Eating Well in Patagonia
I’ll admit that I was a little skeptical of what we would be eating over our three weeks in Patagonia. In my research, I had come across lots of information about amazing wines, mixed drinks, and even the fledgling craft beer industry, but outside of recommendations to try to the split-roasted lamb, I didn’t find any food information. I did do some digging around on Trip Advisor for each of the locations we were visiting to at least know which places received the best reviews and which ones to avoid, but I only had two restaurants per location to try. That was not going to last us for approximately 40 meals (we had free breakfast at everywhere we stayed).
Well I was very very very pleasantly surprised. Besides the handful of meals that were only nuts (three to be exact) and every single meal we ate at Hosteria Pehoe (five – we would have avoided it after the first meal but we were out of pesos and there were no ATMs anywhere near Torres del Paine), we had amazing meals. We did eat the split roasted lamb, twice because it was so good, but we also ate so many other things. Keep reading for the best of the best.
We ate here for our first real dinner in Punta Arenas (one of our “nut-only” meals was our first dinner because we got in late) and it was amazing! We started the meal with calmari and followed it up with fried fish for Jason and a crab-stuffed pancake for me. The food was rich but so delicious! I also had my first pisco sour of the trip here and it ranked as one of the better ones (the best was at the Hotel Rio Serrano).
For Jason’s birthday we had plans to pick up our car early or rent another car to drive to the end of the continental Americas. That didn’t work out so we decided to indulge in some good food. We settled on Mesita Grande for lunch, mainly because it was packed when we walked by the night before for dinner. We started off with two Austral beers and Octopus Crostini which we followed up with a La Sandra’s Favorita pizza. The Octopus Crostini was amazing, with perfectly cooked octopus that was mixed with onions and some sort of pickled vegetable, topped with a drizzle of cheese sauce and basil. The pizza was huge and also delicious. We left lunch very sated and knowing that we needed to do some walking around town if we were going to have room for dinner!
Parrilla Los Ganaderos
For Jason’s birthday we decided to try the famous Patagonian split-roasted lamb. Parrilla Los Ganaderos received good reviews on Google, so that’s where we decided to try it. We started off the meal with a bottle of red Patagonian wine (they have an extensive wine list) and parmesan scallops. We made the mistake of ordering two parmesan scallops (one for each of us), which would have been amazing if we didn’t order more food. It was rich but so delicious. In the US it’s hard to find cheese-y seafood dishes, which is baffling to me. In Patagonia they don’t exhibit this fear of combining cheese and seafood, and we were the beneficiaries of this culinary wonder!
For dinner I ordered filet au poivre and Jason ordered the split-roasted lamb with salad on the side. It was so delicious. My steak was amazing, but I was jealous of Jason’s lamb. We had heard that Chileans and Argentinians like their meats “overcooked” by American standards. Yes, the lamb was well done (my steak was medium-rare and perfect) but the flavors of the lamb were so amazing. The crispy bits on the ends and around the bones were almost like candied meat. This is the most delicious way I’ve ever eaten lamb, and we eat our fair share of lamb.
Hotel Cabo de Hornos
After our Pinguino Rey adventures (I’ll post about this later), we made it back to our hotel at 9:30pm and were STARVING. We had eaten a small breakfast at the hotel before we left at 7am, and then had only eaten nuts, a little chicken, and one empanada for the rest of the day. We were also tired, so the thought of dragging ourselves out in the rain to a restaurant was overwhelming. We had heard good things about the restaurant at our hotel so we decided to give it a try. Since we were starving we decided to go with a three-course meal, starting off with wine and a shrimp appetizer that involved shrimp marinated in a fruity glaze, topped with cocktail onions, on pieces of fried cheese. For dinner, Jason ordered ravioli with vegetables and I ordered the almond-crusted hake with bacon and goat cheese polenta. For dessert, we split a piece of chocolate cheesecake topped with raspberries and a side of praline ice cream. The appetizer, my entree, and the dessert were amazing! Jason’s entree was just OK.
We liked my half of the meal so much that we had our final dinner in Punta Arenas at the hotel for round number 2 (it was also raining and we were exhausted once again). This time we only ordered entrees: the seafood chupe with a side of jasmine rice for Jason and the slow-roasted beef gnocchi for me. Once again, my entree stole the show. The beer was amazingly tender with so much flavor. The gnocchi was cooked perfectly and added to the heartiness of the dish. Jason’s seafood chupe was delicious, but a little too rich for him to finish the whole thing. Of course he managed to eat all of his rice! We went to bed for the last time in Patagonia very happy with our food choices.
