Going out to restaurants is, of course, a central part of any foreign culture, each of which has its own customs and etiquette regarding eating out.
Depending on the restaurant, you may get some sort of small appetizer with your meal. Basically the equivalent of a bread basket in the US, this mini course sometimes includes rolls with various toppings — ranging from pieces of meat to different sauces — or just rolls, or some small pastry. While the waiters say it is “included” or “free,” you are charged for this “servicio de mesa” — usually around 10 pesos per person.
Water is not free either in restaurants, and a bottle often costs 12-15 pesos, which can end up being half as much as your actual meal. So drink up before hand!
When you are ready to order, you must flag down the waiter — they will not come to your table on their own. Also, I’ve never had a waiter come back after bringing the food to make sure everything is okay, or if we need anything else.
In Argentina it is very typical — and even expected — for customers to stay in restaurants and cafes long after they’ve finished their meal, just talking or hanging out. In fact, the waiters won’t automatically bring the check — you must call them over and ask for it.
A normal tip here is about 10%, with 5-7% also acceptable, depending on the type of meal, the service, etc.*
*This is what I had heard originally regarding the tipping situation, but then an Argentine told me that no, tips are optional, which is what I then posted on this blog. However, my friends recently informed me, and the internet agrees, that a 10% tip is in fact customary.