I'll be arriving in San Jose, Costa Rica around 10pm on a Friday night and am looking for some good restaurant options for dinner. My hotel is located near the National Hotel and National Theatre. Something authentic would be best, and we'd definitely be willing to hop in a taxi to get a good meal. Its our only night in San Jose before heading off to Arenal. Thanks for your help!
Posted on Oct 19, 2011
Hi Chandra. I lived in Costa Rica for several years and I can tell you that restaurant options in Costa Rica in San Jose are slim pickings. The glory of Costa Rica is in its natural areas not in its cities. The cities are pretty depressing. As for cuisine, Costa Rica, like most of Central America, does not have a particularly imaginative native cuisine. You will see signs that say comidas tipicas (typical food) and you can pretty much expect white rice and beans, a shredded cabbage salad with vinaigrette, some platanos fritos (fried plaintains), some pico de gallo (a type of salsa) and a piece of chicken or pork, with no spice. The national condiment is something called Lizano sauce, made by the Lizano family. It is a tamarind based rather bland sauce and really nothing to write home about but Ticos are wild for it. There is a particularly nasty local dish called chicharrones, which are pig intestines fried to a crisp and served with shredded cabbage on a taco-like thing. Avoid this food like the plague! As a vegetarian, I found Costa Rica frustrating. I once looked for brown rice (arroz integra) for 2 hours in San Jose and finally found it in a little hole-in-the-wall health food store. I couldn't get it in any of the chain grocery stores like Mas Por Menos. This may have changed. Costa Rica has some very interesting local fruits and they make good refrescos (fruit drinks) which you can order con leche or con agua. (with milk or with water.) If you are going to be in San Jose for one night, here is my recommendation for a restaurant. It is my favorite. It is called Tin Jo. (pronounced Teen Ho) It serves Indonesian, Vietnamese, Chinese, Thai, Indian, and I think Filippino food. It is very good and the restaurant is attractive, with lots of Oriental art on the walls and tasteful furniture. You can eat there for something like $15 a person, as I recall. It is on 11th Street, between 6th and 8th. Any taxi driver will know how to find it. San Jose is not a very big city and there aren't very many fine restaurants so the taxi drivers tend to know where things are. If you are going to be staying near the National Theater, you will be in the heart of downtown and Tin Jo is walking distance from there. But be aware that while there is very little crime against people (like murder or rape), there is a lot of mugging and theft. Don't walk alone at night except in well-lighted and well-peopled areas, like the plaza/park across from the National Theater where lots of young couples stroll and hang out. A few doors down from Tin Jo, there is a dim sum place that is also quite good. Don't know if it is still there and I can't remember the name of it but it is on the same street. If you are staying in rural areas (which I assume that you are), you will get your fill of comidas tipicas and will be glad that you went to Tin Jo when you were in San Jose. If I can answer any other questions, please let me know.
Posted Oct 24, 2011Add a comment
Thank you so much, this information is fantastic and I really appreciate you taking the time to answer.
Posted on Oct 25, 2011
This reply is spot on!
Posted on Oct 30, 2011
Thanks for the vote of confidence. Let me know how it worked out for you. I hope you have a great trip, Chandra! Beautiful country; very nice people, unfailingly polite except when driving.
Posted on Oct 30, 2011
A restaurant that I have always loved is a Peruvian place called Machu Picchu. Owned by Peruvians, they were doing authentic Peruvian cuisine before it became fashionable. I used to go to that place as far back as 1990. See links below....you might google it to get the right address.....
Posted Oct 28, 2011Add a comment
Good luck finding anything open for dinner after 10 pm!
There is a good restaurant not far from where you're staying called Nuestra Tierra, but it's nothing fancy--picnic tables and huge portions. Lots of meat, but very Costa Rican.
Be sure to have gallo pinto for breakfast.
Posted Oct 30, 2011Add a comment