While visiting Santiago Chile one will have the opportunity to enjoy a broad variety of Chilean cuisine, both modern and classic. With the country`s geography stretching more than 2000 miles, the regional cuisine varies widely. Luckily, you can find most, if not all of the traditional dishes, here in Santiago. For starters however, many people do find that Chilean cuisine lacks flavor or seasoning. While this may be true for a few of its dishes it would not be fair to put down the whole country`s cooking as a whole.
A typical day in Santiago would start off with a few pieces of toast, coffee or tea, and maybe, but not necessarily, scrambled eggs. Lunch, on the other hand, is considered a more important meal usually consisting of “ensalada chilena”, a traditional Chilean salad made of onion and tomato with a dash of salt, olive oil and balsamic vinegar, followed by “pastel de choclo” or “pastel de papa” (similar to shepherds pie) or a heartier plate of stew (cazuela) or “bistec a lo pobre.” “Bistec a lo pobre” roughly translates to “poor man`s steak”, it is anything but poor; for it is one of the bigger dishes topped with french fries, onions and a fried egg.
Tea time, or “once” as they say in Chile, (read more about this eating habit) is common practice, serving coffee, tea or any beverage of choice followed by sweets such as cakes known here as “queques”, Kuchen (pies) or even “cuchuflis”, a sort of pastry tube filled with manjar, you can`t miss those if you are in Chile.
While touring Santiago there will always be a place to sit down and have a bite. Street vendors are common and the food is usually safe to eat. The food can range from a plated meal of salad and a meat dish, empanadas, fried fish (conger eel) or even “completos “, the Chilean take on hot dogs with everything: mayo, ketchup, and avocado. This may be a good time to explain that “palta” or avocado is one of the top choices in Chilean cuisine, you may find it for breakfast, lunch and even dinner!
Depending on what type of food you are looking for there are many options available at any given time. For more traditional cuisine it would be advised to go to older restaurants such as: Liguria, Bar Nacional, The Clinic and La Piojera for adventurers. Most of these restaurants are in Santiago`s downtown area and are accessible by public transportation.
Other popular dining areas offer modern Chilean cuisine as well as international and fusion cooking. Bellavista, one of Pablo Neruda`s common hangouts, is home to many great restaurants including Ciudad Vieja, a bustling restaurant that you shouldn`t miss, offering the best Chilean cuisine turned into a sandwich of your choice.
Another area worth visiting is the street “Nueva Costanera” in the Vitacura area. While it is considered more of a fine dining area there are definitely restaurants worth visiting such as Borago, a modern take on Chilean cuisine, and La Mar, very well known in Santiago for its great seafood. But beware of the price range and be willing to spend about 50 USD per person if you go there.
Costanera Norte will be the most expensive area to dine in; however on average 10- 15 USD will get you a pretty good meal (and great meals have been had for less!)
So remember, when in Santiago be sure to try a bit of everything: Abalone and King Crab, for the seafood lovers, sandwiches galore, empanadas, sopaipillas and other Street food, for the adventurers, and some of the world`s best and fairly priced wine you will ever have.