Coffee Culture in Castro: A Well-Deserved Break from NesCafe

Jesuit churches, palafitos, seafood and instant coffee—perhaps these are your expectations of Castro, the provincial capital of Chiloé.

 The famous palafitos of Castro. Photo by Jacob Atkins
The famous palafitos of Castro. Photo by Jacob Atkins

Don't get me wrong- the easter egg-colored Iglesia de San Francisco is lovely, the stilt homes on Rio Gamboa so quaint, and the curanto (a traditional dish of shellfish, meat, potatoes, and vegetables) simply scrumptious. However, one can rejoice that the capital of Chiloé isn't a sanctuary of NesCafe. Although soluble coffee lurks around this city of about 41,000, Castro also boasts a handful of cafés that serve a fine cup of joe and delectable food. Presented are three of the best places for a prime caffeine buzz within this island metropolis.

One standout is Ristretto Caffè on Calle Blanco Encalada, directly across from Castro's Plaza de Armas. For anyone craving an Italian-flavored immersion, look no further- every coffee bean within this humble establishment is imported from Italy. In terms of beverages, there is an immense selection (not to mention a myriad of Torani syrups) to choose from. Classics such as americanos run at CP $1,450 (US $2.10) while flavored coffees start at CP $2,100.

 Side note: the selection of beer at Ristretto Caffè is also top-notch! Photo by Jacob Atkins
Side note: the selection of beer at Ristretto Caffè is also top-notch! Photo by Jacob Atkins

If you're in the mood for something a tad bit stronger/alcoholic, try a corretto sambuca by adding a shot of rum, bourbon or pisco into your espresso, starting at CP $2,100. When hunger strikes, focaccias, pizzas and crepes are at your immediate disposal, in addition to more than 35 toppings for embellishment purposes, such as prosciutto and pesto.

Ristretto Caffè
Downtown Castro, Chiloé
Calle Blanco Encalada 264
Monday-Friday: 10 a.m. - 10 p.m.
Saturday: 10:30 a.m. - 10 p.m.

After what's guaranteed to be a satisfying visit, meander next door to Café Blanco to appease that mid-afternoon sweet tooth. Upon seeing the array of pies and cheesecakes within the display case, it's no surprise that this business is known for unbeatable tortas de caseras (homemade cakes) costing between CP $2,200 to $2,700. Wash down the sugary goodness made from local ingredients with another espresso, cappuccino or macchiato, ranging from CP $1,000 to $1,650.

In addition to some of the most savory and affordable dulces on the island, Café Blanco also offers a stellar lunch. The sandwiches, for example, come with two hefty portions (read: two sandwiches for the price of one) patiently waiting to be devoured. Enjoy Chilean favorites like the jarpa (a classic ham and cheese) on homemade bread for CP $3,400 or a churrasco italiano (sliced beef with avocado and tomatoes) for CP $4,300.

Café Blanco
Downtown Castro, Chiloé
Calle Blanco Encalada 268
Monday: 10 am - 9:30 pm
Friday: 10 am - 9:30 pm
Saturday: 11 am - 9:30 pm

For a third round of exceptional coffee and snacks, stroll over to Café Sur Emporio on Pasaje Ignacio Serrano. With only four tables, this is by far the most intimate café in Castro, full of eclectic decorations and miniature memorabilia from around the world. While dining on organic quiche priced around CP $3,000 or sipping an espresso for CP $1,300, expect to see (and meet) the owner pleasantly working behind the counter, Mauricio Ayala Cortés.

 The quiche at Café Sur Emporio is a force to be reckoned with. Photo by Jacob Atkins
The quiche at Café Sur Emporio is a force to be reckoned with. Photo by Jacob Atkins

According to the entrepreneur, Café Sur Emporio has a "different energy" due to this direct engagement with customers. If somebody has a question about the origins of a product, Cortés has an answer. Specifically, he facilitates a local initiative called Cocina Chiloé where business owners purchase products directly from the campesinos themselves. Originally from Santiago, Cortés escaped the "standardized business model" of the capital to embrace the island's free-spiritedness where the availability of his products can fluctuate.

"This place is more like a kitchen in my home," says Cortés. "There is no standard- the only thing that is consistent is the coffee."

Café Sur Emporio
Downtown Castro, Chiloé
Calle Pasaje Ignacio Serrano (corner of Calle Diaz)
9 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day

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