Although El Norte Chico is not known for gastronomy, the food here is simple, unpretentious, and often quite good. Along the coast, you'll find abundant seafood. Don't pass up the merluza con salsa margarita (hake with a butter sauce featuring almost every kind of shellfish imaginable) or choritos al vapor (mussels steamed in white wine). Inland you come across country-style cabrito (goat), conejo (rabbit), and pichones escabechados (baby pigeons). Don't forget to order a pisco sour, the frothy concoction made with a grape-based brandy distilled in the Elqui or Limari Valley.

People in El Norte Chico generally eat a heavy lunch around 2 pm that can last two hours, followed by a light dinner around 9 pm. Reservations are seldom needed, except in the fanciest restaurants. A 10% tip is expected if you enjoyed the service, but check the bill before paying to see if it has already been included.

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