North of the Mapocho via the Pío Nono bridge, Barrio Bellavista is Santiago’s gourmet ghetto, with dozens of first-rate restaurants virtually side-by-side—but not on Pío Nono itself, where most of the options are little better than greasy spoons. The bulk of the choices are east of Pío Nono, on the Providencia  side of the barrio, but there are still many outstanding possibilities on the Recoleta side, to the west.
Surviving in the midst of rampant gentrification by serving outstanding sandwiches and simple but well-prepared Chilean dishes to a Bohemian clientele, Galindo (Dardignac 098, tel. 02/7770116) is one of the Providencia  side’s oldest eateries. With its bright new facade, El Caramaño (Purísima 257, tel. 02/7377043) may be less casual than it once was—it lacked even a street sign and you used to need to bang on the door to get in, lending it a slumming sort of “members only” atmosphere. The back rooms, though, are still places where diners can scribble on the walls.
La Casona de Lima (Ernesto Pinto Lagarrigue 195, tel. 02/7320428) is one of several Peruvian restaurants in the vicinity—not quite so good but less expensive than most of its competition, with entrées in the US$7 range. Pantoleón II (Antonia López de Bello 98, tel. 02/7358785) does Peruvian standards such as ají de gallina (US$7) very well.
Also exploiting the Peruvian food trend, Alfresco (Loreto 509, tel. 02/7379340) is a chain outlet in a rehabbed warehouse that, fortunately, doesn’t have the feel of a chain. Its moderate prices (around US$7–9 for most entrées) give it an edge on its independent barrio counterparts.
One of Santiago’s best in any category, the Peruvian El Otro Sitio (Antonia López de Bello 53, tel. 02/7773059) is expensive (US$9–14 and up for entrées) but worth the splurge. The upstairs tables, with views over the atrium, are the most pleasant.
Dining at Azul Profundo (Constitución 111, tel. 02/7380288) must be the closest possible experience to eating at Pablo Neruda’s; its whimsical decor, including its signature deep-blue exterior, a doorway bowsprit, and maritime memorabilia within, could have come straight from the poet’s beloved Isla Negra  residence. Seafood, of course, is the specialty, and they’ve put as much effort into its kitchen as its character; though not cheap, with entrées at US$10 and up, it’s worth the price.
Serving unconventional—at least for Santiago—Japanese and Vietnamese specialties, popular Etniko (Constitución 172, tel. 02/7320119) is more of a scene than a restaurant, but the food is better than palatable. One block east, Muñeca Brava (Mallinkrodt 170, tel. 02/7321338) looks like a scene—or scenes from the films evoked by its elaborate cinematic decor—but the menu, especially the seafood, is consistently excellent. Entrées start in the US$8–10 range.
Meridiano (Dardignac 0185, tel. 02/7380006) is a stylish venue where diners stir-fry their own tabla of fresh beef, chicken, fish, or shellfish, or some mixture of them, on gas-heated grills in the center of each table. Surrounded by an array of condiments and intended for two people, each tabla is probably large enough to satisfy a third without difficulty. Prices start around US$11 per person for the simplest beef and chicken but rise upward of US$16 for combos of albacore, scallops, and the like. Salads, desserts, and drinks can raise the tab substantially.
Occupying a classic Bellavista mansion, with a small shaded terrace offering views of densely wooded Cerro San Cristóbal, El Mesón Nerudiano (Dominica 35, tel. 02/7371542) prepares exceptional fish (especially corvina) and seafood dishes, as well as pastas with seafood sauces, in the US$10–13 range. Downstairs, it has live music, ranging from folk to jazz, several nights per week.
The popular De Tapas y Copas (Dardignac 0192, tel. 02/7776477) has a broader Spanish menu ranging from the obvious small and inexpensive dishes to fish and seafood entrées in the US$10 and up range; the food is above average in concept, less so in execution. Despite a large wine list, its name is misleading in that it offers only a handful of those wines by the glass.
Looking like a set from the movie based on its Mexican namesake novel, Como Agua Para Chocolate (Constitución 88, tel. 02/7778740) is one of Bellavista’s smartest restaurants. Mexican-Caribbean–style entrées start around US$8–10; try the reineta a la plancha (grilled fish) with coconut sauce. The dessert menu is elaborate, the wine list large.
On the Recoleta side of the barrio are several Middle Eastern restaurants, such as Omar Khayyam (Av. Perú 570, tel. 02/7774129).
It’s stretching things to call it Bellavista—it’s really in Recoleta’s Patronato garment district—but Argentine-run El Toro (Loreto 33, tel. 099/4196307) has earned a loyal following for its crepes, moderately priced lunches, and nonconformist sidewalk atmosphere.
One of Bellavista’s best is politically conscious Off the Record (Antonia López de Bello 0155, tel. 02/7777710, www.offtherecord.cl ), a bar/restaurant whose wood-paneled walls sport photos of the Chilean arts community. Excellent meat, seafood, and pasta entrées, and combinations, fall into the US$6–10 range, with wines by the glass (about US$2.50).
Amongst Bellavista’s inventive eateries, Italian cucina might seem the odd man out, but Il Siciliano (Dardignac 0102, tel. 02/7372265) has surmounted the stodginess of its upscale competitors elsewhere in town. Three-course lunches (around US$9–10 pp) are the best bet.
On the Providencia  side, the latest development in neighborhood gastronomy is Patio Bellavista (Pío Nono 73, tel. 02/7774582), a refashioned interior patio between Avenida Pío Nono and Constitución that’s home to new branches of several successful restaurants as well as some new faces. The Peruvian institution Barandiarán (Constitución 38, Local 52, tel. 02/7370725) and the nearby, well-established La Casa en el Aire (Constitución 40, Local D) have locales here, while PizzaSí (www.pizzasi.cl ) is a serviceable pizzeria that doubles as Backstage, a bar and Saturday night blues club.