By Patrick HiegerWith a string of highly anticipated openings that included 99, D.O., and Las Cabras, which all pay homage to classic Chilean cooking and the best local ingredients, 2014 was a year of innovation that gave food fanatics a whole new reason to visit Santiago. Now with summer over and school back in session, 2015 can officially begin. And with El Camino bringing Texas barbecue and a whole lot of smoke to Barrio Italia when they open this Wednesday, March 4, it looks like it’s going to be a great year. Located at Avenida Italia 1034, El Camino is a collaboration between native Texans Michelle Letellier and Blane Taylor. Both Letellier’s love for Chile and her culinary career began around six years ago when she moved to Santiago to formalize her culinary training at Culinary, Santiago’s premiere culinary school. Upon returning to Texas after her schooling, she joined forces with Taylor, a childhood friend and seasoned grill man who was tired of corporate steakhouses and working for someone else. “I got tired of working at steak houses. It was an easy job, it was good money, but I wanted to open my own restaurant,” says Taylor, who was easily convinced by Letellier to drop everything and move to Chile.
The menu at El Camino will be meat-centric, with plenty of traditional sides like potato salad, cole slaw, and corn, done with Taylor and Letellier’s twists. “Instead of the cole slaw just being vinegar, sugar, and celery seed, which is the average Texas cole slaw dressing, we’re grilling the cabbage and making an avocado and rice wine vinegar dressing.” Texas, up a notch. In addition to smoked brisket, sausages and chicken, they wanted to offer a simple grilled hanger steak, for guests who might not be so into smoke. After all, even pioneers need to acclimate to the local palate.True to Texas form, the space will feature a huge patio, perfect for gorging on meat and beer. “At first we were looking in Vitacura, but realized that it’s not the crowd that we want. Then we found this amazing two-story house with a huge patio in Barrio Italia,” said Letellier, exuberant about the possibility of having a taste of home in her adopted country. Aside from an extensive beer list that will feature imported American beers from Beervana, they’ll also be offering national beers, a wide variety of Chilean wines, and a full list of spirits. That’s more like Texas, up a few notches, in Chile.
El Camino is officially set to open this Wednesday, which means there will still be plenty of summer left to enjoy far too much food on an expansive patio. Taylor says he hopes to start making weekly sausage specials with everything from rabbit to boar, and whatever else he might find. If you’re in need of a good excuse to bring out your inner gaucho / huaso / cowboy, head over to Barrio Italia. They’ll be waiting for you.