Fanatical Fancies: Sugar and Grease in Plaza de Armas

Any visit to Santiago requires a trip to Plaza de Armas, the city's main square located in the town center. And, should you get hungry wandering past its historical buildings, sculptures, artist street-vendors and various shops, Plaza de Armas is not lacking in food--unless you're looking for a healthy meal.

Santiago Chile
Photo by Carla Pasten

The plaza is like a carnival, with masses of people walking amongst the sweet and salty street vendors and around 4 out of 5 carrying an ice-cream cone or some sort of sugary snack.

Santiago Chile
Photo by Joanna Rozniak

One particular row on the south side of the plaza runs rampant with fried food, grease and sweets. These restaurants serve combinations of chicken, fries, completos (the Chilean hot dog), soft-drinks, empanadas and pizza.

This swarming strip is named Portal Fernández Concha and dates back to 1871 when the building served as the home of the Hotel Santiago, one of the finest luxury hotels of the era. Now, it's first floor consists of various restaurants including Quick Lunch, Nuria Pollo Expresso, El Portal and many more. Whichever place you choose to eat, it’s all surprisingly cheap--or maybe not considering what they have to offer. The prices range from around CP $500 to CP $2,000 (US $1.00 to US $3.60) for any combination of fried food and a soft drink. If you have a sweet tooth, the surrounding areas offer a great deal of options, especially ice cream.

Walking into Bravissimo, one of the ice-cream shops, you’ll witness a riot of ice-cream fanatics. Everyone is piled up against the glass that protects them from diving into the confections. And forget a simple one-scooper — almost all the people go for two to four scoops, piled on top of a brownie or whipped cream.

Santiago Chile
Photo by Carla Pasten

Of course, the restaurants and ice-cream shops are not your only option. If you’re hankering for a snack, there is an abundance of stands with crackers, chips, and candy bars. There is actually a fruit stand in the plaza too, if looking for a healthier option. Yes, one fruit stand. But beware — it may have scarce pickings.

Essentially, Plaza de Armas is best appreciated for its historical allure, not its food. On the other hand, if a fried-chicken meal accompanied by fries and Coke is calling out to you, you will have no trouble finding it. The brightly colored signs are hard to miss, not to mention the various billboards leading to the McDonald’s.

And yet, when you thought your health was all but forgotten, in the midst of it all is a booth named “Foundation of Cardiology of Chile: Care for the heart”. Ironic? I’d say so.

Plaza de Armas
Santiago Centro
Metro: Plaza de Armas

Food available at:
• SchopDog: Hot dogs, salads, fries, chicken nuggets (of the sort)
• Paradiso: Pastries, bread, completos, soda
• Los Politos dicen…: Chicken nuggets, ice cream, fries
• Pollos Taragona: All fried food
• McDonald’s/McCafe
• Bravissimo: Gelato, brownies, desserts of all kind, sandwich-type food
• Kentucky Fried Chicken
• Don Pepe: Soda Fountain
• Haite Café: Coffee
• Pizza Napoli
• Ravera
• El Portal
• Quick Lunch
• Nuria Pollo Expresso
• Nicola

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