As said in the intro, everything –and, namely, restaurants- is very expensive and overpriced in San Pedro, so be prepared if you got used to the prices anywhere else in Chile.
Caracoles is The street for trendy, expensive and posh restaurants (most of them try to give a “rustic” touch to their places by using mud brick building, ceiling beams and native trees’ posts), and even for having expensive and fine wines in a patio under the desert stars.
In the 3 blocks of Caracoles St., between Toconao and Domingo Atienza, there are at least 10 of those restaurants, none of them offering anything under US$ 7,50 (that’s the price of their set meal, which is about 3 times more expensive than the same course in Santiago or Calama), no extras (drinks, tips, etc.) included. In the evening, prices rise between 50% and 200%, as the offer is usually upgraded to cater the requirements of the tour groups coming back from their day trips.
The best-known eateries are La Estaka (Caracoles 259-B, quite famous, after being featured in several glamour photoshoots on national glossy magazines), the Rincon Pintado (Caracoles 101-B, nice music), the Café Adobe (Caracoles 211, internet access), La casona (Caracoles 195, internet access) and the very expensive Enkanto (Caracoles 195, has a wine cellar).
Other restaurants in the same street are the Casa de Piedra, Milagro, Café Export and Tierra (this latter has good pizzas, only twice the standard price in Chile...a real deal!).
Petro Pizza, on Toconao 447, has good pizzas too, and slightly cheaper.
The Café Andino (Tocopilla 442, next to Cosmo Andino tour agency) has excellent ad reasonably priced sandwiches, although their salads are overpriced for what they bring.
Favorite Dish: On the same Caracoles St., but a few meters past Domingo Atienza to the W, is the restaurant Takha-Takha (run by the former La Estaka owner and founder), which shares the location and garden with its camping and small hotel. Both the restaurant and lodging are expensive (but otherwise nice, although the camping has a rather “crowded” feeling, after its quite small area); the food is superb, and they have a small cybercafe with 3 computers, which is fast and reasonably priced (US$ 1,50/hour).
The traditional, albeit remodelled Juanita, in the archway in front of the plaza, has outstanding menus and a very nice and quiet environment –especially at evenings- but for a price...
Picture: Caracoles street in the morning.
Nikon F4s, Nikkor 300 mm., f. 5,6, 1/250 sec., POL filter
Terrific food, specially the salmon. And try teir pisco sour! It's the best in town! I really reccommend this place!
Para os brasileiros:
Comida deliciosa! Pedimos uma entrada de vieiras (ostiones) e o chef veio saber como queríamos. Pedimos que viesse uma entrada com sabor de Chile. E foi exatamente o que chegou à mesa. Estava delicioso. Ainda mais com o pisco sour.
Depois, comi o Salmão. Estava bem temperado com batatas deliciosas.
Melhor comida de San Pedro!
Favorite Dish: The Salmon and the scallops
There is a great number of restaurants to choose from, and the food is simply excellent and caters to all tastes. We tended to go and eat at the higher-end restaurants because of their ambience and style. Here are a few of the restaurants I recommend: Blanco, Cafe Export, Casa Piedra, Adobe, La Casona, La Estaka and La Cave. La Cave has probably the largest assortment of beers, both local ones as well as other Latin American ones, and it's desserts and pizzas are to die for! All the restaurants serve Chile's national alcoholic drink Pisco Sour - which is a cocktail made up of Pisco, Lime Juice, sugar syrup and egg white - you cannot miss the opportunity to taste this delicious cocktail. Furthermore the restaurants are stocked well with Chilean wines - some of the finest wines in the world in my opinion, especially the red wines.
Other things to look for especially during the day are empanadas and coca tea. The coca tea will really help against the effects of altitude sickness, and similar to green tea in taste (better in my opinion). Having a few cups of those each day is a good idea especially before going to Bolivia, el Tatio or other high altitude places. Be aware though that if you are regularly tested for drugs at work, coca tea will leave some traces that may show up as cocaine-positive in your blood. Otherwise the stuff is not considered to be a drug and has no bad or addictive effects whatsoever.
This place is right down the road from Hostel Florida on Tocopilla 406. It is a quaint EMPANADA restaurant that has amazing authentic Argentine food. We bought 5 empanadas, as tasteful as Buenos Aires.
Favorite Dish: Perhaps the reason for the great taste is that the owner was actually from Cordoba, Argentina who had moved there. We chatted with him and is a very nice guy.
Is a beautiful local restaurant that offer natural breakfast , lunch and the speciality are the pizzas. It is open from early morning so is a perfect place to have breakfast. They also have meat, pancakes, omelettes, salad and natural juices.
This is one of the most crowded places of the nights in San Pedro.
This restaurant has to offer great dishes of Chilean and international food.
Every night you will be able to enjoy an entertaining and cosmopolitan environment , besides an exhibition of ceramics and paintings of The Hand Art.
It also has live music everyday after 21:00 hrs.
