Chile has dining options for all budgets, from food stalls to five-star restaurants. An agricultural country with a Mediterranean climate in some areas, Chile offers a wide range of produce and fruit as well as local meat and extensive seafood options. Self-caterers can shop at markets or large supermarkets. Alternative eating options (vegan, gluten-free) are growing, but currently available in few places. Isolated parts of the country, like the Carretera Austral, have few eating options since food arrives via overland transport.

The Basics

Chile has a good range of eating options. For fine dining it's a good idea to book in advance on weekends or in summer.

  • Restaurants Range from fine dining to basic, sometimes serve a discounted set menu known as menú del dia at lunch on weekdays.
  • Cafes Social dining with less formality and a bar or coffeeshop vibe.
  • Cocinas Costumbristas Popular on waterfronts, these stall-style kitchens usually offer homestyle soups and seafood.
  • Once Mainly in the German-influenced south, these cafes specialize in teatime, with cakes known as küchen, fresh bread, cheeses and deli meats.

Practical Information

All restaurants are nonsmoking, unless there is a separate, enclosed area designated for smokers.

Meals

In general, Chilean food is hearty and traditional. Soups, meat and potatoes, and wonderful casseroles, such as pastel de choclo (maize casserole) and chupe de jaiva (crab casserole), are staples. Most coastal towns have a mercado de mariscos (seafood market) where you can buy fresh fish or eat at small kitchens. If you like spice, seek out the Mapuche merkén (spice-smoked chili powder) or ají Chileno, an OK and moderately hot sauce sometimes found in restaurants.

Breakfast usually consists of white rolls with butter and jam, tea and instant coffee. Whole-bean coffee is referred to as café en grano, available at some cafes and lodgings.

At home, people often eat light meals in the evening, with a teatime of bread, tea, cheese and ham. Known as onces (elevenses), afternoon tea is popular in the south, where German influence adds küchen (sweet, German-style cakes).

Drinks

Wine may have center stage, but there is plenty more to try. Pisco, a grape brandy, is Chile's national alcohol, grown in the dry soil of the north. Pisco sours are a popular start to cocktail hours, and consist of pisco, sugar and fresh limon de pica. Students prefer piscolas, mixing the alcohol with Coke or other soft drinks.

Draft beer is known as schop. Microbrews and regional artisan brewing have become popular, particularly in the south where German influence remains. Try brews made by Szot, Kross and Spoh.