It was 5:20 pm, and I was having a bad case of the Mondays. The one thing I was looking forward to was my dinner at Barros Luco. I see it every morning, I've read about it, I've blogged about it, there was just one thing left to do…and in the words of Weird Al: Eat It. I showed up around 7 pm, and was greeted warmly by Carlos, the owner, and a smiley cashier. I was pretty hungry, so I didn't really know what to try. Fortunately, I have read enough about this place to know that the Chacarero is the most popular sandwich in Chile, so I went with that and got a baked chicken empanada on the side. Fries? No. That's not how I do things. If I wanted fries, I would have gone to McDonald's. I came here for "Authentic Chilean Cuisine" and damn it I'm going to get it. But for all you fry-lovers out there, they DO make sweet potato fries. Oh, and I also got a beef Vienesa Completo to go (hot dog with tomato, sauerkraut, mashed avocado and mayo). You may cure your mondays with beer, I cure mine with beef.
So I went upstairs to the little dining area (left) which was pleasantly appointed with sconces, wood trim and brass-colored paintings. It was very clean too, granted there were only a few other people in there at this point. After about 5-10 mins, I got my food, and I was very excited. The sandwich looked so colorful and nicely put together, and the empanada was fairly large. For those of you who don't know what a Chacarero is (pronounced cha-kah-re-ro), it's a beef or chicken sandwich with (traditionally) string beans, tomato, mayo, avocado, and banana peppers. Sounds weird I know, but I really enjoyed this sandwich. I thought the beef was well cooked and the flavors complimented each other, including the string beans, which were cut up small and added a nice little crunch to each bite. Even the mayo has a touch of lemon juice for some tang, and is spread in a thin layer (thankfully, because I am NOT a fan of mayo), then it's topped off with some cool avocado and hot banana peppers. There you have it: a surprisingly different and delicious sandwich (though next time I'm getting more peppers on it). It also sounds like it would be horribly messy, but it wasn't at all. This could be due in part to the size, which for me was perfectly fine, but I can see some of my male friends complaining that it's a little small. I think it's a good size for a lunch, but for a dinner, yes, you would probably have to order something on the side. Who can eat a sandwich without a side of fries anyway? Or in my case, a side of empanada.
Speaking of the empanada, it was decent, but not my favorite of the meal. Though I also made the mistake of getting a baked one (which is the traditional one), and I just don't like the crust. Never have. What the hell was I thinking?? There's even a rhyme for this very problem: "not sure what to try? Always, always fry." Ok I made that up, but it's true. Next time I will try a fried beef empanada and see how that goes. I was pretty stuffed at this point thanks to the filling qualities of avocado and homemade Chilean bread (also known as Pan Frica), but I had to try the Completo Vienesa. I love variations of hot dogs, and being in New York, strangely enough you can't get too many versions other than "ketchup packet", "mustard packet", and "kraut". How exciting. So to me, this hot dog was like a dream come true. I took two bites of the all-beef hot dog overflowing with avocado, sauerkraut, mayo and tomato, and it was hard not to devour the rest. The bun is made from the same homemade bread as the sandwich, so it's a little more dense compared to a regular hot dog bun - but to hold all those fillings I guess it has to be. The hot dog itself was tasty, but the tangy sauerkraut with creamy avocado and mayo put it over the top. I loved it. To me, few things are better than a good hot dog.
I spoke with Carlos Olivares, the owner, for a few minutes after my meal. I asked him why he opened a Chilean sandwich shop in midtown, and he said he simply "found a niche in dining" here. There's definitely a truth to that - every place that's opened up here has been a salad company of some kind. How many different ways are there to get a damn salad?? Chopt, Tossed and Just, apparently. All these "creative" takes on salad have jacked up the prices, and I personally have spent over $10 for some of them. FOR LETTUCE. Barros Luco on the other hand, says Carlos, "it's comfort food, you know? And it doesn't hurt the wallet." To prove that point, nothing on the menu is more than $7.99. The food is all traditional Chilean recipes, so you're not paying extra for the chef's creative twists and flair. Putting string beans and mayo on a beef sandwich is creative enough, no? See for yourself on your next lunch break.
300 1/2 East 52nd Street
New York, NY 10022