Avenida Ecuador is also known as Subida Ecuador, the ‘Ecuador Climb’. It’s one of the bigger roads that go up the steep slopes from the bottom of town. The lower half has a large number of bars and restaurants. It feels like a grimy, slightly edgy area but when I came in 2011 I was advised it was safer to go to bars in Subida Ecuador than in Barrio Puerto (the area between Plaza Wheelwright and Plaza Sotomayor). I was there in the daytime and it was absolutely fine but no doubt it’s best to be extra security conscious at night.
You’ll find both the places I review below on my map.
This first place was recommended by Costanza, a friendly young English teacher I met in her capacity as an Uber driver, and is one of my top two recommended places to eat in Valpo. The other is La Concepcion, see my Places to Eat on Cerro Concepcion post). I certainly don’t recommend the second place for food but the grungy interior is an experience in itself.
In 2018 I ate lunch at El Pimentón (Elementary A), 27 Avenida Ecuador. It’s a cosy, everyday place, selling home cooked food with no frills. The friendly staff and clientele seemed quite Bohemian/hipster. While I was eating, an acoustic guitarist came in and played a few tunes.
I had the Pastel de Choclo, which is like a maize version of Shepherd’s Pie but instead of potato it’s made with ground Choclo (large kernel sweetcorn) with, in my case, a filling of minced beef, chicken, onions, raisins, black olives and half a hard boiled egg. I loved it (A).
Total cost with a glass of rough table wine (C) was 7000 pesos, around £7. I’m definitely coming back next time to try the rest of the menu.
Back in 2011, the Rough Guide suggested I try J.Cruz Malbrau (Elementary A for atmosphere, C- for food), a dive establishment up a dark side alley at 1466 Condell.
As it was getting dark, the taxi driver warned me to watch myself around this part of town, but it was pretty quiet and early in the week so I wasn’t too worried.
There’s a fair bit of graffiti and street art in the alley (some of it quite good)…
…but I wasn’t expecting it to carry on inside the restaurant where even the napkin holders and greasy plastic tablecloths are covered in scrawl.
The rest of the walls and the ceiling are filled with an impressive collection of old junk including, amongst many, many other things, a bomb with baby’s bibs tied to it (!?) …
… African masks, kitsch woodcarvings, cherubic portraits, hundreds of passport photos and cabinets containing collections of imitation ivory carvings and Toby mugs, just to name a few! It’s quite a sight.
Upon entering I was stared at impassively by three formidable matrons, one of whom turned out to be quite kind and sat me down in a corner. ‘Chorrillana?’ was all she asked, to which I nodded, as this was the local ‘delicacy’ that I’d come to try and which this establishment claims to be the inventor of.
Basically it’s a huge plate of chips topped with stewed onions, scrambled eggs and strips of steak and served with a side dish of chilli sauce. For good measure, I was also given half a white sliced loaf, just in case I didn’t have enough carbs already.
It’s pretty foul, starting as a just about eatable C but moving to an inedible D as you get to the final soggy chips floating in a pool of oil and onion water at the bottom of the bowl. The feisty chilli sauce definitely helps it down and it was kind of satisfying in a way, but left me feeling rather queasy by the end.
With this, a half bottle of Santa Teresa Cabernet Sauvignon which wasn’t too bad for a table wine (C+). However cola seems to be the accompaniment of choice for many locals.
Maybe just go for a drink and a snack to have a nosey, but don’t choose anything that requires too much cooking.
A couple of classic bars next…