You may think South America and assume good coffee, but sadly this ain´t Colombia. The order of the day is Nescafé, or what some of us like to call it, No es café (It´s not coffee). In Venezuela you can sidle up to nearly any ramshackle hut along the highway and they will have an espresso machine and a never ending supply of sugar on hand. Most places in the far south stock a tea kettle and little packets of instant if you´re looking for a jolt. But if you want real coffee in Chile and Argentina, ask for Café del Grano (bean sourced coffee). That said, it´s still hit or miss so I´m going to keep track of the crap beans and the good stuff so you don´t have to waste your pesos. If you have suggestions or warnings, please let me know.
THE GOOD STUFF:
1. New spot! The Original Green Roasters café roasts beans brought in from Guatemala right in the store, and it’s centrally located by the Parque Bustamante green line stop (one stop away from Plaza Italia). As I’ve been waiting three years for a coffee shop to sprout up near home, I almost had an – ahem – emotional moment before entering the first time. The coffee is extremely fresh and everything is made in house (lunch special Monday-Friday, homemade gnocchi and more). They have three types of bean, from mountain to rainforest grown with different roasting styles. The three owners/friends speak excellent English and will be more than happy to explain everything from where they source the raw goods to how a coffee roaster works. Really, more than happy. They talk a lot. Pick a spacious, inviting wooden table if you’re with friends, or snag a bar stool along the window looking out to the park. Table service. You can also get whole beans to go. I don’t have any dates yet, but they do have occasional coffee tastings.
Address: Ramón Carnicer 77 (corner of Rancagua and Bustamante Park, half a block north of the train exit and one block east of Vicuña MacKenna)
Phone: +56 2 635 1626 Hours: Mon-Fri 8 AM – 7 PM (they mentioned if you get there early, they’ll likely let ya in) & Weekends 8 AM – 4 PM
For some lovely pics check out this blog.
2. Café Pedregal is only a few months old, but it´s gonna be a hit. It´s small but comfy, and it´s hopping during the lunch hour. The walls are covered in old, lacquered newspapers with clocks lining the top of the wall showing the hour in various countries. Great espresso. A doppio costs 3 USD or 1,500 CLP (Chilean pesos). They offer a few desserts, pie de limón and kuchen con nueces (walnut cake). I´ve only tried the set lunch once, average price ($3,500 CLP), but a very above average taste. Today´s menu was panqueques (similar to French crépes – awesome-tastical) stuffed with mushrooms and topped with spinach sauce served with a mixed green salad and house-made vinaigrette. It´s rare to find a vegetarian lunch that´s not simply a plate of iceberg topped with tuna. It´s served with pebre (typical salsa) and wheat rolls. They offer five different salads (caesar, Greek, tuna, etc.) which can also be hard to come by in other locales. The service here is EXCELLENT; quick and friendly. The address is Portugal 48, Local 4 Torre 6. Here´s a little map. It is just off of Av. Marcoleta between the Universidad de Chile School of Architecture and the Unimarc on Portugal near Alameda. They are open Monday through Friday at 8:30 in the morning. In the slower summer months when the city is empty they close at 6:30 but come March closing time extends to 8:00.
3. Went to Divan on José Victorino Lastarria 202 (tourist district just off Alameda behind the GAM) the other day and had a lovely Italian espresso. The coffee list is extensive. The tourist nature of this strip jacks the prices up a bit, but their back patio is worth it – Spacious, cool and minimalist with very quick service. Click here for a photo. Haven´t had their lunch yet, but the sandwich I ordered for 2,400 pesos (five USD) was a waste. May not sound like a lot of money, but as you can get an entire several course lunch for that price at other places so I was expecting a little more. Day old bread from Líder (the Wal-Mart owned grocery store) and scant toppings left me hungry, and that was second lunch! Sit out front if you want to listen to the accordian players and watch the wildlife.
Open weekday noon ´til ten and weekends from four in the afternoon until 10:30.
1. Although the Café Literario at Parque Bustamante (one block south of Plaza Italia metro stop) is a great place to chill with a book (or laptop: there´s free Wi-fi but tables and outlets fill up quickly) the espresso tastes like roasted, pulverized dirt. Don´t let the literary lounge-ness of the place trick you. Order tea.
I haven´t tried to jive juice at the two other Cafés Literario, but I´m gonna guess it´s the same business. All three have indoor and outdoor seating and are open Monday through Friday 9:00 – 7:45, weekends/holidays 10:00 – 7:45. While you can read their stuff without a library card, if you want to check things out they require a lot of personal information. Ask for the checklist.