Where to Eat
Places to eat vary from hole-in-the-wall comedores or cocinerías (both roughly translatable as “eateries”) with no formal menu to elegant restaurantes. About the only hard and fast rule is to avoid those in which single men—or groups of men—sit and drink beer.
There is, however, an elaborate but inconsistent terminology, Though restaurante generally means a place with sit-down service, it can cover a range of possibilities. Fuente de soda (literally “soda fountain”) signifies a place with a modest menu that lacks a liquor license. Cafeterías provide plain meals, usually without table service, but the misleadingly named salón de té (literally “teahouse”) can be more like a European-style café, sometimes with sidewalk seating. Hosterías are generally country-style restaurants serving large numbers of customers on weekend or holiday outings; if they’re open weekdays, crowds will be smaller. Hostería can also mean a type of accommodation, though such places will usually have restaurants as well.
The most common term for menu is la carta; el menú is almost equally common but can also mean a fixed-price lunch or dinner. The bill is la cuenta.
One worthwhile option is the picada, generally a small family-run eatery that begins informally, often with just a couple of tables in a spare streetside room, that may develop into something more elaborate. In beachfront towns north of Viña del Mar, for instance, seafood picadas offer excellent food at modest prices.
In places other than comedores or cocinerías, a 10 percent tip is the norm. At comedores, tips are generally unexpected, but that doesn’t mean they’re unwelcome or inappropriate.
© Wayne Bernhardson from Moon Chile, 2nd edition