Two cafés or “small bite” places (since one has no coffee), Había una Vez in Recoleta, and Chicken Tea, in República.
Hits are self-explanatory. Misses are places I wouldn’t put at the top of my list. Adjectives describing hit and miss used at my discretion. Opinions are my own, and I paid for my food/drinks.
SEMI-ENTHUSIASTIC HIT: Había Una Vez Antonia Lopez de Bello 323, closest metro, Patronato. Not terribly far from Bellas Artes, either.
Había una vez is the beginning of every fairytale in Spanish, “once upon a time.” It’s also the name of a Korean-owned bakery/café in Patronato. The entrance is a bit narrow and set back, and curiously, has a sliding glass door, which confounds nearly every new visitor. You might be over here, because it’s close to China House Market and Assi Supermarket, two great places on Antonia Lopez de Bello to get Asian groceries. China House Market is larger, and has a slightly better packaged food collection (and bubble tea!), and Assim market has more fresh goods, like kimchee and other pickled veggies.
But you came here for the café review, and so you shall have one. The coffee is okay. It’s fine. It will not hurt you in any way if you are not a terrible coffee snob. If you are, you might want to get some tea. They are the only place I know in Santiago that will make you an iced tea with milk in it. They brew the tea nice and strong, and dump this over a glass full of milk with ice cubes. Sounds terrible to you? Hmmm, maybe stick with the coffee then. Also, they use Ahmad tea which is better than all the various Chilean brands, but is not my favorite of the bagged teas available in Chile (I’d choose Dilmah).
But the big attraction here is neither the tea nor coffee. It is the Korean-style sweets (and savories). There are macaroons (the french kind, funny colors, almond-flavored), a couple of kinds of really good, moist, flavorful green tea cakes (simple pound cake style, and a creamy jelly-roll one), and a few different varieties of bags of cookies (probably would get these to go), all of which are good. The drier pastry goods like things that look like cinnamon rolls or breads are very eggy, and the savory ones tend towards fried (or oily), but filling. The café kind of looks like it’s two cafés, the front, which meshes with the first half of the seating area, and then the second half of the seating area (lots of places to sit). It’s not visually that harmonious, and also, it’s disconcerting to sit at the table where the bathroom used to be.
One of the great things about this café is that it’s unique. There was another location in Pedro del Valdivia, but it closed a while ago. The people that work there are lovely, and you bring your food up on a tray, which they then bring to you with your drink once it is done. It’s a little culturally disparate to most of the café culture in Santiago, plus I like their sweets. So despite the coffee issue, I still call it a semi-enthusiastic hit.
LIMITED HIT: Chicken Tea, Sazie 2069, equidistant between Repúblia and Los Héroes metro.
On the one hand, Chicken Tea is a terrible name for a café. What is Chicken Tea? Is it tea made out of chicken? In that case, is it not just soup? In fact, Chicken Tea is owned by a family from Taiwan, who used to live in the states, and it’s more of a snackbar than a café, but they do, in fact, sell both chicken (little fried chicken nuggety things, as well as other fried items) and, well, tea.
This place is probably not on your trajectory, but it’s close to my house, and in fact on my way to the supermarket at Santa Isabel, where, if you didn’t know, they also have a bowling alley, called JapiMax. There’s a story there about a friend of mine who once won a tee shirt from the place for knocking down a certain pin during their inauguration, but a)that was a long time ago, so I’m pretty sure that’s over and b) it has nothing to do with Chicken Tea. The only thing I’ve ever had at Chicken Tea (as I don’t eat Chicken, though I notice they now have fried fish and fried rice balls filled with cheese), is bubble tea.
If you don’t know bubble tea, it’s a cold, milky tea, with cooked, sweetened tapioca balls lolling at the bottom. These come up through a large-bore straw, and might choke you if you didn’t know they were coming. I am not sure how much I like bubble tea, and how much I like the idea of something that is both food and drink and caffeine all together. This bubble tea is good though, and the family is amicable and interested, and was smiley when I made the assertion that I, too was a foreigner. I’m calling this a mild hit, because República gets no cred for interesting food choices in general, though (as you will see), there is more here than you might expect. There are two other places that I know of in Santiago with bubble tea, which are the aforementioned China House market and the gazillion variety Big Boba in Manuel Montt.
If you do not like tea with milk in it, bubbly or not, perhaps this edition of hit or miss was not really your style. For this I apologize, and then I insist that you really should try the green tea cakes at Había Una Vez. Antioxidants, even!
Raison d’etre: I like food, like reviewing it, eat out a fair amount, photograph my food and drink shamelessly and often opine about what I like and don’t in the culinary ambit. And I sometimes get a little fed up with how much “happy-glad tourism writing” there is out there, so I decided to show both sides of the coin, and not just happy-glad my way around only places that have been hits for me. If you can figure out a way to go to only places that leave you satisfied and gleeful, please don’t share. I get the feeling the misses are going to be the most popular part.
More Hit or Miss.