While Costa Rica is still perhaps better known for its lush green natural attractions and awe-inspiring beaches, the fertile land that produces a mouth-watering assortment of fruits and vegetables all year long, and is blessed with the world’s finest tasting coffee and cacao, has been capturing the hearts and taste buds of visitors for ages. With cacao and coconuts dripping from the trees along the Caribbean coast, it’s little wonder why Costa Rica is such a happy, healthy and peaceful place. In between exploring rainforests, climbing volcanos and splashing in waterfalls, make sure to map out a relaxing, refreshing meal . Traditional Costa Rica dishes often include rice and beans; in the morning they’re mixed together into gallo pinto. Later, they’re served as sides in a casado, a traditional Costa Rican plate. La Criollita in San Jose offers an affordable menu and ambiance rooted in Costa Rican tradition, while across town at Le Monastère and Grano de Oro there are exceptional French chefs in the kitchen. Tin-Jo will satisfy your craving for excellent Chinese food, and on the Caribbean coast, organic chocolate tasting, dinner in the rainforest at La Pecora Nera and ceviche by the sea at Sobre las Olas are culinary highlights.
La Criollita is an excellent place for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and has something on the menu for everyone. The fare is traditional Costa Rican; generous portions of meat, chicken and fish with rice, beans and salad on the side, and big selection of delicious appetizers like Tico-style ceviche and a tasty chicken soup to whet the appetite. There are three dining spaces, a main room that overlooks the big and busy kitchen, a bright and airy side room with art-filled walls, and a charming covered outdoor terrace with a bird garden and wrought iron furniture. There is rarely a wait for a table, but lunch time fills up early with nearby business people, so breakfast and dinner are ideal for settling into a relaxing meal. The coffee is excellent, too,save room for dessert; checkout the options like flan and cheesecake on display under the glass on your way in. Bonus: Full Bar.
Lizard King Café
Whether you’re in the mood for fluffy pancakes made with real organic chocolate or a platter of huevos rancheros, the Lizard King Café has something on its menu for everyone. Burritos at the Lizard King are legendarily delicious flour tortillas stuffed with farm fresh ingredients and topped with special salsa unlike any other. The lunch menu includes a range of farm fresh dishes from traditional casados to Caribbean specialties and twists on Mexican favorites, like the reggae roots nachos and the marlin and pineapple kabobs served with coconut rice. Homemade bread and pastries are treats, as are the cheeseburgers
La Pecora Nera
If delicious authentic Italian cuisine served in a delightful open-air restaurant well off-the beaten track on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast sounds like your cup of tea, look no further than La Pecora Nera. The Italian chef Ilario is as charismatic as he is talented in the kitchen, and his recommendations of daily specials are always spot on, but you can’t go wrong with anything on the simple yet well-rounded menu. It’s romantic yet family-friendly, unpretentious yet undeniably special, and easily one of the best restaurants in Costa Rica. Ask the chef to recommend a bottle of wine to complement your meal.
Product C is part of a growing group of restaurants in Costa Rica that embodies the locally grown movement, serving fresh-caught seafood that spends very little time between the water and the table. What started as a beachside fish shop in the surf town of Mal Pais has blossomed into two modern concept restaurants in the capital city of San Jose that serve locally and sustainably caught seafood including four kinds of ceviche and raw warm-water oysters. The chef works with the fishermen directly, then brings his creativity to each dish, and the results are fresh, flavorful, and perhaps even unforgettable.
Restaurante Tin-Jo has rightfully named itself “the best” restaurant in Costa Rica, offering delicious, healthy Asian cuisine from its home in an original colonial mansion in the heart of San Jose. What started out as a Chinese restaurant in 1972 has blossomed into Thailand, Viet Nam, and Japan for its inspired menu. The menu is full of vegetarian and naturally gluten free options, and the desserts are exotic, decadent, and to-die-for without being bad for you. Tin-Jo also offers yoga and meditation classes throughout the week, and hosts Miercoles Candelas every Wednesday evening, when the lights are turned off in favor of candles. Televisions are nowhere to be seen and cells phones are turned off in the Bamboo Room, a sanctuary annex of Tin-Jo.
With a name like Chimera, one might expect an a diverse selection of food, and this Santa Elena restaurant delivers. Every plate is a creative fusion of flavors, many of which are Latin, all of which are wrought from the bounty of local ingredients that only the little enclave of Santa Elena, near the Monteverde Cloudforest, can offer. Tapas are the perfect solution for hungry travelers, and Chimera has a way with them. Perfect for sharing among a group of friends and especially for a romantic tasting dinner, each dish is an inspired fusion. The gazpacho appetizer, coconut shrimp, and ginger margarita all come highly recommended.
For the well-heeled and epicurious, Le Monastère delivers and then some. Everything is prepared and served expertly, from escargot and French Onion Soup to chef specials like Venison Tenderloin Flambee in Port Wine and Seabass filet in Tarragon Cream Sauce. The menu is extensive and impressive and is enhanced by daily specials and always includes fresh local produce from some of Costa Rica’s best farms and gardens; choose from a wine list 300 bottles long. Even the desserts are too decadent to deny; Oraange Souffl� Cointreau and Cr�me Br�l�e are just the beginning. And as if the food weren’t enough, the ambiance at Le Monast�re is an unparalleled experience: take in a nearly 360 degree from above the city from a historic former monastery decorated in traditional European style down to marble statues, authentic antiques live classical music played on an opulent grand piano.
Sobre las Olas
Perched on the edge of the coral reef overlooking the beautiful coast of Cahuita, Sobre las Olas is a perfect little restaurant that has excellent food to match its ambience. The best seats are outside nestled between the palm trees, where mussels on the half shell and ceviche are fine appetizers to get you in the mood for an excellent meal. Italian owners have created a menu with the home country’s influence but focused on fresh local ingredients and expertly prepared seafood. If you haven’t happened upon it while visiting Cahuita, it’s worth asking to be pointed in the right direction and is a pleasant stroll just north of town.
Those with a hankering for high-quality meat should look no further than Doris Metropolitan, a stand-out, and stand alone- restaurant in San Jose, Costa Rica- although there is now a Doris Metropolitan stateside, too. Embracing the locally-grown movement wholeheartedly, Doris Metropolitan partners with a cattle farm in southern Costa Rica to specially raise cow that are fed not only grass but pineapple, which gives it a uniquely marbled texture and distinct flavor; both of which tend to be lacking in much of Costa Rica’s beef. Specialties include meat cured all-naturally in a process known as French Dry Aged and Chateaubriand Tenderloin.