Introducing the Kiosko, Chino, Supermercado, and the Verdulería

There are four types of stores around which our world revolves: the kiosko, the Chino, the supermercado, and the verdulería. In general, when moving to Buenos Aires, I would recommend living within one or two blocks of at least two of these four types of stores to make your life easier. Where we are now in Las Cañitas (my new favorite neighborhood), we are within two blocks of all of these essential retail concerns as well as a smattering of fabulous butchers, delis, spice stores, natural food stores…we adore it here!

The Kiosko. These are very small convenience stores that are important when you have a toilet paper emergency late at night (living with three females has made Tom very aware of this phenomenon) or if you want to re-up the minutes on your pay-as-you-go phone. We also use these establishments for emergency moneda acquisition, but you have to be canny and hard-as-nails to get actual coins out of these proprietors!

The Chino. There is a large contingent of small grocery store owners that are of Chinese descent, therefore the name for these types of stores has become, Chino. It is always amusing to freak out the owners of these markets with some Mandarin conversation at check-out, especially with two little blond-haired Chinese speakers in tow! We frequent the Chino for quick staple runs — milk, yogurt, water, rice, etc. There is generally a small produce section in the store as well, but it is usually of lower quality.

The Supermercado. The Carrefour, the Disco, and the Coto are the three most ubiquitous grocery store chains. The mega versions of these purveyors carry electronics and household items, the more modest locations are just grocery stores. If you like to feel and select your own produce, this is where you would buy it, although quality varies dramatically from store to store and day to day.

It has taken Tom awhile to master the Spanish vocabulary required for checkout at the supermercado. First he has to select between efectivo or tarjeta (cash or credit), then he has to decide if he wants home delivery. Next, they ask if he wants his purchase charged in one payment or multiple payments. Lastly, they request a documento, which is supposed to be a DNI card or a passport. Tom usually just gives them his U.S. driver’s license, which often results in a visit from a manager, who has approved its use in every case but one.

The Verdulería are produce markets that dot the city’s streets. In general, I have a hard time buying produce from these vendors because I’m not thrilled about buying food that has been sitting out in the street all day, getting covered in the chemical-laden black exhaust which spews from the buses, but it often can’t be avoided as supermarket produce is often horrible. I find that it’s also a good idea to try to get a sense of when your local Verdulería receives shipments because unless you catch it off the truck, items like lettuce sit outside and wilt in the heat within about 30 minutes of delivery.

It has been my experience (and yes, I know it is not everyone’s experience) that these operators will pass off crappy product if you appear to be a transient tourist, so don’t be shy. Ask to see all of the produce they are bagging and feel free to reject their selections. Because they pick and you don’t, relationship building with your local vegetable merchant is a good idea if you are going to be living in the city for any length of time.

11 Responses to “Introducing the Kiosko, Chino, Supermercado, and the Verdulería”

  1. Dennis

    My problem with verdulerias (and their sisters the fruterias) is that the vendors like to round prices pretty generously, mostly to avoid the problems with monedas. So stopping in to buy two bananas or an apple can be a relatively expensive proposition compared to a supermercado where everything is weighed/priced to the centavo.

  2. Michele

    Excellent point.

  3. Buenos Aires Expats - Online Community of Expatriates and guide to living in Buenos Aires, Argentina

    […] Interview with Marcelo Ruarte, of Hotel Bauen, a “recovered” business Wednesday, 13 May Introducing the Kiosko, Chino, Supermercado, and the Verdulería[] There are four types of stores around which our world revolves: the kiosko , the […]

  4. kittykat32

    Word on the relationship building with your verdulero!

  5. Michele

    kittykat, it’s a process, that’s for sure.

  6. Robert

    Dennis, you’re in a country with a huge devaluation, why do you mind about the cent, please!

  7. Dennis

    Robert, you’re right in one sense (cents!), but the rounding is really quite generous. I continue to use both verdulerias and supermercados, as both have good and bad products at good and bad prices. I was just pointing out one reason that I tend towards supermercados over verdulerias in some cases. I completely understand why verdulerias round due to moneda problems, but they are my hard-earned centavos after all.

  8. Lizzy Lee

    I am a Londoner who has emigrated to Uruguay. I miss Asian (and Middle Eastern) restaurants dreadfully and have to try to cook my own asian food. Although I brought spices with me I have run out of stir fry sauces and various other things such as tahini sauce. Uruguay only has a tiny selection of such products which are hideously expensive because of the import tax. If I take a trip to Buenos Aires would I find such things? I would be very grateful if you have time to let me know. Thanks in anticipation.

  9. Michele


    Great to hear from you — and I totally feel your pain!

    When you are in Buenos Aires, you can get a very wide variety of spices, sauces, y otras cosas picante in Chinatown. It is very small, but there are several grocery stores there and they are really one-stop shopping for ethnic food. Indian curry powders, Thai fish sauce, chili oil — it’s all here. (I did a series of posts on some ethnic dishes we recently cooked using stuff from Barrio Chino: Spicy Food 1, 2 and 3).

    Barrio Chino is located in the Belgrano neighborhood and can be reached on the D line from the Juramento stop. The neighborhood starts at the intersection of Arribeños and Juramento. It runs only a few blocks along two parallel streets. Just walk the whole thing while you’re here and see what you can find! Good Luck! Let me know how it goes!

  10. Lizzy Lee

    Thanks so much for your reply and I look forward to visiting the Barrio Chino. I assume that you were able to get lemon grass (fresh or powdered) for your Thai red curry (which, by the way looked very professional)and the other ingredients to make up the curry paste. If you every come to Punta del Este let me know so we can get together!

  11. Michele

    Fresh lemongrass, check. Hot red peppers, check. Ginger, check. Spices, check. On some days, things look a little tired, so make sure to check around. SUERTE!

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