Some people look at San Jose and see outdated commercial buildings and a stepping-stone to the rainforests beyond, but some see a lively cosmopolitan city, full of it’s own charm and history, and more importantly, the home of many restaurants, bars, cafes and excellent street food options. Here’s what to try when you’re in town:
San Jose’s name is often associated with good coffee, and not for nothing: this is how the city built its profit back in the day. Today, if you walk the streets of Mercado Central, the central market, history will tickle your nostrils through the smell of roasted beans. If you’re traveling on a budget, this is the best place to taste local food at a reasonable price. A good spot to try seafood is Mariscos Poseidon, a small seafood joint in the northern annex of the market. Try the mixto appetizer and you’ll get to try local fish, shrimp and octopus marinated in lime juice. Head to Helados de Sorbetera for the best dessert in the area – cinnamon-laced frozen custard. This goes best with barquillos, yummy cylindrical sugar cookies.
Some say Costa Rican food is nothing to write home about, but local chefs have turned that belief around in recent years with their gourmet, creative plates. Park Café in San Jose is proof of that. Its Michelin-starred chef, Richard Neat, offers guests an unforgettable taste journey. His menu – crab ravioli with asparagus, ginger sauce and artichokes, served with a glass of fine wine is nothing if not exquisite.
Thirsty and in need of a natural pick-me-up? Try one of the local “frescos” or “jugos naturales”. If there’s one thing Costa Ricans love, that’s refreshing juices (…ok, and coffee). The juices are usually made of fresh squeezed fruit juice (mango, papaya, pineapple) and water or milk. If you’re curious to try something more unusual, order a horchata, made with rice flour and cinnamon…lots of cinnamon. And as we said earlier, in San Jose, you should definitely try a black coffee or “café negro”, to get the taste of a real cup of strong latin Joe.