Perhaps my favorite route in southernmost South America remains Chile’s Carretera Austral, running through a region as wild as the Alaska Panhandle and the Canadian Yukon. Its downside, though, is the paucity of services – there is only one city, the regional capital of Coyhaique, and except for scattered resorts, there are few places to grab a bite along the highway.
That’s changing, though, even in some of the smaller settlements as the highway improves and road trips become more common. One intriguing aspect is the arrival of food trucks such as Coyhaique’s Kawescar (pictured at top), just a block off the pentagonal Plaza de Armas, but also in out of the way places such as Villa Cerro Castillo, where La Cocina de Sole (pictured above) occupies two parked buses where the southbound pavement ends (though preparations for paving the next segment are well underway).
Lupe’s is basically a roadside sandwich shop, with quality versions of Chilean comfort food such as the Barros Luco (beef and grilled cheese) or ave palta (chicken with avocado, pictured below) on homemade pan frica (hold the mayo, please!). It’s comfortable inside, prices are modest, and it gets plenty of motorists and cyclists passing through town (or staying in town, for that matter). For me, it’s the best of the bunch.
On the way north, though, I found another appealing food truck (a bus really, like Sole’s) in the town of Chaitén, which is making an impressive comeback after a major volcanic eruption and subsequent forced evacuation in May of 2008. I still wouldn’t buy property there, but I’m happy to stay in a town that hasn’t completely recovered an already limited restaurant scene, the new Natour food bus is a welcome development.
That said, the region’s food truck scene is in its infancy compared to more northerly destinations. The resort town of Puerto Varas, outside the ferry port of Puerto Montt, has the most diverse food truck scene along its lakeshore. Varas also has many fine dining options, but the food trucks (and buses) – with Chilean, French, German and even Mexican choices, are a welcome change of pace.