LA VAQUITA ECHA- Maipo Valley, Chile
We think we ate half a cow. Or at least that was what was presented to us at our table atop a small, still-smoldering portable grill about 15 minutes after we had ordered something akin to a mixed grill at La Vaquita Echa, a small country farmhouse-style restaurant in the Chilean winelands. The Maipo Valley is perhaps one of the most well-known in the region, an easy day trip from Santiago, and also where the famed Concha Y Toro winery calls home.

The place is adorable, adorned with all sorts of handicrafts and positively full of folklore. Though welcome signs in multiple languages were strewn across the walls, giving us an "oh no, we just walked into a tourist trap" vibe, the hospitality right from the outset made us feel as though we were walking into someone's private home.

The food is incredibly fresh, but don't be fooled by the sides and the starters- the money is defintiely in the meat here. We ordered a mixed platter, and mixed indeed it was. Enough meat to topple the table including Waygu beef which was more delicious than we could have imagined. As if the food wasn't good enough, the waiters breaking into song, following the folk dancers and guitarist as they wove in and out of the tables was an absolute show. It made everyone smile, and certainly made it easier to linger a bit longer over another bottle of (very affordable) Carmenere.

It's not so much a secret find. We weren't terribly surprised to see how many day tours include lunch at La Vaquita Echa, and we usually try to stay away from these types of places. But, the food, the fun and the charm far outweigh any touristy factor here. Definitely go, and definitely wear your elastic-waistband pants. http://www.lavaquitaecha.cl/

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