For typical Chilean food such as pastel de papas and pastel de choclo, at bargain basement prices, try the sit-down cocinerías at the cavernous (3,600-square-meter) Mercado Central (Caupolicán s/n), two blocks west of Plaza Independencia.
Only slightly more formal, the Casino de Bomberos (Salas 347, tel. 0412/227535) is a reliable choice throughout the country. Chela’s (Barros Arana 405, tel. 0412/243367) also serves Chilean dishes as well as sandwiches and desserts.
The Fuente Alemana (O’Higgins 513, tel. 0412/228307) is comparable to Chela’s, but with a wider selection of kuchen and cold beer on tap. Once the only choice for espresso drinks, Café Haití (Caupolicán 511, Local 7, tel. 0412/230755) also serves sandwiches. In recent years, though, Concepción’s widened sidewalks have sprouted more comfortable sidewalk cafés such as Café Cantabria (Caupolicán 415).
Concepción’s Spanish and Italian communities have downtown club restaurants at the Centro Español (Barros Arana 675, tel. 0412/230685) and the Centro Italiano (Barros Arana 935, 2nd floor, tel. 0412/230724).
Argentine-owned El Rancho de Julio (O’Higgins 36, tel. 0412/239976) come closer to the Argentine experience in ambience and quality—the beef dishes are well worth a try if pricier than at most of its competitors. Rincón Marino (Colo Colo 486, tel. 0412/230311) is a seafood locale where beef, though available, is secondary.
There’s a pair of long-lived downtown chifas: Chung-Hwa (Barros Arana 262, tel. 0412/229539) and China Town (Barros Arana 1115, tel. 0412/233218).
It doesn’t look like much from outside—the illuminated store-width plastic sign doesn’t help—but the ceviche at the Peruvian Pollería Restaurant (Barros Arana 337) is to die for. Dine early to try the ají de gallina (US$6), as this popular dish can run out early.