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Food & Dining in Chile


Santiago's gastronomic scene has undergone a culinary revolution, and hungry diners can expect to find dozens upon dozens of restaurants that serve innovative Chilean cuisine. Ethnic restaurants, led by a sushi craze, have slowly made their way into the market. Really, apart from Thai food, there isn't any kind of cuisine that can't be found in Santiago. Downtown eateries cater to office workers, and, therefore, most are open for lunch only and closed on weekends. It is possible to eat quite cheaply in the downtown area; most restaurants have a menú del día, menú ejecutivo, or coloación, a fixed-price lunch for about $4 to $7 that includes an appetiser, main course, beverage or wine, coffee and dessert. Autoservicios, or self-service restaurants, abound, and most restaurants advertise their prices on sandwich boards or on signs posted near the front door. These restaurants are a dime a dozen, and quality is about the same. Look for many along the pedestrian walkways on Huérfanos and Ahumada streets.

In the peculiar Chilean fashion of concentrating similar businesses in one neighbourhood (Av. 10 de Julio, for example, is lined for blocks with just auto mechanics), restaurant "clusters" have been popping up like mushrooms around the city. Bellavista is perhaps the best neighbourhood to see this phenomenon, with its mind-boggling number of hip restaurants, from Chilean to Cuban to Mediterranean. Both El Bosque and its parallel street Avenida Isidora Goyenechea are lined nearly door to door with a wide variety of flavourful offerings, and now Avenida Italia in Providencia looks to be the new dining hot spot. All major hotels have outstanding restaurants open to the public. Highlights are the Hyatt's Anakena and Matsuri restaurants, the Ritz-Carlton's Adra restaurant, and the Plaza San Francisco's acclaimed Bristol restaurant. Chile is to seafood what Argentina is to beef; don't miss out on the wonderful varieties it has to offer.

Santiago is not the café society that Buenos Aires is; however, here are a few recommendations. Café Tavelli has two branches, and both are plum spots for people-watching. The branch at the corner of Tenderini and Agustinas in downtown occupies the northeastern corner of the Municipal Theatre building; this is where you come to see executives, politicians, and society ladies. Lofty ceilings give the cafe a sense of grandeur, but the outdoor tables are where to watch the city street action. There is another bustling Café Tavelli on Andres de Fuenzalida 36 in Providencia, with a more arty and middle-class crowd. For rich desserts, ice cream, and other sweet delights, try the chain Coppelia in Providencia, with locations at Manuel Montt 2517, Avenida Providencia 2211, and Avenida Ricardo Lyon 161.


Nearly every restaurant in the downtown area is closed on Sunday, and many are open only for lunch. However, restaurants in the Lastarria/Plaza Mulato Gil de Castro micro-neighbourhood offer evening dining if you are staying downtown and would rather not wander too far (located on the other side of Cerro St. Lucia). Two to check out here are La Pérgola de la Plaza, a pretty little café with a good fixed-price lunch menu and outdoor seating, and "R", a cosy spot for wine and conversation, although the ambience is better than the food: "R" is one of the best places in Santiago to enjoy an afternoon pisco sour and watch an eclectic group of locals meander by. The only parking available in this area is at Merced 317.


Ask a cab driver where to dine or drink in Providencia, and their knee-jerk reaction will be Avenida Suecia (at Avenida Providencia). Don't listen to them. Apart from a few reasonably quiet bars, the three-block radius is like a frat house gone wild on weekends. Some here call it "gringolandia", for its resemblance to the United States; happy hours and a couple of restaurants serving typical American food, including Cajun, can be found here.

For lunch or a casual dinner in Providencia, try Los Insaciables, Andres de Fuenzalida 40. From 1 pm to 3:30 pm and 8 pm to 11:30 pm, the Italian restaurant serves slices of all-you-can-eat thin-crust pizza that you choose from passing waiters who tempt you with a dozen or so different varieties. There are pastas and salads, too, and a pleasant, lively outdoor seating area.

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