Chilean Vienesa and Choripan at Barros Luco
Are you intimidated by hefty sandwiches with wide girth? Do you hate getting guacamole in your mustache and beard? Then chances are that you probably won’t like a Chilean Vienesa. I’ve been learning about different names of hot dogs and sausages in Latin American culture such as salchicha, panchos and super panchos, chorizo, choripans, and now vienesas. I took a licensing exam the other day and passed; I therefore decided to celebrate by getting a classic Chilean-style hot dog for lunch. A few months ago, Herve told me about a Chilean restaurant called Barros Luco and now I finally decided to go.
The hot dogs are called vienesas, which I’m assuming are translated from Vienna-style sausages or frankfurters. There were 3 vienesas listed on the menu: Italiano, Completo, and Dinamico. I got the Italiano which is topped with tomato, avocado and mayo. According to the wikipedia entry on hot dog variations, the tomate-palta-mayo toppings resemble the Italian flag, which is why this variation is known as the Italiano. The completo is listed as also having sauerkraut in addition to T-A-M, and the Dinamico has all the previous toppings plus Salsa Americana (similar to relish) and mustard. I decided to just get the one vienesa plus a choripan, which is basically a sausage split vertically down the center and put in a roll served witha side of pebre, a mild salsa made of chopped tomatoes, onions, cilantro, aji rojo and garlic. I didn’t realize it at the time, but apparently this place is known for their Chacarero sandwich, which is thinly sliced steak on a toasted bun with string beans, tomato, mayo, cheese, avocado, and banana peppers; I should have had one of these also but I already ordered too much food.
First, the choripan: very basically grilled sausage. Easy sandwich to eat, slightly smokey and surprisingly mild. I assumed it would have bold flavor and was surprised when it was more subtle. A little shmear of pebre added extra twang and heat. After a few bites of that, I moved on to tackle the behemoth.
This was one of the larger hot dog sandwiches I have ever eaten. When it was served up, I immediately regretted also ordering the choripan because I knew there was no way I was going to finish both. I have come to accept the limitations of my appetite, which has been letting me down for the past few years. This is a sandwich that has heft and distinct weight and trembled at the thought of this laying in my stomach. It’s a very asthetically pleasing looking sandwich consisting of an underlying layer of red tomato, a sheet of green avocado, and zig-zaggy mayo. But now I have to pick it apart for a moment. The dog was boiled, which seems pretty common of South American hot dogs, and I’m not a huge fan of this type of prep. And as nice as the toppings are, they each have very mild flavors. So when you have a mild, boiled dog and mild toppings, the whole sandwich is not going to be a fiesta en su boca. I feel like I had a similar experience as John with the sonoran dog. It’s great to try international and cultural variations on dogs but sometimes you’re not going to connect with every component of the sandwich. What the two dogs also had in common, though, was the really great bun. Barros Luco makes its own buns for the viensas and sandwiches. This was really unique and delicious, dense yet somehow light, about 4 fingers tall, and baked beautifully with almost a glaze on the outer crust. I should add that since the sandwich was so tall, I had to bite off from the top and then the bottom in order to get toppings and dog together; it’s impossible to do it with one bite unless you can figure out a way to unhinge your jaw.
I’m glad I finally got a chance to sample a Chile-style dog. A little mild for my tastes and too gigantic for my appetite, but a fun experience. Next I have to try a Colombian-style dog which I understand has crushed potato chips and pineapple as classic toppings.
Barros Luco 300 1/2 East 52nd Street, New York, NY