Restaurants in San Jose
Costa Rican cuisine is simple, wholesome and tasty, built around rice and black beans. These are served together as gallo pinto (literally, “spotted rooster”) at breakfast, usually with eggs and toast.
Later in the day, they come with your choice of meat dishes and side salads as the Costa Rican national dish, called a casado (married), so named because this is what Costa Rican men could once expect from their wives, before they started running for president, anyway. Budget travellers can find such inexpensive meals all over the city at small diners called “sodas.”
The capital, however, has many other options, a real treat if you’ve been exploring Costa Rica’s untamed wilderness for a while. San José’s collection of fine dining restaurants and foreign cuisines is unrivalled in the country, so enjoy.
The San José restaurants below have been grouped into three pricing categories:
Expensive (over US$25)
Moderate (US$10 to US$25)
Cheap (up to US$10)
The San José restaurant prices quoted here are for an average meal and with an alcoholic beverage, including Costa Rica’s mandatory 13% sales tax and 10% service charge, usually included with your bill.
Ensconced in the rolling hills of the attractive Santa Ana suburbs, just outside San José proper, Bacchus is well worth the cab fare. The popular spot inhabits an 1870 mansion that has been remodelled with tasteful modern design that compliments the soothing view. Bacchus specializes in well-prepared Italian and Mediterranean classics, including recommended wood-fired pizzas and breads. Be sure to peruse their extensive wine list, and save some room for dessert.Address: Santa Ana Centro, 300m norte del Ceviche el Rey, San Jose,
Telephone: +506 2282 5441.
Churrascaria Fogo BrasilCuisine:
This popular Brazilian steakhouse is popular rather than a critical favourite. But even serious foodies appreciate 15 of the finest cuts of meat in the country, carved by crisply uniformed waiters, right at your table, from skewers you’ve selected yourself. The enormous salad, appetizer, and dessert bar is probably Costa Rica’s best, and provides welcome respite from the rice and beans expats and travellers have been dining on elsewhere.Address: , 100m este Agencia Nissan, La Sabana, San Jose,
Telephone: +506 2248 1111.
While there are several excellent and established fine-dining restaurants around town, this elegant courtyard bistro is a standout choice. Chef Richard Neat, whose extensive accolades include a handful of Michelin stars, combines French sophistication and techniques with fresh, local ingredients, showcasing spectacular Costa Rican seafood and seasonal produce with world-class results.Address: 100m (300ft) north of Rosti Pollo, Sabana Norte, San Jose,
Telephone: +506 2290 6324.
Café MundoCuisine: Italian
This colourful downtown eatery fills a classic 75-year-old, coffee boom-era mansion in historic Barrio Otoya with modern art deco décor, and innovative cuisine. The city’s bohemian counter-culture crowd mixes with businesspeople and theatre goers, all enjoying an atmospheric cocktail, excellent pastas, homemade bread, or international twists on local dishes.Address: Otoya, Corner of Avenida 9 and Calle 15, San Jose,
Telephone: +506 222 6190.
If you’ve never tried Peruvian cuisine, arguably the hemisphere’s finest food, San José has several excellent restaurants to choose from. Machu Picchu was among the first, and is still a favourite for aji de gallina (chicken in yellow pepper sauce), parrilladas (grilled meats), and arroz chaufa (Chinese fried rice).Address: , Calle 32 between Avenidas 1 and 3, San Jose,
Telephone: +506 2222 7384.
Though there are scores of Chinese restaurants popping up in the capital, the finest Asian cuisine in the city can be found at this elaborately decorated San José institution. The perfect spot for a romantic evening out, the place always draws a crowd. An eclectic menu includes classics from across Asia, from pad Thai and Chinese stir-fry to Indian curries and Japanese sushi. Make reservations on weekends.Address: , Corner of Avenida 11 and Calle 15, San Jose,
Telephone: +506 2221 7605.
Clinging to the traffic-blasted edge of Parque La Sabana is this truly classic San José soda, the colloquial term for simple, diner-style eateries. Grab a pencil and circle your choice of classic Tica cuisine: arroz con pollo (chicken fried rice), ensalada de frutas (huge ice cream Sundays covered with fresh fruit), burgers, breakfasts, beer, and much more. It’s open all night on weekends.Address: Sabana, Sabana Este, Calle 42 Avenida 2 y 4, San Jose,
Telephone: +506 2222 6734.
This local chain offers tasty (but not spicy) vegetarian fast food and traditional Costa Rican dishes without the meat. The setting is humble – think moulded plastic booths and football on TV – and prices low, providing vegetarians with an affordable break from rice and beans. The daily special set plate, with dessert and a drink, is a great deal for anyone. Hefty sandwiches served on excellent whole-grain bread are another good choice.Address: , Avenida 1, Calles 1 - 3, San Jose,
Telephone: +506 2256 6063.
Most visitors agree that Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast serves up the country’s tastiest cuisine: rich seafood stews, tasty patacones (fried green plantains), warm coconut bread, and gallo pinto seasoned with coconut milk. Though there are cheaper places in San José to find quality Caribbean cooking, Whappin’ dishes up reliably excellent food in convivial surroundings with a reggae soundtrack.Address: Barrio Escalante, Calle 33, San Jose,
Telephone: +506 2283 1480.