Puerto Varas has some of Chile’s best restaurants, and even run-of-the-mill places can be pretty good. Café Dane’s (Del Salvador 441, tel. 065/232371) wins no style points, but its breakfasts, onces, and Chilean specialties such as pastel de choclo are more than a step above similar fare elsewhere. Though a bit out of the way, La Confitería (Del Rosario 1010, tel. 065/338188) merits a detour for its pastries and kuchen.
In its new location, El Barómetro (Walker Martínez 584, tel. 065/346100) has graduated from a popular meeting place with good sandwiches, desserts, and coffee to a full-fledged restaurant with a more elaborate menu.
Café Mamusia (San José 316, tel. 065/233343) serves fine Chilean specialties, especially pastel de choclo, in the US$6–10 range, with a fixed-price menu de casa for US$6; the pisco sours are strong and the kuchen sweet with fresh fruit, but service is erratic. The very traditional Deutscher Verein (German Club, San José 415, tel. 065/232246) offers fixed-price midday meals.
In the Mercado Municipal, Donde El Gordito (San Bernardo 560, Local 7, tel. 065/233425) is a modest seafood venue that’s good value for the price. Don Jorge (San Bernardo 240, tel. 099/6559759) is a no-frills locale specializing in beef and Chilean dishes. Don Carlos (Santa Rosa and Del Salvador) is a parrilla that also has a limited pasta menu.
The lakeside Mediterráneo (Santa Rosa 68, tel. 065/237268) does a fine stir-fry with a variety of meats and has good fish dishes, mostly in the US$7–10 range. For fine summer afternoons and evenings, it has outdoor seating. Farther north along the lakefront, the Club de Yates (Santa Rosa 0161, tel. 065/232000) is an upscale seafood option.
Trattoria Di Carusso (San Bernardo 318, tel. 065/233478) makes tremendous pizza (the crust is especially notable) and seafood. The best pizza choice, though, is moderately priced El Retorno (San Pedro 465, tel. 065/346441).
Pim’s Pub (San Francisco 712, tel. 065/ 233998) is a popular meeting place and restaurant, serving pretty good Tex-Mex dishes such as enchiladas and fajitas, and credible margaritas for aperitifs. Prices, though, are about twice what they would be for comparable food in California. Because of a building project on the site, it may have to relocate.
On the lakefront southeast of downtown, Color Café (Los Colonos 1005, tel. 065/234311) is a friendly wine bar, with an appealing natural wood interior; though a little pricey, pasta dishes such as ravioli are excellent. Nearby Da Alessandro (Av. Costanera 1290, tel. 065/310583) gets good reviews from knowledgeable locals for its pizzas, pastas, and seafood.
For fish and seafood, La Olla (Pérez Rosales 1071, tel. 065/233540) falls into the upmarket end of the “hearty Chilean cooking” category, with all traditional dishes plus a few, such as corvina with a walnut sauce (US$9), that transcend the stereotype. It gets crowded, especially on weekends.
Widely acknowledged as one of Chile’s finest restaurants, relocated Merlin (Imperial 0605, tel. 065/233105) counts the country’s rich and famous among its clientele, but even shoestring travelers should consider a splurge—prices are not outrageous, with entrées in the US$11–22 range. German celebrity chef Richard Knobloch has adapted fresh local and regional ingredients, particularly seafood and fruit, into a hybrid international cuisine. Its quarters, including a cozy bar with a separate menu, are a charmer, and imaginative items such as the salad of strawberries on fresh lettuce and the double mousse (white and dark chocolate, garnished with garden-fresh berries) are worth every peso; even then, the truly budget-conscious can try the fixed-price lunch for around US$10. There’s also an exceptional wine list.
Almost alongside La Olla, Ibis (Vicente Pérez Rosales 1117, tel. 065/232017, www.ibisrestaurant.com) is, with Merlin, one of southern Chile’s finest dining experiences, with prices to match. Appetizers cost around US$6–7, and most entrées are in the US$10-and-up range; with drinks and side orders, it’s easy to spend upwards of US$30 per person. Still, it’s one of the best splurges outside of Santiago for midsized portions of items such as corvina al cheff, with shrimp, scallop, and crab sauce; it’s also one of few Chilean restaurants to offer criadillas—often known as Rocky Mountain oysters in North America.
© Wayne Bernhardson from Moon Chile, 2nd edition