Straddling the midpoint of the 2,670-mile length of Chile, between the snowy peaks of the Andes and the Mediterranean-like coast, Santiago has become a melting pot for culinary ideas ranging from Patagonia to the Atacama Desert. No longer is Santiago’s food scene looking towards Europe or Peru for inspiration: young chefs and culinary entrepreneurs have realised they have the tools they need to create something uniquely their own. They’re blending elements of Chile’s culinary heritage, like those of the indigenous Mapuche or the German settlers of the country’s Lake District, and seeking out native ingredients like the strong-tasting sea creature piure, or the superfruit maqui berry.
From lively downtown streets to the swanky suburbs in the east, there’s not one part of the city’s food scene that isn’t worth a closer look. Visitors can opt for kitschy coffee shops with scantily clad wait staff, called “café con piernas”, or new wave roasters with fair-trade beans in Lastarria or Bellavista. Try a fully dressed completo, a Chilean hot dog slathered with avocado and other toppings, or head to an artisanal sausage chain. Why opt for formal dining when you have pop- ups happening in carparks and abandoned warehouses serving multi-course dinners, of foraged ingredients and nose-to-tail dinners paired with one-of-a-kind wines from local indie winemakers?
Even the city’s classic fast-food joints, called “fuente de sodas”, and the traditional foods of markets and street stalls such as empanadas or pastel de choclo (A South American-style shepherd’s pie), are getting a makeover. There has never been a better time to explore Santiago’s food scene.