The first time I tried to order ice cream in a heladería (ice cream parlor) was a bit of an overwhelming experience, since everything was so different from what I was used to! Here’s the breakdown of what you can expect at most heladerías here in Buenos Aires.
1) Flavors – You’ll find that each heladería boasts at minimum of 20 or 30 different flavors. So how do you choose? What does it all mean? If you’re ever in doubt, you can always ask for a small sample.
Cremas – traditional, milk-based ice creams – common options here will be Crema Americana (whipped cream and vanilla), Vainilla, Frutos del bosque (assorted berries with vanilla or crema americana ice cream), Sambayón (egg yolks, sugar, sweet wine), Banana Split (banana-flavored ice cream with dulce de leche and chocolate chunks), and assorted Mousse de …. options (fruit-flavored milk-based ice creams).
Frutales – I was initially not quite sure what “fruit ice creams” were, but was soon enlightened that these are sorbets – a personal favorite on hot summer days!
Chocolates – the different kinds of chocolate, from white to dark and everything in between, deserve their own place on the menu
Dulce de Leches – just as with chocolate, the different varieties of dulce de leche are also set aside.
Depending on the place and the size of what you order, you’re usually allowed to choose 2-3 flavors, which gives you plenty of opportunity to mix and match.
2) A cone or a cup?
When you tell the cashier what you want, it’s often best to order based on the price, since many places don’t necessarily have “small”, “medium”, and “large”. There will be quite a few options, from a small cup not much larger than a single scoop up through a whole kilo of ice cream that you can bring home with you!
Once you’ve paid, make sure to get your receipt (or “ticket”) from the cashier. If it’s not busy you’ll be able to move right over to the ice cream counter and order, but if it is busy, they’ll go by the number that’s printed on the receipt. When it’s your turn, you have to hand your receipt to the server so that they can see what you’ve paid for.
Here in Argentina there are regular cones and waffle cones, regular cups and waffle cups. If you’d like a cone, they usually refer to a small one as a “cono” and a large one as “cucurucho”. Most cones are waffle cones (“cucurucho de barquillo”) rather than the cake (flat-bottomed) cones. Asking for a “cono” usually refers to the smaller size while a “cucurucho” refers to the larger size.
For a cups, they have both paper and waffle cups. While a regular, paper cup is called a “vaso”, the waffle cups are called “capelinas” – a name that comes from the italian word for “hat”, since it looks like a little hat when it’s flipped over. Whatever you do, don’t ask for a “copa” – it won’t make any sense!
3) To top things off…
Make sure to let the cashier know, i.e. at the time you pay, if you want toppings, since these aren’t usually included with the ice cream. Common sauces are chocolate, dulce de leche, strawberry, raspberry, and mixed berries. Toppings vary from one place to the next, but you can often find almonds, walnuts, mixed berries, and chocolate chips. Some places have sprinkles, but they’re not a standard ice cream topping.
Some of the popular chains in Buenos Aires are Freddo, Persicco, Munchi’s, and Volta – but don’t be afraid to stop in anywhere you happen to walk by in the street.