La Piojera: Santiago's Famous Fleahouse

One of the most famous cantinas in Santiago, La Piojera combines the best of Chilean culture with lots and lots of alcohol.

Photo by Ana Topoleanu
Photo by Ana Topoleanu

Former Chilean President Arturo Alessandri first coined “La Piojera” in 1922, when he was invited to visit the bar by the owner but quickly left after claiming that he had been taken to a place full of fleas. When he walked into the place, full of working-class men, he exclaimed, “What is this place, a flea house?” Thus the name "La Piojera" (where fleas live) was born.

Photo by Ana Topoleanu
Photo by Ana Topoleanu

The bar was bought by Don Carlos Benedetti Pini in 1916 and still belongs to the same family, after being saved from developers by protests from its loyal clientele (including presidents and poets). The significance of this locale can be seen on its graffiti-covered walls, which leaves you in awe of the cultural ambience rather than aesthetics at this cramped, loud drinking paradise.

For some traditional Chilean drinking, go for a terremoto ("earthquake"), a dangerous, x-rated ice cream float of Pipeño (a sweet fermented wine), pineapple ice cream and a mystery black liquor, all served in a glass. Take note: terremotos go straight to your head. While they go down smooth, they carry the name "terremoto" for a reason. It is the best bang for the buck at a whopping CP$ 1,600 (US$ 3).

If you still feel up for more drinking after a terremoto, try a replica ("aftershock"). This second round is filled with all the terremoto goodness but at half the dosage.

Photo by Ana Topoleanu
Photo by Ana Topoleanu

Some other house specialties are Pipeño from Chillan, Chicha (sweet wine) from Villa Alegre and San Javier and Cola de Mono ("monkey's tail," a mixture of milk, coffee and liquor). While this place is known for its drinking, La Piojera also has a diverse menu of Chile’s greatest home-cooked hits, from pastel de choclo (a delicious casserole cooked in terracotta dishes) to humitas (similar to tomales in Mexico).

While downing a fresh terremoto, listen closely to the entertaining sounds of the guitar and accordion duet. You will get a good laugh out of musicians, who sing traditional Chilean drinking hymns about animalitos and carne crudo.

To get to La Piojera, go to Metro Puente Cal y Canto on Line 2 (Yellow Line). The bar is straight ahead when exiting closest to Mercado Central.

La Piojera
Aillavilú Nº 1030

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