Located on the Caribbean coast, Puerto Viejo Costa Rica is far away from the bustle and overdevelopment of the Pacific beachfront, yet dining in Puerto Viejo is an adventure and a treat. The local Tico cuisine is marked by a distinctly Caribbean flair, and because Puerto Viejo Costa Rica is home to so many Italian immigrants, the Italian cuisine in this far away village is also superb.
For the best Costa Rican food in Puerto Viejo Costa Rica, ask around for Miss Dolly, Miss Daisy, Miss Sam, Miss Irma, and Miss Isma. All are local women who serve delicious Caribbean/Costa Rican cuisine in their small sodas. Try the local sweet dark bread called pan bon, the ginger cakes, the meat-filled turnovers known as paty, and the innovative local stew known as rondon or ‘rundown stew’.
‘Rundown stew’ is a local specialty that consists of coconut milk combined with whatever vegetables and meat the cook can ‘run down’ that day. Rondon is different every time it is made and is almost always delicious.
For quick snack, sandwich, or light breakfast, check out Pan Pay, a French bakery right next to Johnny’s Place, a nightclub near the rural guard station. Café Viejo is also a great place to stop for lunch for a light meal. Located right downtown. Café Viejo features a variety of traditional Italian dishes and wood-fired pizzas.
Animodo is one of the best Italian restaurants in Puerto Viejo Costa Rica, featuring Northern Italian cuisine. Start with the jamon de Tiburon, an appetizer made of thin slices of home-smoked shark meat on freshly baked bread topped with a bit of avocado sauce. The homemade ravioli stuffed with lobster is heavenly, and the gnocci (tender Italian dumplings) are amazing.
Dessert at Animodo may seem impossible after feasting on the appetizer and entrée, but for those with room for it, the chocolate salami is a real treat.
El Loco Natural is a lively little hippy joint with regular live music, colorful décor and a limited menu made up of several vegetarian dishes, fresh fish, and chicken. The wood tables are heavy and the curried, Thai, and Mexican sauces are as spicy as the atmosphere.
For fans of Spanish cuisine, Salsa Brava will be the dining option of choice in Puerto Viejo Costa Rica. All the food is simply and elegantly prepared, with a focus on fresh seafood, grilled steaks, and chops. The homemade Sangria at Salsa Brava, available by the pitcher full, is addictive. Salsa Brava is informal but the service is attentive and friendly.
For the budget conscious, Soda Tamara has built a reputation over many years for filling, inexpensive Costa Rican fare. The open-air dining area is much more comfortable than the cramped indoor dining room, so try to get a table outside if possible.
The picket fence around the front yard of Soda Tamara makes the place seem even more homey and relaxed than it already is. Patacones (fried plantains chips) are worth trying, and a variety of fruit drinks are available. Main dishes revolve around grilled fish, chicken, beef, or pork with a filling side of Caribbean-style rice and beans.