MAKO Fuegos y Vinos
Unfortunately I don’t have more pictures from this meal, but it was visually stunning (and delicious)! This was one of the places I had found ahead of time so we decided to try it on our first night in El Calafate. We had driven from Punta Arenas and had only eaten nuts for lunch. This was the last time we ate nuts for a meal since we wanted to finish them before crossing into Argentina to avoid any customs issues. Needless to say we were quite hungry when we arrived in El Calafate! MAKO Fuegos y Vinos is another restaurant that specializes in split-roasted lamb and has a very extensive wine list. We decided on a bottle of Argentine Patagonia Malbec wine (it was cheaper than ordering two glasses!) that seemed to have been made to drink with our dinner. For an appetizer we ordered the empanaditas, little empanadas served with a salsa-type relish on the side. They were perfectly cooked and flaky. This was also the beginning of our love affair with empanadas. For dinner we ordered the split-roasted lamb for two with a side of rustic potatoes. I wish my picture of the presentation turned out because it was beautiful (although this picture shows what ours looked like). It was served on top of hot coals to keep the meat hot with the potatoes artfully arranged on the side. The food tasted as good as it looked and we left fat and happy.
Although not technically a restaurant, the Zorro Cerveceria did serve a small menu of food. We were excited to try craft beer at an actual brewery (we were a little disappointed by the Austral beer in Chile). I ordered an IPA and Jason ordered a wheat beer. Although I would not put any of the beers we had in Chile or Argentina on the same level as Colorado craft beer, the beer was good. And it was strong. We did a little “work”, aka photoediting and journaling while enjoying our beers, and felt the need to walk off the alcohol a little bit after finishing. All the breweries we visited in Argentina have the potential to become really good, they just need a little more time to refine their recipes.
This little mountain town had the best concentration of amazing restaurants out of anywhere we visited. It’s not surprising though. People come to El Chalten for the hiking and with the types of trails around here, you definitely need delicious food to refuel after your adventures (hike reviews coming soon). We made an effort to try different restaurants but we didn’t make it all the ones I wanted to try. The main one that I wanted to try and didn’t was La Wafleria. I guess we’ll just have to go back!
Patagonia Eco Domes
When I booked our stay at Patagonia Eco Domes, I unknowingly booked the all-inclusive option, which meant breakfast, dinner, and bagged lunch were included with our hotel rate! After our hike up to Loma del Pliegue Tumbado we were very hungry for dinner, which was perfect because the portions were huge. We started our meal with fried trout ravioli. The trout was locally caught and so amazingly fresh! I’ve never had fried ravioli before but it will definitely be something I make in the future. For our entrees, Jason ordered the steak with a dome potato (a baked potato with an egg in the middle topped with cheese) and I ordered the trout with roasted pumpkin and mushroom risotto. Both of our entrees were equally delicious. During this course we were happy that we had hiked earlier in the day to justify the amount of food we ate. It was too delicious to leave any of it behind. For dessert we split the dulce de leche pudding!
As a side note, the chef is also the waiter! He was so friendly and was extremely excited about the food that he had prepared. In fact, my meal originally came with just the trout and roasted pumpkin, but he added the mushroom risotto because he thought it went well with the rest of the dish. He was right! I think it definitely added to the experience that the chef was the one describing the meal options. He is also an amazing chef so that helped!
We actually ate here twice (and gave up an opportunity to try La Wafleria – but waffles after a hard hike didn’t sound appetizing). The first time was after our quick run to Mirador Torre for sunset and we stopped at La Cervercia on our way back to our hotel. Since it’s a cerveceria, we needed to order beer! Jason picked the pilsner, which was good, and I picked the bock, which was great. In fact I think it’s the best beer we had in Patagonia! For food, Jason ordered salmon ravioli and I ordered squash raviolone made with spinach. We both ordered the fillette sauce, which was almost like a delicious tomato stew. In fact the sauce was so good we ate it with our forks even after the pasta was gone – and neither one of us are big fans of tomato sauce. My raviolone was so good that I was dreaming about it for the rest of the trip. Now that we’re home I’m working on some ideas to recreate it. Seriously, this was one of THE BEST meals we had.
