As an American living abroad, there are many stereotypes I work hard to disprove...you know, without being too American about it. No, we're not all rich, obese, cold-hearted, gun-loving monsters who didn't spend enough time with our mothers during infancy. That being said, if there is one stereotype to which I will gladly concede, it's our enduring love for a great hamburger.
However, in a country that places such a high value on chorizos, fresh seafood, and erhm, hotdogs with mayo, it's easy to forget our patriotic duty to the burger. And while they aren't easy to find, some Santiago chefs are doing amazing things with this American staple – adhering to a foreign tradition and in some cases, making it even better. So, here’s a list of the best places to grab a burger, designated by barrio, and personally investigated by a certified gringa.
Aji Verde Burger at La Burguesia; Photo by Ben Falandays
Providencia, head to La Burguesia, where they specialize in the most delicious and thoughtful burgers (I’m pretty sure I said "oh my god" after every single bite). This place has received a lot of well-deserved attention since its opening two years ago. Chef Felipe Lillo has stacked the menu with his creative inventions, the most popular of which being the Juicy Lucy, a beef patty stuffed with cheddar cheese, covered in smoked BBQ sauce, crispy bacon, onion rings, and mayo tartar. Lillo spent a year in the US working in kitchens and learning exactly what he needed to do in order to fill the seriously noticeable burger gap here in Chile. They offer a variety of classic and gourmet burgers, ranging from their Blue Pera (blue cheese salsa, caramelized pears, and crispy bacon) to their Aji Verde (lettuce and tomato, cheddar cheese, green peppers stuffed with mozzarella, crispy bacon, and a touch of spicy mayo). They even have a Falafel Burger, in case you happen to be friends with the one vegetarian person living in Chile. La Burguesia is tucked away behind some stores over on Calle Magdalena, but it feels more like an urban backyard than an actual restaurant. All the seating is outside, on a patio and under a tent, which makes for a very casual, relaxed dining experience. Pair any of their creations with a beer from their extensive (by Chile standards) beer list and get ready to feel feelings for a burger you will later be embarrassed by. During the week, they’re open from 13:00 to 16:00 hrs for lunch, and 19:00 to 22:30 hrs for dinner. For now, they are closed on weekends, until March when they will open for Saturday lunch.
Writer's Pick For: Overall Best Burger
Charlie's Burger at Charlie's Tavern; Photo by Ben Falandays
Ñuñoa, head to Charlie’s Tavern, where they make the most traditional and classic burgers you’ll find in Santiago. Despite having only set up shop three months ago, partners Alfonso Ovalle and Angus Armstrong have already made their objective very clear: provide their customers with the most American tasting food with the best quality ingredients. And these guys are dedicated – the team, including head chef Erick Inostroza, took an entire two-week trip to New York City to taste test as many top-rated burgers as they could, pulling inspiration and seeing what aspects they wanted to recreate in their own space (oh, what tormented artists will endure for their work). Truth be told, this restaurant felt most like home; intimate lighting, multiple TV’s, a patio, and a blazing blue neon sign out front all gave this place a very familiar late-night feel. Charlie’s is in Barrio Ñuñoa, but if you’re looking for an alternative to the more bougie restaurants in Barrio Italia, it’s only a short walk away. Their crowd-pleaser is the Charlie’s Burger, made with double angus beef patties, sour cream, pico de gallo, chili peppers, avocado, and mozzarella cheese. Each burger also comes with either a homemade honey mustard or spicy chipotle sauce, two things I know every American begins to miss after enough time. Charlie’s Tavern is open daily after 18:00 hrs.
