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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.

Expensive

Bacchus

Cuisine:

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 Brasil

Cuisine:

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.
Website: http://fogobrasilcr.com

Park Café

Cuisine:

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.
Website: http://www.parkcafecostarica.blogspot.com

Moderate

Café Mundo

Cuisine: 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.

Machu Picchu

Cuisine:

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.
Website: http://www.restaurantemachupicchu.com

Restaurante Tin-Jo

Cuisine:

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.
Website: http://www.tinjo.com

Cheap

Soda Tapia

Cuisine:

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.

Vishnu

Cuisine:

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.

Whappin’

Cuisine:

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.

Featured Hotels

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Hostel Pangea

This popular hostel in the fashionable Barrio Amón district has long been a top stop on the Gringo Trail. Amenities include a swimming pool, rooftop bar, breakfast, internet access, private rooms, and shuttles to well maintained partner hostels all over the country. It’s a great place to meet other travellers and plan your further adventures, and is surrounded by several other cheap San José hotels if it doesn’t suit you.

Marriott San José

Though more international luxury hotels in San José are opening, this venerable five-star resort, wrapped in lush gardens and coffee plantations just 7km (four miles) from the city centre is still one of the best. The flawless Spanish colonial theme includes wonderful antique furnishings and a tiny, Mission-style Catholic chapel onsite. Guests enjoy modern amenities, however, such as several pools, fine dining restaurants, flawless rooms, spa treatments, and more.

Xandari Resort & Spa

Overlooking the international airport from the jungled slopes of Poás Volcano is remarkable Xandari Resort. Created by an artist and architect the spacious modern award-winning suites are an exercise in stylish luxury. Elaborately landscaped sculpture-strewn gardens surround the swimming pools but give way to wilder rainforest with trails past several waterfalls. Enjoy the view over the sparkling Central Valley night from your private patio or at the good restaurant worth a visit even if you can’t stay.

Hotel 1492

This 10-room gem among boutique hotels is about ten minutes east of downtown, on a pleasant residential side street. The original home was handcrafted over four decades by its artistic original owner, Amalia Jimenez Volio. Her eye-catching Portuguese tiles, original mosaics, murals, and sculptures decorate the living areas and soothing interior gardens, a nice compliment to the hotel's rather retro furnishings. Amenities include Wi-Fi.

Hotel Milvia

About 3km (1.8 miles) east of downtown San José, but connected by convenient bus service, is the university town of San Pedro. Tucked away on a quiet side street, you’ll find this sunny, immaculate B&B, with lovely gardens, big balconies, and cheerful common areas decorated in outstanding paintings and sculptures. Sleek lines and bright colours give the 90-year-old former plantation house a clean European feel, and breakfast is outstanding.

Hotel Aranjuez

Hidden away in Barrio Aranjuez, a historic residential neighbourhood about 15 minutes from downtown on foot (take taxis at night) is San José’s best bargain. The rambling, old structure has relaxed sitting areas, polished wooden rooms ranging from basic to almost palatial, and wonderful, shady gardens you could easily get lost in. Make reservations in advance, particularly for the cheaper rooms, as the hotel is popular with Costa Ricans.