If you ask anyone in Santiago to bring you to their favorite restaurant, it’s most likely a sangucherìa, an old-school sandwich shop with the same staff that has been working the grill for decades. So it’s no surprise that a fresh crop of sangucherías is taking root amid the Chilean capital’s thriving food scene, riffing on traditional preparations and the typically kitschy settings.
The first thing you see at José Ramón 277, in the Belle Époque-style Lastarria neighborhood near the Museo de Artes Visuales, is the long bar with a row of draft handles, pouring a chalkboard list of beers from Chilean craft breweries like Jester and Nómade. Many of the sandwiches seem familiar, such as the lengua, or beef tongue, and arrollado, or pork roll. Homemade hot sauces and pickled mustard seeds with honey and ginger are already on the table. Yet, when they arrive on old-fashioned enamel trays, inside a typical crusty French roll called the marraqueta, there are ingredients like caramelized onions and goat cheese that some traditionalists might call sacrilegious.
Chile has a little known yet widespread sandwich culture that dates back a century. Traditional menus tend to feature a nearly identical list of meats and toppings. Classic sandwich shops such as Lomit’s or Fuente Alemana have their own lingo, like ordering a particular sandwich as a completo (sauerkraut and mustard) or Italiano (avocado, tomatoes and mayo), distinctions that aren’t always on the menu but universally offered. Portion sizes are big, so Chilean sandwiches are almost always consumed seated with fork and knife.
“We love sandwiches because they incarnate the holy Chilean trinity,” the Chilean food writer Isidora Díaz told me. “There’s freshly baked bread, the heritage of French and German immigrants; mashed avocado, which our land makes creamier than anywhere else; and house-made mayonnaise, always beaten with love.”