The restaurants in Costa Rica are as varied and excellent as the restaurants anywhere on earth. Costa Rica is such a popular tourist and retirement destination and is so popular with travelers worldwide, that any kind of cuisine at any price point can be found at popular Costa Rica restaurants. Some local dishes are simple and some are more exotic, but whatever your taste in food, you’ll find it in Costa Rica with no problem.
Many people who are used to Mexican-American food expect local restaurants in Costa Rica to serve similar spicy fare, but Costa Rica cuisine has less heat and is not as starchy.
Native Costa Rica dishes feature lean bistek or carne (beef), pollo (chicken), or pescado (fish) in combination with various fresh vegetables, fruits and milder local seasonings. Black beans are eaten at all times of the day, including breakfast, and chopped cabbage salad and hearts of palm salad are common side dishes that you will see frequently.
Gallo Pinto is a traditional breakfast dish made of black beans and rice served with salsa and eggs and a variety of fried peppers. Casado is a basic, economical native meal served at most local restaurants in Costa Rica that consists of a portion of black beans and rice, a portion of chicken or other meat, and a chopped salad.
Arroz con Pollo is a local dish comprised of rice mixed with chicken and a variety of cooked vegetables. Olla de Came is a traditional meal-sized soup that contains beef and a variety of local vegetables like potatoes, squash, plantains and yucca.
Most major chain restaurants have franchises in Costa Rica, so if it’s pizza or hamburgers you are after, you will be able to find familiar fare at friendly prices, but why stop there? Local cuisine is economical and tasty and definitely worth sampling.
Look for small diners called sodas, which serve local cuisine at a cost of about two to three USD per meal. Gallos, or meat and vegetable tortillas, are inexpensive and filling, and picadillo, a local meat and vegetable stew, is cheap and delicious.
The fare served at restaurants in Costa Rica varies quite a bit by region. On the eastern coast in Tortuguero, Costa Rica restaurants often serve traditional Caribbean dishes and seafood. The restaurants in Costa Rica San Jose, the national capital, tend to be more cosmopolitan and many have an international flair.
Grano de Oro Restaurant is a very popular international establishment located in San Jose’s Grano de Oro hotel. It features a wide range of gourmet meat and fish dishes, most for under $30 per main course. The lomito piemontes at Grano de Oro is a popular entrée consisting of two medallions of beef stuffed with Gorgonzola cheese.
Across town in San Jose, at the popular Costa Rica restaurant Bacchus, you can get world class Italian cuisine, while Tinjo downtown offers Chinese fare, and Vishnu features vegetarian meals.
No matter what your taste or personal preferences, you’ll find the restaurants in Costa Rica to be a culinary and cultural adventure. You probably came to Costa Rica to do more than just eat, but having eaten there once or twice, you’ll come back for the food again and again.