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Chile’s Barros Luco

Today is National Barros Luco day in Chile.This Chilean version of a steak and cheese sandwich dates from the early 1900s, when President Ramon Barros Luco lunched regularly at the Confiteria Torres on the Alameda not far from the government buildings where he and his cousin, Minister Ernesto Barros Jarpa worked.

Barros Luco made it a habit to request a sandwich made with sautéed beef strips smothered in melted cheese (probably queso Chanco), and probably on a marrequeta roll. So, as the story goes, in 1910 when he visited the restaurant on the occasion of the nation’s Centennial celebration, the sandwich was officially tagged as the Barros Luco, and since then has survived, actually thrived, with that name.

Ernesto also has a sandwich named after him, the cheese and ham version called Barros Jarpa.  While there are probably more Barros Jarpas sold than Barros Lucos, it seems there is no national day for the Barros Jarpa; the difference between being president and simply a Minister.

The Barros Luco is an older cousin to the Philly Cheesesteak, which seems to have been first served as such in 1930, and which is usually served on a hoagie or sub roll, and may be accompanied by onions, peppers, or mushrooms.  Wikipedia suggests that the cheese of choice for a Philly Cheesesteak sandwich is Cheez Whiz, which no self respecting Barros Luco would get close to.

If you want to celebrate National Barros Luco day, and are not in Santiago and can go by the Cafeteria Torres where you might be rewarded with a small Barros Lucito, another way is to do the following:

1.  Sauté some beef strips;  sirloin if you want it to be tender and easy to eat, or top round if you want it to be more similar to the Chilean ones, somewhat tough and chewy.

2.  Put the meat on one half of the roll, cover with cheese, and toast until the cheese melts.

3.  Place the other half of the roll on top, cut in half, grab a bottle of JB aji sauce, and enjoy.

Those in the know will accompany this sandwich with one or more bottles of Escudo beer.


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David Joslyn
David Joslyn, after a 45-year career in international development with USAID, Peace Corps, The Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), The Chicago Council on Global Affairs, and private sector consulting firms, divides his time between his homes in Virginia and Chile. Since 2010, David has been writing about Chile and Chileans, often based upon his experience with the Peace Corps in Chile and his many travels throughout the country with family and friends.
David Joslyn

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3 thoughts on “Chile’s Barros Luco”

  1. John says:

    The Barros Luco with salsa de ají was always my favorite sandwich in Chile. If I ever had a Barros Jarpa on occasion, I would then say to myself afterwards, “why in the world did I order that…? Thanks for the blast from the past!

  2. Norm says:

    By the way regarding your step 3…………I always grab a bottle of JB……….however my bottle isn’t hot sauce-

  3. Wale says:

    Good stuff! Looks like there was enough to make a couple of sandwiches! May have to get on one of those when we see you in a couple of weeks!

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