The search is over. I’ve found the perfect chacarero!
I am admittedly not the world’s biggest sandwich fan…and them’s fightin’ words in Chile. Chileans love—and passionately defend—their beloved sánguches. So I’m here to call a truce. And while I’m not likely to ever get up much enthusiasm for the basic avocado- and mayo-smeared ham & cheese, there are other Chilean sandwich combinations that are pretty hard to resist. Make mine a chacarero, a super sánguche whose special defining feature is a big pile of green beans. Yep, that’s right, green beans. Who knew?
Fuente Mardoqueo, half a block from the Plaza Yungay, is one of those word-of-mouth type places—a true picada—and it had been on our radar for a while. We even stopped in one day and asked for a beer to kill time before meeting family for lunch, but were turned down point blank. Nope, this is a sandwich shop. You go there to eat. You eat, you can have a beer, not the other way around.
So we tried again yesterday. We had been wandering around Plaza Yungay with my father-in-law, who told us story after story about growing up in the barrio and the Fiesta del Roto Chileno; we gazed up at the sad state of the church where he made his first communion, and he chuckled about the favorite parish priest who kept the boys in line by threatening them with “San Martines” (a knuckle whack on the head) when they misbehaved. We rounded the corner and found ourselves at the door of my new favorite picada.
It’s a fun place. The kind that draws you in and begs you to check out room after room. There’s clearly a collector in the family—old cameras hang on one wall, typewriters on another, tea cups, mini-booze bottles, sewing machines, one collection after another hang on the deep yellow walls. Even the restrooms have a collection of old enamel bed pans (now there’s a term I never thought I’d use while food writing!)
Don’t look for a table. There aren’t any. You’ll perch on a high stool at one of the long wooden bars that line the walls and stripe down the middle of each of the 3 rooms. A long row of condiments, sauces, and even real (paper) napkins (none of the typical soda fountain “face scraper” squares here) runs down the center.
No one’s going to wait on you either. Make your choice from the illuminated menu on the wall. The list is short but juicy: small and large versions of 5 sandwiches: Lomito (pork or poultry), Churrasco (thinly sliced beef), Chacarero (beef, tomato, green beans, and green chilies), Barros Luco (beef and melted cheese), and Tuna. Vegetarians can concoct their own sandwich from the long list of “extras” (avocado, tomatoes, beans, pickles, sauerkraut, olives, etc.).
These are sandwiches (ahem, sánguches) done right. The lomito is the star of the house, so I’ve definitely got a return trip coming up in the near future, but yesterday, I was in a chacarero state of mind. And oh, was that the right choice! Forget the typical version with overcooked, tough, and tasteless meat topped with soggy grayish beans. We’re talking about a fresh, lightly toasted frica roll piled with juicy, tasty beef cooked just right, and the perfectly blanched string beans (always frenched in Chile) remain bright green and crisp (definitely beats mushy lettuce!). Don’t even think about trying to eat this out of hand; a knife and fork are definitely required.
They offer a nice selection of national, international, artisanal, and draft beers, as well as soft drinks and juice. No wine, no chips. Just a helluva good sandwich and something to wash it down with.
You won’t need a lot of cash—lomitos are $2500 and could easily be shared—but you will need an appetite. I ordered the “small” version of the chacarero and only managed to get through it by leaving most of the bread on my plate. My vegetarian husband was happy with his veggie sandwich glued together with plenty of avocado (palta) and green chilies, and my suegro, despite his hearty appetite, could not get through his entire Barros Luco.
Although most picadas fail on the bonito part of the 3B (bueno, bonito y barato), this one nails all three. A must.
For more on Chilean sandwiches, see: Sánguches.
Av. Libertad 551
Barrio Yungay, Santiago de Chile
F: 681-6556 / 681-4211