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Where to eat in Costa Rica – a guide to local food and drink

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Costa Rica has a unique cuisine consisting of rice and beans, fresh meats and seafood that make up most meals, and plenty of exotic fruits that are incorporated into their diets as snacks or refreshing drinks. Ingredients are grown close to home which means you’ll always be eating fresh and healthy meals and are normally seasoned with garlic, herbs and other mild blends.

Chuck Chastain

My Destination local expert on

Costa Rica

Restaurants

 

Like every other country, you will find plenty of restaurants in Costa Rica that serve a mixture of international cuisines, adventurous takes on local dishes and provide diners with a great atmosphere. Although many meals are served with vegetables in them, you may struggle to find a decent meal if you’re a vegetarian as the Costa Rican cuisine is based largely on meat and seafood. In San Jose, Jardin del Parque is famous for its delicious meat-free alternatives with home grown ingredients. Surrounded by coastline, you have unlimited options as to which seafood to try, but be aware that in some places Corvina (seabass) is in fact shark meat. If you’re staying in the capital of San Jose there are many restaurants that are open 24 hours and in many places a 10% service charge is added to the bill.

 

Jardin del Parque, Calle 19, Ave 3era, Casa 172, San Jose 1000, Costa Rica. Tel: +506 22484979.

 

Street Stalls

 

Some of the best local tastes can be found on the side of the road and often prepared in front of you. Costa Rica is no exception as you can try out the fruits, traditional rice and beans or a stir-fry. Corn is a local favourite and is used in most meals, but on the street stalls you will discover a variety of snacks such as corn pancakes, corn on the cob or empanadas, which are corn turnovers with a filling. No matter how willing you are to try new tastes, there are just a few you may want to avoid: Mondongo, which is tripe soup (steamed intestines), vino de Palma, a palm wine that will leave you with the most painful hangover and maybe consider avoiding chicharrones, the not so popular fried pig skin.

 

Sodas

 

If you really want to experience the Costa Rican cuisine, venture out to a soda. These are generally smaller than restaurants and open air, offering no television or Wi-Fi so that people can focus on their meal and spend quality time together. Often family-run and with a hand-written menu, if they have one at all, so try and brush up on a few phrases before you go in case they don’t speak English. In a soda you will find typical Costa Rican dishes such as gallo pinto (rice and beans) or arroz con pollo (rice and chicken), often accompanied by a local beer or a fruity fresco. Soda Marvin in Montezuma is known for its wonderful hospitality and their variety of delicious meals at a good price, and the same can be said for Soda Viquez, in Arenal National Park.

 

Soda Marvin, Cabuya, Montezuma, Costa Rica.• Soda Viquez, Calle 1 & Av Arenal, La Fortuna de San Carlos, Arenal Volcano National Park, Costa Rica. Tel: +506 24797133.

 

Fine Dining

 

Due to the increasing international scene in Costa Rica, fine dining is becoming increasingly popular for locals and tourists alike. The exotic fruits and excellent choice of meats and seafood in the area allow chefs to create mouth-watering dishes with twists to existing cuisines, making their own more unique and offering diners a new taste. San Jose hosts the majority of the fine dining restaurants in the country, boasting a range of Chinese, Italian and Latin American cuisines in local restaurants and an experiment of Japanese and French tastes in the luxury restaurants. For an exceptional fine dining experience, spend some time at Restaurante Grano de Oro where you can choose from classic dishes and delicious desserts. The Park Café has a sterling reputation for service and exquisite food run by Louise and Michelin star chef Richard Neat.

 

Restaurante Grano de Oro, Calle 30, Avenida 2 y 4, #251, San Jose 1007, Costa Rica. Tel: +506 22553322.• Park Café Gourmet Restaurant & Antiques shop, Sabana Norte, San Jose, Costa Rica, 1000. Tel: +506 22906324.