Open Monday to Sunday from 8:00 to 01:00 AM.
Breakfast - 8:00 AM to 11:59 AM.
Lunch - 12:30 PM to 4:00 PM.
Dinner- 6:30 PM to 11:30 AM
As it was said before, there’s nothing there, so you have to bring all your food with you, and have the means to cook it too.
Besides the playful custom of boiling eggs into the geysers, you should have a camping stove (preferably a white gas one, as the combination of altitude and very low temperatures works against those using propane, butane, or any of those mixes) and full cookware, and don’t even think of using the thermal water for cooking (you risk poisoning) or to cook over the geysers as if they were a stove plate.
If you’re considering a stay there, you probably have some experience in camping and mountaineering, but just in case, remember that suitable meals for El Tatio conditions are canned tuna and vegetables, parboiled rice, pastas, tomato sauce, grated cheese, tea or coffee, sugar, cookies (this is, highly caloric and easy-to-cook food). Bring drinking water from San Pedro, and ALWAYS try to have a HOT meal before going to sleep.
Alcohol is not recommendable.
Keep water and cookware inside the tent’s abside, to avoid freezing and contamination of it by sulphurous fumes from the geyser’s plumes.
And...bring back ALL your garbage.
Finally, the best way to make meals cost-efficient, is by having your own cooking gear: a camping stove –preferably a MSR, Peak 1, Sigg or similar are best, fuel-wise-, a pot, a metal pitcher to heat water, and tableware are enough.
Butane-gas stove users should take their own provision of gas canisters from anywhere else (you could imagine why: otherwise, buying’em there is painfully expensive), but MSR (or anyone using gasoline stoves) users can buy unleaded auto gas at the petrol station, on Toconao street, behind the Hosteria de San Pedro, at the standard’ country price (US$ 0,90/liter).
White gas is very hard to find in San Pedro, and outrageously expensive if found.
If you can, bring your own supplies from either Santiago (as I did), Antofagasta or Calama; for instance, the same tuna can that cost US$ 0,50 in a supermarket in Calama or Santiago, in San Pedro is US$ 1,30. Sugar, juices, spaghettis, any canned food, etc., are no less than twice its standard price in San Pedro, although the small shops in the outskirts are cheaper, and sometimes have almost the same –or just slightly higher- prices as supermarkets in Calama.
Locally produced vegetables and fruits are average-priced, but other fruits, or fresh fish, is expensive. Chicken and meat are somewhat the same price as in Antofagasta, this is, about 50% more than in Santiago. Eggs are the standard price, but bread is expensive.
You can cook safely with the tap water, but making tea, coffee or drinking it, is not recommendable: you better use purified or mineral water, unless you have a physical, carbon filter (see my “Warnings” chapter on this).
Favorite Dish: It's good because you prepare it by yourself, and then have it in the open, under the trees and looking at the volcanoes as they gradually sink in the evening shade, what's better else?
If you do not have a sack of money, and don’t have your own way to cook either, you can go to the restaurant San Pedro, at the corner of Domingo Atienza and Licancabur (right where San Pedro town ends begins –as you enter it- on the crossroads between the highway to Calama and the road to Quitor ruins, 3 blocks from the city “centre”) where a 2-course set meal costs US$ 2, and soft drinks are a decent US$ 0,70 (instead of the US$ 2 or so, at the expensive restaurants in Caracoles). This is the place where many locals have lunch, so it’s not an uninteresting place to visit, and is also handy for the Tur Bus and Atacama 2000 bus stops. Much cheaper –but much less appealing as well- places are around the ramshackle bus stops at the eastern end of Toconao St., behind the telecommunications microwave tower, as an extension of the handicraft’s fair alley; this is the place where you can share a meal with Bolivian wannabe-illegal immigrants and drivers; for a taste of road cuisine, walk another 300 metres E of this place, and get into the Condorazo “restaurant”: this is a trucker’s eatery, great for those who want to meet weary Brazilian truckers, discreet Aymara indians and Bolivians on their way to Chile trying not to be noticed, and for anybody lingering of those bizarre road food stops of the Peruvian-Bolivian Andean highlands. It’s decorated in a kitsch style (although I doubt the owners have any clue of what the meaning of kitsch is...so be prepared to see real, essential kitsch), and to add another good thing, it’s cheap and the portions are generous. It is located next to the Customs building (just look for the commercial radio FM antenna, and the police microwave dishes on it).
Favorite Dish: Meat dishes, soup, pantrucas (see my Chile's general chapter...), and Sunday's empanadas are good here, and at reasonable, standard prices.
All three of these places where great to go and eat or have a beer. They all had a good atmosphere, good music and a fire blazing.
The ¨menu´s¨ ran about 5000 pesos, and included a salad, main dish, dessert and glass of wine.
I can´t remember the name of this restaurant but it was located close to our hostel. I ordered two mojitos for 5000 pesos and a chicken salad.