the number of patrons who arrived in the twenty minutes it took us to finish our coffees: sixteen new guests in seven parties. If our smiling faces brought even one of those parties in, the two coffees paid for themselves many times over.