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Day 92 – Stick to What You Know (The Food of Puerto Varas)

January 10, 2011

Location: Bus between San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina and Puerto Varas, Chile

Date: Monday, January 10, 2011

Puerto Varas is a Chilean lakeside town nestled under a volcanic mountain. It’s lovely, it’s beautiful, and it’s picturesque all in a mostly natural, effortless way.

Bleh. Nature can shove it. Perhaps not forever, but at least for the rest of my life. If I never hike again, it’ll be too soon.

Puerto Varas is also a beach town, even though the beach is on a lake instead of the ocean. Chileans come here to sit by the water and darken their skin so they can look brown, but not too brown. You wouldn’t normally think of suntan oiled tourists lounging under umbrellas as nature. Then again, you wouldn’t be me. At this point, just being in the sun is too much naturaleza for me.

Nope. What I need is a day off. A day off from birds chirping, wind rustling trees, and water lapping at the shores of a lake or riverbank. I’m done with natural beauties like Hepburn, Bergman, and Kelly. Give me the manufactured pleasures of Pam, Carmen, and Megan. Find me a sunshine-free building, pump me full of caffeine, and jack me into the net. Accordingly, I skipped a trip to the nearby volcanic mountain and nearby lakeside trekking.

I’ll stick to what I do best. Eat and write.

With that, let’s take a quick look at two restaurants. One, an oddity (kind of) and the other an outstanding example of a local joint.

I Put It in My Mouth – A Periodic Feature on Restaurants and Food

Dane’s Café Restaurant

441 Del Salvador

Puerto Varas, Chile

What’s a “café restaurant ”? Is it a café? A restaurant? A Frankenstein of the two? Shouldn’t there be a comma? An “and”? A dash, at least? Is it a direct Danish translation?

No matter. My affection for all things Denmark meant I had to pay my respects to Dane’s Café Restaurant. A Danish restaurant in the middle of a Chilean tourist town is less out of place than it might seem. Chile worked hard to attract European immigrants to help wipe out the indigenous population. The largest of those immigrant groups: Germans. Because, you know, they’re pretty good at that sort of thing.

While Alemania was the largest source of non-Spaniards, there was also a significant influx of Swiss, Dutch, and Danish.

Is the restaurant authentically Danish? I don’t have my Danish buddies to tell me. Was it good? Sure, even if “The Dane” sandwich didn’t seem that different from a typical lomo.

The grenadine and soda, though, was quite good. Light and refreshing, even if it did look like a girly version of cough syrup. No matter. It’s not what it looks like; it’s what it does in your mouth.

I Put It in My Mouth – A Periodic Feature on Restaurants and Food

Chamaca Inn Restaurant

Calle El Salvador

Puerto Varas

Chamaca Inn Restaurant is located up the road from Dane’s Café Restaurant (above). While the restaurant around the corner, Donde El Gordito, has the rep, I enjoyed this place more.

It serves some good seafood. Perhaps even more than that was the ambiance. The place isn’t as kitschy as Donde El Gordito (what other place do you know that has an old man mixing up drinks behind a counter backed by a wall papered with used ballpoint pens), but it makes up for it with service. The waiters weren’t particularly attentive (it’s Latin America) but the lady (owner?) was more than helpful. She actually advised on ordering less food. Plus, she recommended the best beer in Chile, something called Kuntsman (insert your own joke about hoohas, here).

Delicious. If you’re in Puerto Varas be sure to hit up this triangle-shaped edifice for a bit more local feel. Best of all, it wasn’t all that expensive.

“You had me at barrato.”

GALLERY: No bonus pics today. What you see is what Mervyn ate.

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