Sandwich Theater at Traditional Fuente Alemana

Saying Fuente Alemana is a sandwich shop is like saying Donatella Versace is a dressmaker—accurate statement, but still way off. Veritable doctors of meat, donning white from head to toe, have been crafting Fuente Alemana’s heavy, German-inspired, fare for over 70 years.

Photo by Iván Núñez
Photo by Iván Núñez

According to the manager of the Santiago Centro locale, Flor Valdez, the shop’s appearance and popularity has not changed much since it was opened four decades ago. For Valdez and the other proud staff of Fuente Alemana—the majority of whom have worked there for more than 25 years—popular means standing-room-only lunch hours where hungry patrons hover over one another jockeying for a seat. But if you think getting a seat at peak hours here is tricky, wait until you order.

Photo by Iván Núñez
Photo by Iván Núñez

You’ve got to get the slightly counterintuitive ordering process down pat at Fuente Alemana if you ever want to get a sandwich. First you get the attention of one of the nonplussed, middle-aged waitresses holding court behind the bar as she takes orders from regulars much less bumbling than you.

By the time you flag her down, hopefully you haven’t forgotten your order—there are no paper menus here and the one menu mounted on the wall has no explanation of the sandwiches’ contents. After you get your sandwich, you go back to the same waitress, pick up a receipt and then make your way to the cash register at the front of the store and pay—in cash only.

Photo by Iván Núñez
Photo by Iván Núñez

Although Fuente Alemana sticks proudly to its traditional roots, one thing that has changed since the restaurant’s inception is the size of the sandwiches. They went from fast food burger size to their current plate-obscuring dimension, piled high with meat prepared in front of your eyes, and then topped with your choice of hand-crafted add-ons.

There are not that many varieties of sandwiches here, but the fillings they do have are well vetted. The thinly sliced beef Churrasco (CP$2600, or US$4.89) is seared on the steaming grill, as is the flavor-packed Rumano, (CP$2600) a beef and pork patty infused with a pungent dose of garlic. The other fillings—Salchichas, (CP$900, or US$1.68) Gordas, (CP$1700, or US$3.17) Lomito, (CP$2300, or US$4.29) and Fricandela (CP$1700)—soak in an au jus bath in trays that flank the grill. The Salchicha and Gorda are hot-dog like sausages, and the Lomito, Fuente Alemana’s best seller, is plain, thinly sliced pork beloved for its unadulterated meatiness. The Fricandela is very similar to the Rumano, only it is fried and then soaked in the au jus instead of seared.

Photo by Iván Núñez
Photo by Iván Núñez

All the sandwiches at Fuente Alemana are served on freshly-made pan amasado—a lard-laden Chilean bread. In terms of toppings, sandwiches can be ordered complete style (which tacks on an extra CP$800, or US$1.49) with sauerkraut, homemade tomato sauce and mayo—a tangy combination that cuts through the fatty, flavor-packed sausages and meat patties nicely.

Other add-ons include avocado, sliced green beans, fresh tomatoes and Ensalada Rusa, a minced combination of jamonada (a ham-like meat product) pickles and mayonnaise. Perhaps the most exciting topping, though, is the cheese. It may add CP$1,000 (US$1.87) to your sandwich, but it is worth it to see them fry the cheese on the grill before transferring the bubbling glob of goodness to your sandwich.

One trip to Fuente Alemana and it is not hard to see why this landmark is frequented by Chile’s rich and famous. And for those of you who aren’t adrenaline junkies, get a less stressful (but arguably less fun) dining experience by visiting during Chilean off-hours: before 11:30 am or after 5 pm. No matter when you go, you’ll be in for a meaty treat.

Fuente Alemana
Operating Hours: Monday through Saturday 10 am to 10:45 pm
Closed on Sundays and holidays

Santiago Centro Location
Address: Av. Libertador Bernardo O’Higgins 58; Alameda and Vicuña Mackenna
Metro: Baquedano
Telephone: 6393231

Providencia Location
Address: Pedro de Valdivia 210; Pedro de Valdivia and Barcelona
Metro: Pedro de Valdivia

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