In many of the large grocery stores we have gone to here in Uruguay, the deli counter has been impressive. Many of the stores also have an entire wall dedicated to deli style serving counters. Also, the deli counter is not just relegated to prepared meats and cheeses.
The following photo is from our neighborhood Devoto grocery store. It just goes on and on.
The deli counter consists of (in order from closest to farthest away in the photo above):
1. A selection of fish.
2. Prepared food. They have individual, daily prepared, single-serve meals of pasta and sauce, tortas, chicken fingers, rice, etc…
3. A section of desserts. A wide section of desserts. They have pastries, both savory and sweet, and a huge selection of small cookies, candies, and bite-size cakes (for reference, the woman with the basket in the above photo is admiring the baked goods collection).
4. A section of handmade cakes, a full 12 inches of round chocolate and dulce de leche deliciousness.
5. A section for pasta. All grocery stores make their own pasta despite there being a slew of specialty pasta stores in every neighborhood (called a Fabrica de pasta). You can purchase boxed fresh pasta with the rest of the packaged pasta in the refrigerated section, but you can also order pasta at the deli counter. I haven’t figured out if there is a difference yet!
6. A ham section. In the U.S. this would be the deli meats section, but in Uruguay it’s the ham section. A normal grocery store here has a selection of 20-30 different kinds of ham (none of them peppered or honey-baked, just regular ham). There is sometimes a selection of salami (maybe 5 different types). And you can buy what look to be individual hot dogs, which are probably actually some kind of fancy sausage (although most sausage is bought already packaged from the refrigerated section).
7. A cheese section. Most of this cheese is mozzarella which is fairly common. The rest is either Colonia or parmesan. Colonia seems to be a general term for a cheese that comes in a lot of different varieties: colonia farming, colonia suiza, plain old colonia. All the cheeses, parmesan excluded, are rather flavorless. There is absolutely no equivalent to a good extra sharp cheddar cheese from the U.S. There are imported cheeses in the refrigerated section like brie, cambefort, blue cheese and sometimes gouda, but they are extremely expensive and sometimes not very flavorful either.
8. A beef section. Name a part of the cow and they will have it at the deli counter. Want ground beef? They have that too. They also have Asado meat (a cut of the ribs), a variety of filets and steaks, and tongue (yep, it’s true – they use it in a traditional dish called guiso).
As you will notice, there is the complete absence of a poultry section. You can get packaged chicken in the refrigerated section, but a specialty store probably has a much better selection.
Also, each of the separate sections have a little take-a-number machine. Each section has one or two dedicated workers serving behind the counter. Even so, sometimes there are hoards of people waiting. No one ever seems to mind, they just take their number and wait.