A U-shaped counter crosses the length of the tiny Kiosko Roca, dividing its voracious clientele perched on silver stools from the restaurant’s wait staff, dandily-clad in matching radish-red aprons and floral button-downs. The ladies whizz around behind the counter toting plate after plate and glass after glass of Kiosko Roca’s signature combo: choripan and leche con platano.
In May of last year, Chile’s Culture Committee ran an open vote for Chile’s best picada. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, a picada is as Chilean as the empanada: a basic lowbrow eatery that serves up classic Chilean dishes and pioneers new favorites.
After polling Chileans from all over the country, Kiosko Roca in Punta Arenas came out on top as the country’s most beloved picada, triumphing other fierce competitors like Manhattan in Concepción, inventors of the ferocious Manhattan sandwich. “If it doesn’t drip its not a Manhattan,” is their emblazoned slogan.
“[Kiosko Roca] has become an icon of local cuisine and since it was founded by Marcs Harambour it has brought together different generations,” the Culture Committee wrote when declaring Kiosko Roca’s victory.
After elbowing and waiting in line to get a prized stool at the counter, you’ll find the Culture Committee hit the nail on the head. On your left, an aging Patagonian gent might be balancing slowly and deliberately while chasing down timid bites of sandwich with thick milk, while on your right a bubbling tangle of small children all sharing one stool may be wolfing down the same meal intermittently.
What is it precisely that makes Kiosko Roca so cherished across generations – and, in fact, the whole country? The only way to find out is by tasting their simple, cheap, and satisfying snack combo.
The first essential element, the choripan, is consumed widely across the Southern Cone and generally consists of sausage on a roll. At Kiosko Roca, they’ve invented a kind of tangy sausage paste that coats freshly baked buns and is then layered with cheese or homemade mayo. Accompanying the choripan comes a milky banana beverage, soft and sweet enough to make anyone feel like a child again.
It may not be flashy, gourmet, or cutting edge, but Kiosko Roca’s no-nonsense goodness is enough to remind the whole city of Punta Arenas of home.
Kiosko Roca is located at 875 Roca just a block from Punta Arenas’ central plaza. It opens from Monday to Friday all day and Saturday until 1:00pm. Choripanes cost US$.60 (CLP 300) while the choriqueso runs for US$.80 (CLP 400). A large leche con platano goes for US$1 (CLP 500).
By Gwynne Hogan