Its Mediterranean climate and its enviable location between the Andes and the Pacific Ocean aren’t the only things that make Santiago an attractive city to visit. The food scene here has come into its own in the past few years, as more and more chefs embrace traditional recipes and indigenous ingredients, creating flavors as singular as they are compelling. If you’re wondering where to start exploring this unique culinary landscape, check out our 2017 Experts’ Choice winners for the top restaurants in the Chilean capital.
Coming in at number 36 on the San Pellegrino list of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants, Borago is probably the best place in town to sample the terroir of Chile. Chef Rodolfo Guzman, a dedicated forager who draws inspiration from his time working at the Michelin-starred Mugaritz restaurant in Spain’s Basque country, has made a name for himself through his ingenious combinations of Chilean ingredients, from beach dill and sea star flowers to conger eel.
Located in the heart of the lovely Bellavista neighborhood, Galindo is a Santiago institution, embodying the history, not to mention the slightly bohemian flavor, of the city. It’s an excellent place to sample national classics like empanadas and chorrillana (grilled meat and onions over French fries), combined with the house wine or a beer on tap.
Pâté maison, "soupe à l'oignon", coq au vin, crêpes suzettes, chocolate mousse — you’ll find them all at Flaubert, Ximena Larrea’s charming French bistro in the Providencia district. An all-day restaurant serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, Flaubert does high tea, too, featuring high-quality loose-leaf teas and house-made pastries. There’s also an in-house gourmet shop where you can pick up food souvenirs including marmalade made with “frutos del sur” and imported loose-leaf teas.
Tradition and innovation come together at Europeo, a fine-dining restaurant in the posh Vitacura district where Chef Francisco Mandiola Camus serves seasonal cuisine that showcases the best local ingredients, reflecting influences from Europe and the Americas. A la carte dishes include house-made pastas (like stuffed tortellini with abalone) and sustainably-sourced seafood (like scallops with smoked herbs). For a worthy splurge, try the 9-course tasting menu, which might feature dishes like Pacific coast oysters with Chilean rhubarb and nalka juice, paired with Rosé Champagne Drappier.
A pioneering brunch restaurant owned and run by an expat from New Zealand, Melba is a cozy, casual spot that serves all-day breakfast along with generous sandwiches and stick-to-your-ribs dishes like pork medallions. You’ll find abundant breakfast classics here, from eggs Benedict and omelets to French toast with real maple syrup and waffles three ways.
At this lively Bellavista diner, the specialty is gigantic sandwiches, including their signature lomito completo with marinated, slow-roasted pork with sauerkraut, mayo, avocado, and tomato sauce. Also worth trying: the chacarero, with thinly sliced beef, tomatoes, green beans, and chili peppers. Try to snag a seat at the counter so you can watch the old-time waitresses in action.
It’s all about high-quality fish at Azul Profundo, an inviting two-story restaurant near Cerro San Cristobal where the decor and the menu pay tribute to the bounty of the Pacific Ocean. Expect classics like chupe de centolla (king crab pudding) and camarones al ajillo (garlic shrimp) along with pulpo asado (grilled octopus) and the puro Chile (grilled salmon with caramelized chili peppers and quinoa risotto). Try the generous ceviche sampler and pair it with a pisco sour.
A hip, second-floor space in the Lastarria barrio that’s a fixture for young artistic types, Opera Catedral serves a modern menu of Chilean-Mediterranean specialties, along with creative cocktails like the Rica-Rica Sour (with pisco, lemon, and herbs from the Atacama region). Four nights a week, they host an interesting mix of live music concerts (past performers include Inti Illimani and Los Jaivas) and top DJs.
A favorite with fashionable Santiagueños and expats alike, Etniko is a stylish bar-restaurant where the menu draws inspiration from Japan, Thailand, and Chile and the industrial-chic decor centers around a lovely interior atrium. Founded by Chilean brothers Christian and Olivier Jeannot in 1997, Etniko was one of the first restaurants to bring the flavors of Asia to Santiago. The in-house club features local and international DJs from Tuesday to Saturday, and the soundtrack is mostly electronic.
The true flavors of Chile are on display at Bar Nacional, an uber-traditional downtown diner where they’ve been serving classics like pastel de choclo, empanadas, and lomo a lo pobre (steak with fried egg and French fries) for over half a century. From the bow-tied waiters to the chrome counter to the formica tables, dining doesn’t get much more unpretentious than this.