Uruguayan cuisine is typical for temperate countries, high on butter, fat, and grains, low on spice. It has an important Italian influence due to the strong Italian inmigration. If you are from the Mediterranean, you will find it bland, but if you come from the Northern Europe, Russia or the US, you won't have trouble getting used to it.
As of May 2014, breakfast for 4 people (a liter of fruit juice and two packages of biscuits) can cost as little as UYU100 in a supermarket, a serving of fast food costs about the same while meals in sit down restaurants generally speaking start from UYU300.
There are many public markets where you can get a hundred varieties of meat. Vegetarians can order ravioli just about anywhere.
Empanadas (hand-sized meat or cheese pies) make an excellent portable, inexpensive, and delicious snack or lunch. You can find them easily at many corner bakeries.
Uruguay has traditionally been a ranching country, with cattle outnumbering people more than two-to-one, and therefore features excellent (and affordable) steaks. One dish that should not be missed is chivito, a heart-attack-on-a-platter sandwich (some guidebooks call it a "cholesterol bomb") that is made of a combination of grilled tenderloin steak, tomato, lettuce, onion, eggs (hard-boiled and then sliced), ham, bacon, mozzarella cheese and mayonnaise and fries. There are two versions of chivito. Al pan means it's served "on bread", this is the classic variant and it looks like a hamburger served on a plate. If it is served al plato it is like a hamburger minus the bread and often with more vegetables.
Asado is a typical Uruguayan barbeque, consisting of a variety of grilled meats (beef short ribs, sausage, blood sausage and sweetbreads and other offal) over wood coals. Almost all Uruguayans know how to make it and its variations appear on most restaurant menus. For a traditional experience, try it at the "Mercado del Puerto" market, in Montevideo's port area. As many of the European immigrants to the area around Rio de la Plata a century ago came from Italy, Italian dishes have a special place in the local cuisine, often with a local twist. The Central European schnitzel's local relative Milanesa is made with beef instead of pork and is also available as a sandwich.
Uruguay, with its long shoreline, also enjoys an excellent variety of seafood and fish. The flavor of the most commonly offered fish, brotola, may be familiar to people from North America, where it is called hake.
For desserts, dulce de leche, a kind of caramel made with sweetened milk, is found in all manner of confections, from ice cream to alfajores (dulce de leche-filled cookie sandwiches), or Ricardito, a famous Uruguayan dessert (available in all supermarkets).
Yerba Mate is widely drunk on the streets, but can hardly be ordered in restaurants, as young and old go around with their own cup and thermos bottle on the street there would likely not be anyone ordering it in a café or restaurant if they would offer it. You may have to buy a package at a supermarket and make your own. The drinking gourds are widely available and range from economical to super-luxe silver and horn. Yerba Mate is a social drink. If you are with a group of Uruguayans they will probably offer you some, do be mindful, it may taste somewhat bitter. If you try some it will make everybody happy.
Uruguay is also acquiring a reputation for its fine wines, especially those made from the Tannat grape.
Alcohol is relatively inexpensive. Beer often come in large, 1l bottles that can go for as low as UYU50. The two brands found everywhere are Pilsen and Patricia, Zillertal being a distant third. Imports are available too but other Uruguayan brands probably exist but are hard to find.
The most common strong alcohol beverage is surprisingly whisky, even many famous brands such as Johnnie Walker being manufactured in Uruguay under license. A 1l bottle of the cheapest brands can be bought for just UYU250 in a supermarket.