The second time we went to La Cerveceria, we talked about eating there for the entire final hour of our hike up Loma de Las Pizzarras (hike review coming soon!). This time we both ordered the bock and it was just as good as the first time. For food we ordered the smoked bacon pizza. The pizza was huge and we were glad we had decided to split it. It was covered creamy mozzarella cheese and strips of bacon. On top it was sprinkled with dried oregano and kalamata olives were arranged around the perimeter of the pizza. We were stuffed by the time we walked out of there! I wish we could find mozzarella like that in the states!
We stopped at Che Empanada on our first full day in El Chalten to order six empanadas. They were so amazing that we went back again before our hike to Loma de Las Pizzarras to stock up. Seriously I wish we had empanadas like this in the United States. They are the perfect “long day in the mountains” fuel because they are so delicious and they don’t make too much of a mess. I’ve already started working on perfecting my empanada dough to make them for myself. For our hike to Loma de Las Pizzarras we went big and ordered 12 empanadas (for 240 ARS which is less than $16). These 12 empanadas made up our lunch and hiking snacks on that day, as well as lunch for our drive to Torres del Paine the following day.
After our hike to Laguna de Los Tres, where we didn’t pack nearly enough food and hit a serious wall on the way back to town, we needed food immediately! We stopped by the hotel to drop off our hiking packs and bee-lined it for B&B (which stands for burgers and beers – or maybe the other way around). We each ordered a beer, both of which were good but not as good as the bock at La Cerveceria, the bacon cheeseburger, and a side of hot sauce french fries. The burgers were really good and were topped with a lot of bacon! The fries were surprisingly delicious. They were coated in hot sauce and topped with grilled onions. They weren’t as spicy as I normally like, but they had a really great flavor. It was the perfect meal to replenish our depleted bodies!
Torres del Paine
We stayed at three different places in Torres del Paine and ate the majority of our meals at our hotels. This was due to two reasons: (1) the food at two of the three hotels was really good and (2) we didn’t have any pesos and didn’t feel like driving somewhere only to find out we couldn’t pay for our meal. The meals at Hosteria Pehoe were edible but barely. Luckily the other two hotels made up for the disgusting food we endured at Hosteria Pehoe.
I didn’t take any pictures here but trust me the food was beautiful (here’s a photo of the dinner buffet and here’s one of the dessert options). We ate two dinners here and both were very different from each other. The first night they had a lamb and wine tasting (which we skipped to sneak in a little hike after a long drive) followed by a buffet. The buffet was huge, with a wide selection of salads, a couple meat and fish options, and an entire table full of desserts. They also included wine pairings with the meal and our waitress encouraged us to have the sauvignon blanc for our appetizers/salad course and the syrah for our entrees and dessert. It was the perfect pairing and really enhanced the food.
For our second dinner they offered a three-course meal. We each picked the seafood chupe as our appetizer, which was amazing and luckily small because of how rich it is. For entrees, I ordered grilled hake and Jason ordered the filet. Both were cooked perfectly and left us wishing for bigger stomachs. The final course was a trio of desserts, which we enjoyed before joining up with some ladies we had met during our hike the day before for a couple of rounds of Uno. The ladies were in Patagonia to celebrate their 68th and 75th birthdays!
Hotel Rio Serrano
We ate at Hotel Rio Serrano for six meals (including two breakfasts). Our first meal at the hotel was lunch. When we checked in they told us that dinner was a buffet so we were confident that we could order the three-course lunch without having to worry about repeating any of it for dinner. The three-course lunch consisted of a salmon tartare tower with fresh, crisp vegetables, pesto gnocchi, and bananas with a side of orange ice cream. Everything was beautifully presented and tasted delicious. By the way, we each ordered the three-course meal so this picture only shows half of the food we received! Needless to say we weren’t hungry when we started our horseback ride a couple of hours later!
The dinner buffet was delicious, but I didn’t get any pictures. For lunch the following day we again ate at the hotel bar. This time I ordered the salmon tartare salad and Jason ordered the honey-glazed chicken sandwich. My salad was a delicious ceviche-like salad overflowing with local-caught salmon (the river that hotel is named after has salmon in it!) and Jason’s sandwich was HUGE. He also had a side of the best tasting fries we ate all trip. And that’s saying a lot because almost every lunch we ordered came with a side of fries.