Upon arriving in Santiago, Chile, fresh off of three months in Mexico, where street food is king, I was in for culinary culture shock. The lack of street food was immediately noticeable (unless you like hot dogs, known here as panchos, which I don’t).
I had to search long and hard, especially in Chile, where food is on the bland side, to find good street food (besides the ubiquitous empanadas or hot dogs), or food reasonably priced that I could qualify as street food.
After nearly two months of eating in these countries, here are a few drinks and dishes I liked (because humitas, the flavorless tamales I gave a chance, are not recommended, nor was the ceviche in Chile).
Empanadas (Chile & Argentina)
You’ll find these in either country at just about every restaurant and corner store (and sometimes on the street in Chile!) and they can be fantastic when fresh, and are available with a wide array of salty or sweet fillings, and baked or fried varieties. Hands down the absolute best empanadas I had in either country was at tiny, artisanal Los Roldán, in Viña del Mar, Chile, where they have a kitchen, a cash register, and a few chairs outside the shop. Made-to-order, big, and delicious! Tucumán, Argentina, your famous spicy ones were quite good, but not great. ($1 to $2 USD)
The national drink of the slender nation, it’s a delicious concoction of pipeño (white) wine and pineapple ice cream (I know, I know…trust me on this) that can be served sweet (with grenadine) or slightly bitter (with Fernet). It packs a punch and, just like an earthquake, will have you stumbling if you don’t drink with caution (which is hard because they go down easy). Many bars in Chile have them, but, if in Santiago, head to the place that more-or-less invented the drink and continues to be very popular: the divey La Piojera (2500 CLP)
Tortilla a la parrilla (Northern Argentina)
I was quite pleased to find this tasty, hot-off-the-grill snack the size of my head (or bigger) late into my trip through Argentina (as I only saw it on the streets in the north). As simple as it is delicious, filling, and cheap: a freshly toasted, thick, buttery flat bread that goes well with cheese or solo (10 Argentine pesos).
Mote con huesillo (Chile)
One of the more unique drinks I’ve tried, it is made with cooked peaches (and you get a whole one in your cup), sugar, cinnamon…and, randomly, husked wheat, which settles at the bottom of the cup (and I didn’t really eat). It’s a sweet, refreshing treat that you can easily get from the ubiquitous carts on streets in Santiago (600-1200 Chilean pesos).
Meaty sandwiches (Argentina)
Whether it’s a Choripan, lomito, or a bondiola, any of these easy-to-find bad boys is sure to fill you up, with generous portions of meat stuffed in white bread. In the north of Argentina, they offer not just the basic meat, bread, and chimichurri or criolla salsas, but also some veggies and other sauces, which make for a more flavorful and satisfying choripan (45-70 Argentine pesos).
Locro (Northern Argentina)
Made with beans, potatoes, corn, and beef, it’s a steamy stew that helps people warm up in the cold climates of the north. Moreover, they believe in spices in the north of Argentina, so there was some good, hot salsa to throw in the mix, which I was a fan of. One of my tastiest and most satisfying finds (45-60 Argentine pesos)