Origins: The Chorrillana

The chorrillana is Valparaiso’s contribution to Chilean fast foods, which includes sandwiches too big to hold and avocado smeared hot dogs. No dish will give you a heart attack as quickly as the chorrillana, which is Chile’s answer to disco fries or poutine. It’s simply a massive plate of minced beef, grilled onions, and scrambled egg over a mountain of greasy French fries.

The high calorie snack is believed to have been invented somewhere like Casino Social J Cruz, located at Calle Condell 1466 in downtown Valparaiso. The bar is the exact definition of a Chilean picada: a hole, dive bar, or greasy spoon. It does not resemble a casino in any shape or form (though it was at one time). Rather it is a ramshackle room, found down a long, graffiti, covered alleyway. The walls are lined with plaster figurines, old photos, glass cases filled with more knickknacks, and layers of writing from seemingly every client that has ever walked through its doors. In its more than thirty years of existence, since 1972, it has become something of a legend in Valparaiso. On most times an old school crooner, with his Pablo Neruda like conductor hat, is there singing folk songs with his guitar. Perhaps no place captures the porteño spirit better than it.

The chorrillana is a pub version of bistec a lo pobre, a homey plate of steak with a fried egg. J Cruz began serving their own version of it around 50 years ago to students who came there for a few beers and needed something in their stomach. The actual details of the name are murky. The name may be a tribute to the battle of Chorrillos in Peru or perhaps in relation to the chorizo sometimes used as the protein.

Outside of Valparaiso you might find the chorrillana with chorizo or longaniza sausages. At Casino Social J. Cruz one small plate will serve three to five. Aside of the carne mechada (stewed beef) it is practically the only other dish served there. You can wash it down with the house beer, a Cervecera del Puerto blond ale.