Chile is stunning. The Atacama Desert in the north will have you feeling like landing on the moon. Getting close up to the penguins in the south is like being behind the scenes of Happy Feet. On top of that, Chileans are super sweet and would go out of their way to help you. With all that said, the food is lackluster and at best just mediocre.
I tried. I really did try. Having lived here for more than 1 year, I constantly get disappointed when I eat out. To get good food, I either have to find a Chilean grandmother who would dig up a hole in the ground to cook some Curanto or spend a fortune at the more upscale restaurants in Las Condes or Vitacura, which by the way aren't even worth it.
Santiago has access to the freshest vegetables and seafood. But, the cuisine is comparable to drunk food. One of their national dishes is chorrillana, a plate full of fries (usually soggy) topped with sliced beef, fried onion, and an egg. I could go on but I digress. After a lot of trial and error, here are 4 affordable restaurants I enjoy eating at without feeling disappointed.
Hocha is a small joint with a few selected dishes hailing from Taiwan. This is my to-go place when I'm craving for some Asian flavor. Their bubble tea is on point. Try the taro té rojo or maracuyá té verde. The Nio Rou (braised pork noodle) is delicious but the portion is small so order the Pollito Frito (popcorn chicken) as a starter. And, you know it’s good when you see other Asians eating there. Ordering bubble tea, a starter, and a bowl of noodles will cost you around 8,000 pesos.
Sagrado Corazón 394, Recoleta, Región Metropolitana
La Burguesia- I ordered a burger from a bar near Barrio Lastarria and they literally served me a beef patty between two slices of TOAST BREAD. It made me so sad! So, finding La Burguesia is Buddha-sent. They have juicy beef patties between REAL buns. It’s the perfect place when I am craving for a fat burger, almost brings me back home. They have weird opening hours and it gets crowded so plan accordingly. A burger is about 6,000 pesos.
Sta Magdalena 99, Providencia, Region Metropolitana
Son Cuba- I was skeptical before I even sat down. Cuban bar food in Chile? But, the waiter was nice and already explaining the different dishes. So, we ordered the congrí con ropa Vieja y tostones, which was pulled pork with rice, beans, and fried plantains. I couldn’t believe it! The pork had flavor and the plantains were crispy. I revisited to make sure it wasn't a fluke. Luckily, It wasn’t. The dish is still delicious! My boyfriend got another dish (I can't remember the name- maybe Asado) which I don't recommend. I'm simply vouching for the dish I got. It is around 5,000 pesos and they have an extensive list of drinks.
Manuel Montt 727 (Esquina Valenzuela Castillo), Providencia, Santiago
Nui Sushi- How chicken noodle soup is comfort food for some is how Nui Sushi is for me. When in doubt, order sushi. Chileans know how to roll down a fat sushi. My favorites are the Nikkei sushi (Japanese & Peruvian fusion) with ceviche drenched on the top. The 50% off price every day helps me feel better about my teacher’s salary. Between 2 people, we'd order 3 rolls and two jugos naturales for about 19,000 pesos.
You can find them on every corner. Check here for the closest near you.
Honorable mention: Pizza Pizza. I come from a city where there are $1 pizzerias on every corner so I was willing to give this chain a try. I was pleasantly surprised by Pizza Pizza. The crust was soft, the cheese was gooey, and they had a lot of topping options. It’s good for that kind of Netflix and chill night. It is also everywhere and one of the few places open on Sundays. Expect to pay around 12,000 pesos for a median pie, which is enough for 2 people, and they usually have deals.
UPDATE: MY RECENT DISCOVERY!
Aldea Nativa: I was googling for a café near Francisco Bilbao metro and found this gem. I ordered maracuyá (passion fruit) juice and a ceviche salad -- so healthy and fresh! I paid around 5,000 pesos. They also have a small store selling organic goodies. Great for my vegetarian friends struggling out here!
Tobalaba 1799, Providencia, Región Metropolitana
I am a huge foodie and always open to recommendations. Comment below with your favorite (and affordable) restaurants in Santiago.
Want more recommendations in Chile? Check out some of my favorite cafés here.