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Chile is a diverse country…and Chilean cuisine is equally varied. Heavily favored to the region’s natural resources, traditional Chilean food carries the influence of the nation’s European immigrants. The Chile food culture differs from north to south, but in the sprawling capital city of Santiago, visitors can sample the most popular foods in Chile. We were most intrigued to feast on famous Santiago, Chile foods, like fresh fish, a Fuente Alemana lomito sandwich and Chilean empanadas.
Santiago, Chile Food…On A Budget
As we researched what to eat in Santiago, Chile, we had to keep our budget in mind. Our nearly two months in South America (also visiting Uruguay and Argentina), had proven to be more expensive than anticipated, at least when it came to eating meals at restaurants. A quick glance at the menus around Santiago told the same story. Many of the recommended restaurants in Chile had prices that were on par with the cost of dining out in the United States – which was a bit more than we had accounted for.
The Best (Cheap) Santiago Food
We didn’t view our budget as a hindrance, but as a motivation. We were intent on trying some of Chile’s most famous foods, without over-spending. With some local guidance, we were successful – as we discovered some of the best Chile food dishes…all at affordable prices.
Fuente Alemana Santiago: Sandwich de Lomito
La Fuente Alemana is an institution in the city, which is known for one thing: the Lomito Completo. Loved by locals and tourists alike, it is – without question – the best sandwich in Santiago. The German diner-style eatery has been owned and managed by the Siri family since 1956 when they acquired the shop near Plaza Italia. Since that time, little has changed at La Fuente Alemana Santiago.
Hungry patrons squeeze into the noisy restaurant, hoping to find an unoccupied seat at the long counter. Like a well-oiled machine, the cooks and waitresses, clad in traditional aprons, work in sync as they expertly (yet effortlessly) assemble massive sandwiches and serve chop (draft) beer. The production is almost as fascinating as the sandwiches.
The famous Fuente Alemana sandwich, the Lomito Completo, is an artform…and it’s huge. The main component of the sandwich is the lomito – pork loin. After hours of simmering, the pork is thinly sliced and covered in a broth of secret spices before being heaped onto a freshly-baked bun. To make the sandwich a completo, thick-sliced tomatoes are added, then a heaping portion of sauerkraut, an obscene amount of Chilean mayonnaise and a slather of mashed avocado. The colossal sandwich costs just 5000 CLP (about $7 USD).
Dining at Fuente Alemana Santiago, Chile
We arrived with the lunchtime crowds but were lucky to find two seats together. Although there are other choices on the Fuente Alemana menu (the Churrasco and Romanian are two other popular choices), we ordered the signature Lomito. Because the sandwich is enormous, we decided to share one, which proved to be the right choice. (I was in awe, however, by the man sitting next to me who was able to eat his entire overflowing Fuente Alemana lomito sandwich in just about five minutes.)
When we ordered, we decided to break from tradition and nix the mayo (a beloved condiment of locals). In hindsight, it was probably a mistake. The Lomito-almost-Completo was good, but we are guessing it was not as good without the mayonnaise.
Top Tip: If you want the pork sandwich with all the toppings, make sure to order the Lomito Completo. Which is not to be confused with a Completo Chileno, which is a Chilean hot dog with almost the same toppings as the sandwich.
Finding Fuente Alemana Alameda
Anyone searching for the best restaurants in Santiago, Chile are likely to stumble onto Fuente Alemana. Not only is it rated #1 for Cheap Eats on TripAdvisor Santiago, the restaurant was also featured by (the late) Anthony Bourdain on No Reservations Chile. The address of the original Fuente Alemana Alameda location is: Av Libertador Bernardo O’Higgins 58, Santiago, Chile – map.
Empanadas serve as a satisfying budget meal throughout South America. The little pockets of dough are filled with an array of mixtures – from meat to cheese to vegetables. Baked or fried empanadas are available at markets, bakeries and even the grocery store – and typically cost about $1-2 USD each. Because of the price, portability and appetizing taste, empanadas are one of the most popular foods in Chile.
Unlike empanadas we have eaten elsewhere, Chilean empanadas are unique. The empanadas de pino – or meat empanadas – are stuffed with a blend of ground beef, sautéed onion, garlic, hard-boiled eggs, olives and, in some recipes, even raisins. In Chile, it is more traditional to bake the empanadas than to fry them.
Zunino Empanadas Santiago Centro
On our search to find the best empanadas in Santiago, we found our way to Zunino Emporio. The restaurant was founded in 1930 by two brothers, who were Italian immigrants. Using quality ingredients – some of which are imported from Italy – the Zunino family perfected the empanada recipe. They only make two kinds of empanadas: Pino or Queso.
Their empanadas de pino are made with a flavorful combination of meat, onion, egg and olives using a traditional dough. The queso empanadas are made with puff pastry dough wrapped around melted Gouda cheese. Both are absolutely delicious. The cost for a single meat empanada is 1100 CLP; the price for cheese is 1300 CLP (right around $2 USD each).
In addition to empanadas, they make individual Napolitana-style pizzas. From the deli case, guests can also purchase fresh-made pastas and imported cheese to-go.
Eating at Restaurant Zunino
Even though empanadas are fast food, there will almost certainly be a line at Zunino – as there was when we arrived. The queue moved fast; we ordered and paid then retrieved our piping-hot empanadas from the counter. There are no tables at Zunino, but there is standing room with counter space. We considered taking our empanadas to-go but couldn’t resist the opportunity to eat them fresh from the oven – so we devoured them on-site.
Zunino Emporio is located in a corner shop on the outside of Mercado Central Santiago de Chile. The address is Puente 801, Mercado Central Santiago – map.
Typical Chilean Food at Markets
Markets – or mercados – in Santiago are not just a place to shop for fresh fish and seasonal produce – they are also places to dine. At each market in Santiago, there are small restaurants cooking authentic Chilean cuisine.
Although Mercado Central Santiago is best-known among tourists, we recommend skipping it for a meal – especially for budget travelers. The prices at the restaurants at Mercado Central are excessive in comparison to most establishments in the city. Instead, we would encourage visitors to venture into the more local markets, where restaurants are hidden in the labyrinth of vendors.
Read about our recommended Markets in Santiago!
Cheap Drinks at Bars in Santiago, Chile
Tourists visiting Santiago de Chile should not have too much of an issue when searching for inexpensive drinks. Local wine and draft beer are widely available and often affordable. More fashionable, upscale and touristy bars, however, can come with a steep upcharge – so check prices before you order. We ordered a recommended beer at a bar in Bellavista without inquiring about the price and it ended up costing about $10 USD.
The sickly-sweet Terremoto– a concoction of white wine and pineapple ice cream – is often an inexpensive, yet intoxicating, beverage. As the national drink of Chile, the Terremoto is offered at most bars, but is famously served at La Piojera, where it costs about 2700 CLP (about $4 USD).
On the other hand, a bottle of decent wine from a local Chilean vineyard can be bought at the grocery store for as little as $3 USD.
We want to know: What is your favorite Santiago food? Have you eaten the Fuente Alemana Lomito Sandwich? Have you tried Zunino empanadas? Give us your best tips and advice for what to eat in Santiago, Chile in the comments below!
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