D and I have been in Santiago, Chile for a little over a week now, and we already have a favorite place to eat! We’ve returned to it again and again ever since stumbling into it our second day here.
In fact, we no longer even ask each other where to go for lunch, because we both just know now.
Mercado Tirso de Molina is a small marketplace (yes, it’s small compared to the overwhelming La Vega next door) with produce stands on the first floor and food stalls on the second floor. Our first visit there was quite a shock: rows upon rows of stalls with little wooden tables in between, food vendors calling at us from every which way, menus being shoved in our faces, everyone competing for our patronage.
We were persuaded into one of the food stalls and ushered into seats. Mainly because we’re easily persuaded when we have trouble speaking the language and when someone is pulling on our arms leading us to a table. But also because the prices are low.
(Ok, so maybe “stumbling into it” isn’t exactly the correct phrase. But the food was good enough to keep us coming back.)
Here are some of the meals we’ve had in the past week and change:
Costillar – roasted pork ribs. The flavor was insanely good. ($3500 or $6.42US)
Pescado frito – fried fish. This seems to be one of the most popular Chilean dishes, and for a good reason. ($2000 or $3.67US)
Carne al Jugo – Meat in Juices. The delicious flavors of the poorer cut of meat is made from the juices of the vegetables, spices, and meat. ($2000 or $3.67US)
Bisteq a lo Pobre – Steak and Fried Eggs, served over a bed of fries. Breakfast of champions. ($4500 or $8.25US)
Chorrillana – there’s no other way to describe this than epic: meat, sausages, and two over easy eggs, served over a bed of fries. Yes, a lot of Chilean food comes with fries. I’m pretty sure I’ve never eaten so much fries in my life. ($3500 or $6.42US)
Tallarin Saltado – Noodles Stir-fry. A dish borrowed from Peru. Peruvian food is the most popular cuisine here, after Chile’s own. ($3000 or $5.49US)
Cazuela – a very typical Chilean soup made from a piece of meat (in this case, beef), a potato, slice of pumpkin, and piece of corn. The stock is the result of boiling them all together. ($2000 or $3.67US)
Eating here is by no means upscale dining, but you do get a wide choice of delicious dishes that are distinctly Chilean, and at budget prices. All lunches come with a special, which includes bread with salsa, salad, and soup. You can’t beat a deal like this! $3.67US for bread, salad, soup, and entrée…seriously?!
And another pleasant surprise: the portions are huge. Some of the dishes (like the chorrillana and tallarin saltado) are practically Cheesecake Factory sizes (if you’re from America, you’d know what I mean…as in, an entire day’s worth of calories in one meal), and can be easily shared by 2 people. As such, we’ve spent a lot less on lunches than originally anticipated. Which works out well since we get to spend the remaining money on desserts and fresh juices!
Something to watch out for: a lot of the food seems to be overly salted, leaving us dehydrated for the rest of the day.
One important lesson we’ve learned during our search for food here in Santiago is that the deliciousness of the food is definitely not directly proportional to cost. We dined at a few other more expensive areas, including the overpriced, touristy fish market (Mercado Central), where a meal for 2 people could cost anywhere between $11000 and $20000 (or $20-$40US). While the food was good and nothing to complain about (but nothing to write about either), we honestly enjoyed our meals at the little food stalls more.
And there was also the time we ate a hoity-toity Chilean/French restaurant in the upscale Bellavista neighborhood. We walked out $30 poorer but unsatisfied. And we returned to our trusted little food vendor the very next day.
Mercado Tirso de Molina is located by the river at the corners of Sta. Maria and La Paz in Centro Santiago.
Where we like to eat:
Stall 268 (name unknown), located at the southeast corner, 2nd floor. This is where we first ate at, and came back for days.
La Punta Rica (stall number unknown), located right next to the north staircase, 2nd floor. A few days ago, we decided to eat here instead. Eating here made me feel slightly guilty, as if I were cheating on Stall 268. But as soon as I took a bite into the delicious food, I knew I’d be coming back.
- The entire northwest corner, a gang of food vendors cooking up authentic Chilean, Peruvian, and Columbian dishes, as well as refreshing jugo naturales (fresh juices), and an old man who makes the best mote con huesillo I’ve had yet.
The Mercado was a great find because I’m not really sure what we’d be eating everyday otherwise. A lot of the food options we see on the streets are either more of the fast food variety (hot dogs, sandwiches, etc.) or more pricey sit-down restaurants. I believe that if you’re looking for authentic homemade Chilean food (and other South American cuisine) at decent price points, there’s no better place than the Mercado, as there are literally dozens of options to choose from. Suddenly, a month here doesn’t even seem like enough time to try all the different dishes.
Are there any other must-have Chilean food we ought to seek out? Free feel to let us know in the comments!
Foodie Friday is a series in which I talk about what I like doing the most: eating! As I travel around the world, I hope to be introduced to a variety of local foods (and try them, no matter how bizarre). I hope to bring it all to you and connect you to cultures through food, all while accompanied by photographs delicious enough to eat!
This post is part of the #sundaytraveler series. Check out this post Top 10 Things to do in Vienna by Pack Me To (@packmeto), and don’t forget to support all the other participating blogs (links at the bottom of post)!