I’ve been wanting to write about restaurants in Santiago for a while, and in fact over the past six months I’ve tried about 30+ different restaurants in Santiago. However, only recently did I finally find five that made the cut, and were good enough to share with you in this article.
On the whole, Santiago does not have a reputation for great food. And it’s easy to see why. Most Santiago restaurants suffer from a very low quality of service and offer food that is mediocre at best. With locals dumping traditional Chilean fare for McDonalds, Denny’s and Domino’s pizza, it seems that Santiaguinos have chosen to embrace all the worst parts of North American cuisine.
To tell the truth, the very best Chilean food is most likely to be found outside of the city, hidden away in the rural towns and villages of the south where the tendrils of cheap processed food have not yet displaced wholesome, traditional Chilean cooking.
Having said that, there are still some great options for eating out in Santiago if you know where to look, even for those who don’t want to spend more than $40 US on a meal for two.
Indian – Bar de Hotel Majestic
Probably the best Indian restaurant in the whole of Santiago (although quite pricey) I’m amazed that more people don’t know about this place. Perhaps because it’s hidden away inside a hotel, or that it isn’t even listed on Foursquare might contribute to the fact that very few gringos seem to even know that this restaurant exists. Frankly, they’re missing out.
Located on Santo Domingo 1526, you enter the main entrance of Hotel Majestic and simply ask for the restaurant. If you’re a fan of Indian food (as I am) the warm wafts of spicy curry will guide your nose unerringly to the right place.
Service is acceptable, and although the cooks are slow, the wait is well worth it. Dishes include traditional Indian curries (I recommend the lamb Rogan Josh) served with side dishes of rice or naan, as well as flaming platters that are set on fire in spectacular fashion by the waiters. Delicious desserts are also on offer, and prices are not excessive. Main courses typically start at $6.000 and a plate for two will run you about $13.000.
Traditional Chilean Food – Juan y Medio
After a disappointing experience at Bar Nacional, I had almost given up on trying to find a restaurant in Santiago that would serve decent traditional Chilean food at an affordable price.
Luckily I decided to give Juan y Medio a try. Famed for their gigantic portion sizes, this restaurant finally gave me a sample of just how good Chilean food can be when it’s done right.
The restaurant has four locations around the city. The one I went to on José Manuel Infante 51 was brand new and is the only one not listed on their website.
The service was exceptional (rare for Chile!) and the location beautiful. We were seated in a quiet outside terrace with trickling waterfalls. I ordered the stewed rabbit, but also available was a smorgasbord of Chilean delights such as pastel de choclo, cazuela de vacuno, porotos granados and traditional postres like leche asada.
Prices for a main course vary between $6.000 to $9.000 but the portions are almost big enough for two people. If you’re looking to try out traditional Chilean food, my advice is to start at Juan y Medio, you won’t be disappointed.
Brunch & English Breakfast – Cafe Melba
Cafe Melba is my favourite place in Santiago for a lazy late breakfast or brunch. Located on the quiet, leafy Don Carlos 2892 in Las Condes, this Cafe sees a regular stream of English speaking clientele.
Run by a gringo, Café Melba offers snappy service with all-day breakfasts including eggs and bacon, muffins, bagels, croissons, french toast and good coffee.
Heartier dishes like green fish curry or pork medallions are available, but on the rare occasions that I crave a real English breakfast, this is my number one choice.
Prices for a breakfast or sandwich are reasonable, expect to pay between $3.000 and $5.000, and the desserts on offer are OK.
Pizza and Italian Food – Pizza Nostra
For those of you in the mood for pasta or pizza, Pizza Nostra should be at the top of your list. I’ve tried a lot of pizza places in Santiago and had my fair share of disappointments, but in my opinion, this place serves hands down the best pizza in Santiago. I tried the one on Providencia 1975. Here, generous toppings and an overwhelming variety of choices combine with polite and attentive service to make eating here a delightful experience.
Pizzas are generously sized and priced between $4.000 to $8.000 depending on the topping. Pasta dishes are delectable and if you’re looking for a lighter option, they also offer tantalising salads and cheese/salmon cold cut platters. Desserts are divine.
This is a great location to take a date, and certainly one of the most European-style restaurants I have found in Santiago. This Italian reviewer agrees with me:
Really good restaurant… I’m Italian, and this is the only place here in Santiago where I can feel the taste of a real Italian pizza.
If you’re craving a pizza, skip the stodgy, sloppy Domino’s or Pizza Hut and get yourself a real stone-baked Italian pizza at Pizza Nostra.
Carne Asado – La Biferia
If you’re a vegetarian, you’d better stay well away from La Biferia (located on Pedro de Valdivia 065). With a one page menu consisting entirely of various cuts of Chilean steak cooked on the grill, this restaurant is for red meat lovers only.
However, with such a highly focused menu, these guys do one thing and do it well. Chilean beef tends to be somewhat leaner in comparison to its Argentine and Brazilian counterparts, and is often maligned for this reason because it can be tough if poorly prepared.
This is not the case at La Biferia however. I chose the entraña and it was succulent and delicious with plenty of flavour. Also highly recommended is the filete or lomo liso. Accompanied by a good Chilean red wine, you will certainly find your meat fix here.
They also offer a handy conversion chart between Chilean and American beef cuts, shown below: