Assorted dishes at Lona Misa.
Ashley Ludkin

The best South American restaurants in Melbourne

Here’s how to eat your way around the Latin region from breakfast through 'til dinner

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Melbourne doesn't have a large South American food scene but what it lacks in quantity it makes up for in quality. Thanks largely to expats looking to recreate a taste of home in Australia, you can eat your way through Colombia, Venezuela, Chile and Brazil within 10km of the CBD. We've rounded up the city's best for when you want to go on a dining chair tour of the continent. From arepas to ceviche and even Brazilian sushi, you can find it all here.

Prefer a Euro getaway? Try Melbourne's best Greek restaurants. Or for something spicier, these are the city's best Indian diners

Melbourne's best South American food

  • Melbourne

San Telmo doesn’t muck around. This gaucho steakhouse run by a bunch of Melbourne hospo gringos lays its carnivorous scene at the entrance, where some impressive bits of cow sit dry ageing behind glass. The people have spoken, and the people want meat. They want meat in a lair that’s just like being transported to Buenos Aires, where cowhide in its various forms covers the menus and every other available surface. 

  • South American
  • Brunswick
  • price 1 of 4

The menu at Gus Vargas' quaint café, like its owner, hails from Santiago, and its name honours the great Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda. Locals and members of the South American community come here for ‘a lo pobre’ cuisine, meaning simple, traditional food, along the lines of Italy’s cucina povera – meals Chilean families eat daily. The breakfasts come either with pan amasado – homemade Chilean country bread traditionally baked in a wood-clay oven – or the Colombian staple of white or yellow corn arepas.

Quincy Malesovas
Contributor
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  • Barbecue
  • Melbourne

Palermo is named after the barrio in Buenos Aires, not the city in Sicily. In the kitchen a whole pig is tangled in a wire frame over a red-brick fire pit (the asador) and the contraption known as a parilla, where shelves of chorizo, morcilla and other meaty bits are raised and lowered over glowing coals with a NASA engineer’s precision. It’s a scene not dissimilar to Palermo’s older sibling San Telmo. 

El Toucan is chef and restaurateur Frank Torres’ love letter to the dishes he grew up with in Colombia. Like much of Latin America, starches like plantains, cassava and beans form the foundation of every dish. From there, it’s a choose your adventure with proteins like slow-cooked ox tongue, chicharon or morcilla (Colombian black pudding) to round out your meal. The portions or generous but if you can, save room for the country’s answer to a cheese course – baked sweet plantain filled with guava paste and molten queso blanco.

Quincy Malesovas
Contributor
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After attracting a legion of loyal fans largely through word of mouth, Reveka Hurtado gave her Venezuelan catering company Papelon a permanent home at Footscray Market. The signature pabellon, a heaping platter of rice, beans, fried plantains and shredded beef is a great place to start. If you can, bring a group because the patacon – a sandwich of crispy fried plantains filled with beef or chicken and smothered in three types of sauce – is another must-try that’s best shared amongst friends.

Quincy Malesovas
Contributor
  • Latin American
  • Brunswick

Without much street signage, you could easily walk past Tino without a glance but this semi-hidden spot is easily one of the best Latin American restaurants in the north. The menu spans the region but largely draws inspiration from Argentina, where chef and co-owner Sergio Tourn is from. That means pickled mussel escabeche, housemade chorizo and smoky scotch fillet with chimichurri. If you’re a fan of Argentine wine, this is also your spot.

Quincy Malesovas
Contributor
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  • South American
  • Windsor

Tucked down High Street, Windsor’s La Tienda, opened by John Gomez in early 2018, is like an immersion into Colombian culture with soccer jerseys hanging across the ceiling and images of famous Colombian figures and events covering the walls. The country’s favourite snack, the arepa, is a menu mainstay, but you’ll also find less common dishes like cazuela de mariscos, a creamy coconut and seafood stew, or sopa de patacon, a soup made with starchy green plantains.

  • South American
  • Melbourne

It’s the sheer user-friendliness and atmosphere that makes this Peruvian-flavoured venue shine like a well-buffed dollar. Head left as you enter for pisco central – the glowing bronze bar where Peruvian brandy, lime and egg whites are being frothed into a million Pisco Sours. They’re perfectly paired with a few anticuchos de corazon, or tender, aji-marinated beef heart skewers. In true Peruvian fashion, there are also several styles of ceviche including a yuzu, tobiko and cured ocean trout rendition that nods to the country’s Japanese influence.

Quincy Malesovas
Contributor
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  • Brazilian
  • Carlton

There are very few places in Melbourne to find Brazilian food let alone Brazilian breakfast. But maybe more spots should take a cue from Bossa Nova because a few coxinhas (a chicken or palm heart-filled croquette) and a coffee are a great way to start the day. For something quintessentially Brazilian, try the country’s national dish feijoada, a plate of slow-cooked pork and black beans, rice, kale, orange wedges and a dusting of toasted manioc flour. If you’d like to try recreating the dish at home, there’s also a small retail range.

Quincy Malesovas
Contributor
  • Fusion
  • South Yarra

Sao Paulo is home to the biggest Japanese community outside of Japan. At Oshan, Brazilian-born chef and owner Peterson Maio Machada Correia draws on that influence with a unique sushi offering inspired by the flavours of his home country. The omakase is the best way to sample a bit of everything, from kingfish sashimi topped with thin strands of sweet potato to wagyu and foie gras nigiri. For the full experience, you can pair your set with a curated selection of boutique sake.

Quincy Malesovas
Contributor
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  • Fitzroy
  • price 1 of 4

Sonido was one of the first spots to put arepas on the map in Melbourne and they’re still going strong. Between the Fitzroy original and their second shop Arepa Days in Preston, they’ve perfected the corn-based flatbreads, which come topped or stuffed with combos like scrambled eggs and caramelised onion or chargrilled chorizo and guac. The coffee is also solid here and best paired with a sweet like the housemade alfajores, a sandwich biscuit filled with dulce de leche.

  • Vegan
  • South Yarra

To some, Lona Misa may be a vegetarian restaurant first and foremost but with dishes that include cactus tamales, plant-based barbacoa tostadas and josper-cooked anticuchos, it’s the Latin focus that really shines here. Even if you’re not meat-free, there’s nothing to miss here. The flavours pack a punch and the dishes hold their own against more traditional renditions.

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In a sea of sandwich shops, there are none quite like Two Chiles. The Windsor store specialises in traditional Chilean varieties, served on large, flat bread rolls called marraquetas. Fillings are kept simple with your choice of beef and cheese, beef and avocado, braised beef or beer-braised pork loin. But if you want more variety, there are also over ten different types of empanadas on offer.

Quincy Malesovas
Contributor

The location is unassuming but this food truck on St Kilda road is pumping out some of the best Chilean food around. The completo, a Chilean hot dog loaded with tomato, avocado, mayo and pebre sauce, is the signature but you’ll also find chargrilled steak sandwiches, rice bowls and empanadas. While Latin food is not notoriously vegan-friendly, Mr Latino does offer options made with mushrooms or plant-based mince.

Quincy Malesovas
Contributor
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  • Latin American
  • Collingwood
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended

One of the most anticipated Northside openings of the year, Pincho Disco from the Kickon Group is an ode to new-age Latin American eats, extravagant cocktails and live entertainment. Expect a journey of flavours hailing from across the entire content – from Colombia, Peru and Chile to Mexico, Argentina and Brazil – in signature dishes thoughtfully prepared by head chef Diego Cardenas and his team.

Quincy Malesovas
Contributor
  • Pub dining
  • Collingwood

We love a good pub reno here in Melbourne, and this one is no exception.The owners have channelled the good vibes of the venue's '70s heyday into the design, so you can expect all those fuzzy nostalgic feelings when you walk in. On the food front, Chef Johnny Dominguez (Bodriggy Brewing Co, Vue de Monde) brings his Mexican heritage to the table with a crowd-pleasing menu of Latin American-inspired eats. Think 12-hour beef brisket torta with spicy pickles onions, chimichurri and birria broth; grilled market fish with moqueca sauce and crispy jalapeno; and a churro ice cream sanga for dessert. 

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Lauren Dinse
Food & Drink Writer

Want more red meat?

  • Steak house

If you’re in need of a red meat fix, here’s our list of ten of the best places in Melbourne to get yours. These are by no means the only places in town throwing a rump on the grill, but they’re our go-to for every budget and occasion. 

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