The 18 Essential Restaurants in San José, Costa Rica – Bill Esparza

a platter of chicharrones tacos on a white plateChicharrones at Chicharronera Cacique Acserí | Chicharronera Cacique Acserí / Facebook

Where to find show-stopping mariscos, brimming arepas, and quite possibly Central America’s best scoop of vanilla ice cream in the Costa Rican capital

For decades, surfers and eco-tourists filled planes to Central America’s most popular travel destination, but food-focused travelers have found lots to love in Costa Rica’s waters and jungles, too. The country’s various microclimates steadily funnel a bounty of seafood and produce into the bustling capital of San José, where ingredients make their way into casados (smorgasbords of rice, beans, meat, salad, and more), bocas (bar snacks), and vibrant seafood specialties. Make time to eat at one of the city’s family-run sodas típicas, sample classic dishes like gallo pinto (the country’s take on rice and beans), explore the stands of the Central Market, and dine at high-end restaurants like Sikwa, where chef Pablo Bonilla plays with the Indigenous pantry and jungle-to-table cooking.

While COVID-19 has dampened global travel everywhere, including Costa Rica, the country’s waves, tropical rainforests, and beaches remain just as stunning. For whenever travelers are able to plan their escape to paradise, here is Eater’s guide to eating and drinking like a savvy Tico in San José.

Price Key
$ = 2,400 – 9,000 Costa Rican colónes ($4 – $15 USD)
$$ = 9,500 – 24,000 colónes ($16 to $40 USD)
$$$ = Over 30,000 colónes ($50 USD and up)

The level of service offered in response to the COVID-19 pandemic is indicated on each map point. For updated information on coronavirus cases in Costa Rica, please visit cr.usembassy.gov.

Bill Esparza is a James Beard Award-winning writer and author of LA Mexicano.


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