“[Viva Chile Lindo] opened on the 18th of July in 2014. In two weeks more we’ll celebrate one year,” says Gustavo Mendez, the restaurant’s manager. “We are going to have a big party. We’ll have a DJ, folkloric music. We’ll have a special moment.”
According to Mendez, it’s already been an incredible first year, capped off with a massive Chilean win.
Don’t let the restaurant’s blacked-out, westward-facing windows fool you. Inside, Viva Chile Lindo feels as close to a typical Chilean restaurant that you’ll find outside of the South American country, and the owners want it that way. Owned by brother and sister team Daniel and Margarite Caramillo, Viva Chile Lindo is an homage to their birthplace, to which they haven’t returned since moving to the U.S. many years ago.
The menu at Viva Chile Lindo reads like a greatest hits of Chilean cuisine, not widely known outside of the country itself, save for Sabores Chilenos, located down in Sweetwater. “We’re not expensive, but we’re not cheap. We’re right in the middle. Everything is fresh, nothing is frozen. We use pure Angus beef. We focus on quality in the food and preparation, and especially on the service,” said Mendez, speaking of the quality dishes available on the menu.
Large, baked empanadas stuffed with ground beef, onions, garlic, and half of a hard-boiled egg are a great way to start any meal at Viva Chile Lindo. They differ in size and shape from their smaller Argentine counterparts, but outside of Chile, these are some of the best empanadas you’ll find. The sandwich menu includes the chacarero, the name used for a garden in Chile, which is steak on a white roll, topped with peppers, green beans, and tomatoes.
They also sell the famous Chilean completo, a hot dog topped with heaping portions of sauerkraut, mayonnaise, and pureed avocado. Not for the faint of stomach, this is a delicacy revered (sometimes reviled) throughout South America.
As for mains, land and sea are the focus. On a recent visit, the cazuela, a heaping stew of beef, corn, potatoes and onions paired well with a glass of Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon. They also do a traditional ‘chupe,’ a stew made with a variety of crustaceans and shellfish, all served in a broth mounted with parmesan cheese. Chile may be the only country where fish and dairy find harmony.
Round out the meal with a slice of torta mil hojas (cake of one thousand sheets), a heavier, more country-fied version of a French mille-feuille. Layers of thin dough are held together by alternating layers of dulce de leche, or manjar as they call it in Chile. Left to sit overnight in the refrigerator, the caramel moistens the dough, resulting in a brick of sweetness that, although rich and heavy, rounds out any Chilean meal.
“We are going to be the biggest Chilean restaurant outside of Chile. We are going to be the only restaurant in the United States that has a full kitchen and a full liquor license,” Mendez said, hoping to fill some big shoes, especially since Sweetwater’s Sabores Chilenos is celebrating their 20th anniversary this year. With big goals in mind, Viva Chile Lindo already seems like they’re off to a great start. The dishes are balanced and perfectly seasoned, if not a tad large, in the Chilean way.
Need something different to do this weekend? Head out to Hollywood for a taste of a cuisine you’ve likely never experienced. Viva Chile Lindo turns one, and the party is bound to be unforgettable.
Viva Chile Lindo is located at 4950 S. State Road 7, Hollywood. Call 954-327-2888, or visit vivachilelindo.com.