Feeling disoriented from Chilean culture shock? Missing burritos, friendly wait staff and good conversation? Well, you’re in luck. There’s a place in the funky Bellas Artes neighborhood of Santiago that is guaranteed to turn your frown upside-down.
Photo by Beth Costigan
With a twenty-four hour happy hour, comfy green padded chairs that make you feel like you’re sitting on a piece of lawn and a variety of “fajitas” that resemble good old fashioned, stuffed burritos (a rarity in Chile), Restobar Navetierra presents a safe and warm hideaway that’s the perfect setting to lose track of an evening.
Despite the tasty selection of food and drinks, the best part about Navetierra is really the loud, happy atmosphere. The music ranges from Bob Marley’s greatest hits to electronic covers of Coldplay. The conversation consists of multiple languages and the general vibe leans toward the stress-free and talkative; there are no clumps of secluded posses, but rather an exchange of banter or cigarettes in an easygoing way. This approachable hang-out appeals to travelers and Chileans alike, some nights full of locals and others dominated by groups of gringos.
Navetierra was opened in 2005 by Santiaguino Jon Toselli, who had been traveling throughout South America, Europe and Africa before finally deciding to open a restaurant/bar because he loves meeting new people. A darbuka drummer in Chilean gypsy band Andú, (see www.revolver-magazine.com ) Toselli spends many a night relaxing in the bar and recommends the mojito to sip on as well as the as sandwich (churrasco meat on a hot dog bun with avocado and mayonnaise) to munch on.
The walls display photos and souvenirs from his years of world travel, including intimidating, carved Nepalese masks alongside worn, over dyed Tibetan flags and a detailed stone Mayan calendar.
The front windows house shelves full of trinkets as well as Toselli’s dog-eared travel books. So if you don’t want to splurge for the Lonely Planet guide to South America, take advantage of his willingness to share and flip through the collection here while you await a fresh caipirinha.
The drinks cost around CP$3,000 for two and the selection of Mexican food and crepes does not disappoint (nor does it leave out the vegetarian crowd, with both hot and cold vegetarian fajitas). The fajitas combine a variety of black beans, corn, homemade guacamole and lots of cheese overstuffed into flour tortillas. The Navetierra fajita is a popular option and also comes at a 2-for-1 happy hour price of CP$3,000. It includes beef, guacamole and cheese all wrapped up and served by the happy but extremely busy bartender con cariño (with love).
And whatever your drink of choice, it’s almost certain that Navetierra makes its own delicious version. The mango sours are akin to the jugos naturales (fresh squeezed fruit juices) so popular at healthy cafés; they taste like a mildly alcoholic ripe mango. For something a little more unusual, try the spicy yet refreshing michelata beer with red pepper, lime and salt.
To reward yourself after a trip to the Museum of Contemporary Art (located down the street in Parque Forestal), test out one of the appetizing panqueques (crépes) with fillings that range from fruit to chocolate with a scoop of rich ice cream on top.
Navetierra is open for lunch with a fixed menu del día and is a great way for gringos and Chileans alike to meet relaxed people and enjoy some good bar food. The prices are reasonable for the trendy Bellas Artes neighborhood, so pop in for some excellent onda and relaxed foreigner-Chilean camaraderie.