Posted on 04 / 11 / 2015
Colonia is a tourist town, with limited options and high prices. Although you could probably come up with a vegan dish or two at most of the restaurants, Irene's is the only place that advertises vegan/vegetarian/GF (celiac) options and offers a separate menu listing them. They will serve you this food, and turned the wifi on when I asked about it, and have a working bathroom. And, it's on the main street in the modern part of downtown, walking distance from the historic downtown area if you've taken the ferry to explore on foot like us. So, it will meet all the basic needs, but unfortunately that's where the good parts end.
Service met the basic needs -- answering questions, bringing food. But I think the staff are introverts, or just not cheery people, as there was no extra positivity at all. When bringing the "check" (just an order sheet where she'd written what we got, no actual printed receipt), there was an awkward exchange where she asked us to give her the amount, in person, and asked if we wanted to leave a tip, to tell her verbally, while she was standing there (no place to write anything in).
Food was disappointing. The menu includes an item called "Smiles" for 100 pesos ($4 US). While people probably would be willing to pay this amount to get some smiles from the staff here, it's actually a frozen potato product (a french fry in the shape of a smile), marketed to moms to feed their kids with no effort. It's pretty ridiculous to put this on a restaurant menu, and the other food was similarly uninspired. We wanted to try chivitas, which is just a sandwich really but the only famous uruguayan dish I know, which advertised "wheat meat" as the context. It was unlike any seitan I've had before, soggy, spongy and not good at all.
Many have mentioned that it's expensive. Although it is expensive in the context of South America, at around $10 US per plate, looking at other restaurants in downtown Colonia they were all at this price point so I don't think Irene's was priced unfairly. But, I can sympathize that it feels terrible to pay a good amount and get dishes that come with no sides and look slopped together.
Even though I'd like to support veg food in places like Colonia, I don't think I'd come back to Irene's.
Vegan menu; menu in English and Spanish, Downtown location, Wifi
Bland, uninspired food, Service was awkward