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Snack 'til you drop

 By Verónica Lampón, author of the blog Vamos a pasear?
Special collaboration for Violeta Deyapa

The Spanish word for tea-time snack (or "five o'clock tea") is "merienda". It derives from the Latin "merere" which means "merecer" or "deserve" in Spanish.

It was a popular term in the military when it was used for the afternoon (or even noon) snack given to soldiers. In the Argentine culture merienda has quite an important role considering people don't have dinner before 9PM, pretty much like they do in Spain. What with lunchtime at 12:30/1PM, making it to dinner is quite a task.

The traditional merienda in Buenos Aires is coffee with milk and toast with butter and dulce de leche. What seemed to be a fading custom has made a strong comeback and many bars or "confiterias" now serve meriendas both the traditional way as well as many new innovative versions.
If you are in Buenos Aires and have an afternoon to spare, please do not miss the chance to visit one of these places:

Las Violetas. A traditional "cafe notable" in the Almagro neighborhood. It opened in 1884 and is possibly one of the nicest in the whole city. The place is packed on weekends so be ready to wait in line to get in. The menu has a variety of choices large enough to be shared (so go with someone and split the bill) such as assorted cakes and pies, sandwiches, salted snacks and a large variety of homebaked breads. Most of the patrons are seniors in their 70s from the neighborhood, families and tourists. It's practically a hallmark of Buenos Aires. Please be adviced: almost everything you eat here is a calorie nuclear bomb. Rivadavia 3899, intersection with Medrano, a few steps away from the Castro Barros subway station.

Pani Deli. If this place can come up with something like the "Vauquita Chocotorta"(1) or the concept of "teanner" (tea+dinner) it already is on my list of favorites. The ambience is very "rococo". The waffles they serve will make you weep of pleasure. Their omelets are juicy and tasty. Don't leave without trying their delicious lemonades or their refreshing fruit shakes. They have a variety of home-baked goodies that will make want to lock yourself up in this place and never come out again.
Pani Deli is where Belgrano meets Palermo Hollywood. The place is nice, the food is good and the price-quality ratio is very good. You can try out things they invent right there as well as traditional recipes or even things more on the fancy side. Nicaragua 6044. http://www.pani.com.ar
Real close to Federico Lacroze subway station.
(1) Chocotorta is a popular chocolate cake made with chocolate cookies soaked in milk and covered with a mix of dulce de leche and sour cream. In this case the dulce de leche is replaced by another popular candy called Vauquita.

Malvón. I must confess that what I love most about Malvón is is their weekend brunch. I'll have a pitcher of Cynar and a basket of eggs with vegetable fritata. Having said this, on late afternoons you cannot beat the aroma of home made bread coming out of the semi-open kitchen. At Malvón you can eat the crunchiest sandwiches, moist on the inside and abundantly stuffed; or you can choose their originaltapas paired with chilled beer in their 70s-themed backyard.
The cool Palermo crowd populates the venue and the lemonade pitchers flow at the same pace as the home made bread. Serrano 789 http://www.malvonba.com.ar/

Patricia Villalobos. If you happen to be guilt ridden after stuffing yourself with kilos of beef, liters of wine and pigging out on dulce de leche you might want to try this place out where their motto is "Light and Non-Light". So you can try the best traditional Argentine cakes or their Low calorie versions.
They also serve sandwiches on whole grain bread and lo fat cheese, coffee and tea with fat-free milk.
Delicious and super healthy. Castex 3317, Pacheco de Melo and Callao and Ugarteche 3035.

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