Chile has an amazing diner culture. They are absolutely crazy for steak sandwiches, hot dogs and most anything else you can cram between a bun. And mayonnaise. Lots and lots of mayonnaise.
They execute the concept with various degrees of success. I swear I got a "hot dog" one time that was cabbage, mayo, 3 pounds of squished tomatoes and a tiny little vienna sausage all slopped into a half meter bun. Did not like.
Luckily, when we arrived in Santiago, we had the good fortune to discover Dominó. This place is fast food at its best. The menu is a list of basic building blocks (sausages, sliced tenderloin, hamburgers, chicken, etc..) and then permutations of various toppings you can get piled on the base.
One of my favorite was this lomito sandwich tricked out chacarero style. The tender steak nubs were skillfully piled with sliced green beans, slightly spicy diced green pepper, tomato, seasoned mustard and some mayo. Possibly worth visiting Chile for this sandwich alone.
Some of the other enticing and delicious items included an avocado and cheese dog (it doesn't matter how terrible it is for you, you can't not eat this) and a vienesa completo. Completo means different things to different hot dog sellers, but here it meant a sweet onion compote, salsa verde, a spicy aioli, and plenty of chopped tomatoes. We may have had two.
The icing on the cake at Dominó is that they introduced me to the Fanschopp. This seemingly disgusting but entirely addictive and refreshing beverage is a blend of equal parts beer and Fanta orange soda. Like a shandy, but neon colored.
Much like some women are all legs, Chile is all coast. If you know what I mean. So we of course couldn't pass up the epic seafood market. Chile has more varieties of edible sea creature than I thought possible. So many fish, mollusks, crustaceans, bivalves, and cephalopods, I didn't know where to start.
Somehow, a few minutes in to our perusing, a friendly fishmonger grabbed Rachel, grabbed a bag, and unceremoniously thumped an octopus into her hand. Huh. I'm still not sure how, but I think he may have been hitting on her, Chilean style.
That look of confusion is an excellent sign you're makin' time with the ladies.
After staring for a while, we continued our quest to get more seafood into our mouths. I was particularly interested in tracking down the giant razor barnacle, or picoroco. You can only find it in Chile and even though it's rare in winter I was determined to root it out.
Our lunch view of the market.
As an interesting side note, if you say, "quiero picoroco" you're telling the waiter that you'd like to try this particular delicacy. If though, you happen to say "quiero picorico" you're in fact telling the waiter that you love hot cock. It makes for an entirely different lunch experience.
In case you're wondering, picoroco is an ugly little bugger that has the texture of fresh steamed crab but in addition to the sweetness also has a pungent leather and smoke flavor. Let's just say it's an acquired taste. Maybe one that needs sauce.
It seems that the official city dish of Santiago is machas a la parmesana. You can find them everywhere, but we tracked down a particularly impressive plate full at Liguria.
The clams themselves are an odd variety that have very light tan shells and an elongated point. The texture is closer to limpets than to more traditional clams. To make them a la parmesana, the chef at Liguria marinates them with white wine, garlic, a touch of ketchup and hot pepper and then covers them in parmesan and grills them up until they're gooey and fantastic.
As for the rest of Santiago, we had quite a few memorable meals.
Early on we checked out Boulevard Lavaud and while the food was good, I really liked the strange blend between restaurant and old school barbershop.
We also somehow ended up at Ocean Pacific's. While I normally run screaming from theme eateries, this place, with its submarine hatch doors, naval clad waiters and life-size whale skeleton proved too hilarious to pass up.
Rachel marched on with her mandate of crab dip for dinner with another large bowl of pastel de jaiba. This time on fire.
And since you can't eat seafood all the time (don't think we didn't try) we switched it up with a visit to Las Vacas Gordas, a large bustling parrillada that grilled up an amazing bife de chorizo and some interesting cross cut riblets.
This is the meal that ended with us and our new friends Søren and Nicole salsa dancing (or booty dancing if your name is Rachel) until four in the morning and then almost getting thrown out of our "party" hostel for too much party. Whoops. I would, however, highly recommend a meal at Las Vasas Gordas. Your results may vary.