By Ellie Greenwell for ContactChile
So you arrived in Santiago. You’re a little more settled in now – maybe you’ve already climbed Cerro San Cristobal to check out the views. You’ve braved your first few metro and micro rides, and you’re getting used to live in the city. But what you really need to know about – is where’s good to eat?
Santiago has a growing and diverse food scene, offering a range of cuisines and some pretty exciting new restaurants. But if you’re studying or interning, you’re probably on a budget – and it can be hard to find great, inexpensive food in the capital if you’re not sure where to look for it.
Well don’t worry! Here’s a quick guide of a few of the best cheap eats in Santiago, just to get you started. If you don’t feel like cooking but maybe spent too much money on piscolas last weekend, these places are perfect to fill you up on some Chilean classics – without the cost.
New Horizon – Merced 565
Indian food in Santiago can be a minefield. It’s not easy to find real traditional Indian food – and when you do, it’s often at a more pricey restaurant. That’s where New Horizon comes in. A tiny restaurant/hole in the wall located on Merced down in the centro, New Horizon is insanely popular with locals and extranjeros. And for good reason: New Horizon offers some of the best curry in the city, complete with authentic naan. And the best part? It’s super cheap!
Head over there on a weekday for their menu – just one type of curry to choose from (meat or vegetarian), plus naan, rice, and a bebida. All for less than $5.000CLP. Winner! A simple, quick and delicious lunch, or perfect for anybody craving Indian food they miss from back home.
Warning: by 13:30, the lines can already be out the door as nearby workers flock there for lunch, so time your visit right or be prepared to wait a little (they work pretty quickly!). There’s not much seating inside, so ask for your food para llevar and enjoy it wherever you like!
Tirso de Molina – Av. Santa María 409
Known as La Vega’s “little sister” market, Tirso de Molina is a covered fruit and vegetable market located just down the road from the larger La Vega market. This market is great for picking up some fresh fruit and veg, especially if you’re not feeling quite up to the chaos of La Vega!
But another great thing about Tirso de Molina is its huge selection of restaurants to eat at a super low cost. Head upstairs to the upper floor to find a range of restaurant stalls offering Chilean, Peruvian, Colombian, Venezuelan and Mexican classics. Head up there on a Sunday (before 3pm if you want to beat the crowds!) after your weekly veg haul and enjoy a lunch of typical South American dishes.
Not sure what to choose? For a Chilean classic, try the pastel de choclo (corn pie) or cazuela (meat stew), or go Peruvian with a lomo salteado (strips of beef prepared with peppers, onion and tomato) or pescado a lo macho (fish with seafood sauce). Expect to pay around 5.000-7.000 including drink, soup starter, side salad and all the bread and pebre you can eat!
La Terraza – Av. Vicuña Mackenna 24
Chile’s typical fuentes de soda (literal translation: soda fountain!) are great places for no-frills, affordable Chilean comfort food. Basically Chile’s version of a diner, you can find these restaurants all over Santiago (and Chile!), easy to spot with their classic green Cristal-branded signs. Fun game: try to find the Fuente de soda with the best name. Our best find so far has to be La Picá de Clinton, complete with full mosaic of Bill Clinton’s face outside (yep, really). Let us know if you spot any other great ones!
Ok, ok, back to food recommendations. One of the great fuentes de soda to head to if you’re in need of some cheap sustenance (or you’re feeling in need of some fries after a long night at Miercoles’Po), is La Terraza on Vicuña Mackenna. Expect to pay less than $5.000CLP for pretty much anything on the menu
They have a ton of choice in terms of Chilean platos, but we definitely suggest going for a classic sandwich like a churrasco italiano, complete with meat, palta, mayo and tomato. If you’re in a group, why not split a chorrillana – fries piled high with onion, beef and topped with a fried egg. A perfect cheap treat!
There you have just 3 of many options for an inexpensive meal in Santiago. If you’re keen to explore more low-cost options, we suggest heading down to Santiago Centro. And don’t forget about Chile’s wealth of street food like sopaipillas and fried empanadas if you’re in need of a quick fix!
Let us know about your favorite places to eat in Santiago!