Meal Times and Eating at Restaurants in Chile
Chileans eat on a slightly different schedule than we do in the United States. It may be hard to find restaurants open at times that are normal for people from the United States. Here is a brief guide to meal times and eating at restaurants in Chile.
This is not a very important meal to a Chilean, but it usually consists of the same type of food all throughout Chile. A typical breakfast (even at hotels and hostels) consists of a combination of breads, cheese, jelly, cold cut meat, juice, tea, and the famous Nestle instant coffee that Chileans seem to love. Breakfast is usually eaten between 7 am and 10 am. Since Chileans are late risers and slow to get going in the morning, you will have a hard time finding anything open that serves breakfast. Large hotels that cater to international tourists will usually have a large breakfast buffet. These usually consist of bacon, sausage, eggs, salmon, cold cut meat, cheese, breads, pastries, different jellies, cereal, oatmeal, eggs, tea, milk, and more Nestle instant coffee.
This is the most important time in a Chilean's day! Lunch is usually very punctual and goes from 1:30 pm to 3:30 pm. Most restaurants will be open at this time, but the majority of all the other businesses will close at this time (they need their lunch too). Lunch is always the largest meal of the day and the restaurant servings are very generous. Many restaurants offer a fixed price menu including a first course, main course, desert and drink (even alchoholic drinks) at prices ranging from 2,000 to 7,000 Chilean pesos ($3 to $10). These daily options are equivalent to daily specials in the U.S. Many restaurants in Chile serve almost the exact same type of food at every place, unless you go to a higher end restaurant or a specialty restaurant. Meals are usually hamburgers, complete hot dogs (completos), empanadas, chicken with fries, beef with fries, fish with fries, a la pobre (meat with fries, onions, and fried eggs), various stews, and occasionally pizza. Those are the main menu items that you will find at most restaurants.
Onces is a meal that we don't have in the U.S. This is kind of like "tea time" and is usually held around 5:00 pm - 8:00pm. It usually consists of combination of either tea, instant coffee, pastries, small sandwiches, avocado, scrambled eggs, jam, etc. Restaurants don't usually serve this meal and many might be closed at this time.
And finally we have reached dinner. If you are still hungry after all of the previous food, then you can join in on this meal too! This meal is eaten around 8:00 pm to midnight. If eaten at a restaurant, then it will be much like lunch, except without the daily special. Only about 30% of Chileans eat this meal and the others usually just have a small snack.
Although most restaurants serve the same food, it is all well prepared and seasoned. Chileans definitely can cook some good food and it is something a foreigner should look forward to!