Writer's Pick For: Most 'Murican
Loom Burger at Loom Cervecería; Photo by Ben Falandays
Bellavista, head to Cervecería Loom, for a no-nonsense burger experience. The burger offered at Loom is simple and rather perfect - 200g of beef, cheddar cheese, tomato, purple cabbage, onion, and a house mayo, all placed between the best and softest hamburger bun of the lot. The potato wedged fries are glorious as well; perfectly golden on the outside, creamy on the inside, and most importantly, served hot. Loom is the type of place you simultaneously want to tell all your friends about, but as soon as they start going, you’ll secretly start feeling pretty bitter about it. It takes a “special” type of person to not see how awesome this place is; great craft beer on tap, original and edgy décor (ie; a mural that reads “Leaving? Go F**k Yourself” as you exit), and two owners who obviously know their stuff. The brewpub recently reopened after some trouble with the law (something about the city of Santiago not wanting its citizens to have access to unique and local craft beer?), however, with a new menu coming soon that promises even more American style burger options, partners Jaime Ojeda and Chuck May, along with chef Nicolas Guillou, are ready to get back at it. Regardless of their slight setback, this place is doing everything the right way. All burgers/sandwiches come in a dish that purposely prohibits customers from eating their food piece by piece with a fork and knife – and it doesn’t get more right than that (if you’ve lived in Santiago long enough, you will understand the necessity of this design). Loom is open Tuesday – Saturday after 18:00 hrs.
Writer's Pick For: Best Bun & Fries
Classic Burger at Maldito Chef; Photo by Ben Falandays
Las Condes, head to Maldito Chef, for skillfully designed gourmet burgers. Technically, “maldito” means “damn,” but it can be translated to something much worse dependent upon who’s speaking and what exactly you’ve done to them. Despite the smugly offensive name, the restaurant itself is actually pretty modest – filled with business men and women during lunchtime, a pleasant group of servers, and a welcoming atmosphere, all contained within a very clean and refined layout. Maldito Chef is owned by the award winning chef and Chile MasterChef judge Chris Carpentier. They have live music every Tuesday-Saturday, including a Maldito House Band on Thursdays, and from 17:00-21:00 they offer huge happy hour mojitos for only $3.200. Oh, and the burger selection is pretty stellar, the most popular of which being the Inferno Burger (150g of beef, onion rings, dill pickles, cheddar cheese, mantecoso cheese, rocoto pepper, julienned green pepper, and a spicy maldita sauce). Maldito Chef is open Monday to Saturday, from 10:30 – 23:00 hrs.
Writer's Pick For: Best Lunch Spot
Massacre Burger at La Sangucheria; Photo by Ben Falandays
Vitacura, head to La Sangucheria, to have some burgers infused with very local, Chilean influences. As you might have guessed, this place specializes in sandwiches, but they’ve most certainly found success in the burger arena as well. La Sangucheria is all about taking classic, rustic aspects of Chile’s cuisine and presenting it in a new, gourmet light. Owner Felipe Ban’s mission is to define what ingredients he considers to be the “food of the people” here in Chile, and find ways to incorporate them into our modern, at times greasy, desires. Upon my visit, I was given the secret Massacre Burger to sample – a huge hamburger that’s actually not even on the menu (but feel free to ask for it, if you’re experiencing some very serious fried-food deprivation) that consists of two patties, cheddar cheese, bacon, onion rings, chicken tenders, a friend egg, lettuce, tomato, mayo, and BBQ sauce. Now, I’m not exactly sure why they gave me this burger to sample, but underneath its extravagance, it was a good burger. I’ve been assured that the other selections are superb and all burgers are made with a special in-house blend of beef and other gourmet ingredients. For example, their Que Pesto, which includes 200g of beef, tomato, melted mozzarella, arugula, and a basil pesto mayo or the A Lo Pobre, made of 200g of beef, caramelized onions, a blend of melted cheese, fried egg, and topped with potato crisps. Sounds yum. Suffice it to say, I will return. La Sangucheria is open Monday to Thursday 8:30 – 23:30 hrs, Friday and Saturday 8:30 – 0:00 hrs, and Sunday 8:30 – 23:30 hrs.
Writer's Pick For: Best Date Spot
Note: All chefs and owners have individually confirmed it is not cool to eat a burger with silverware.
Special thanks to: Jaime Ojeda, Chef Felipe Lillo, Alfonso Ovalle, Angus Armstrong, Dani Carpentier, Jaime Camhi, and Felipe Ban for all of their help and hospitality!