East of Downtown
- The Best of Costa Rica
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- Costa Rica’s Unique Retreats & Resorts
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One of the best spots is Bagelmen’s (Avenida 2, Calle 33, tel. 800/2212-1314, 7 a.m.–9 p.m. daily), in Barrio La California; it also has an outlet in eastern San Pedro. The ambience is pleasing, with dark wood paneling and wrought-iron chairs. It serves Reuben, tuna, smoked ham, and other sandwiches ($2–5), as well as bagels (onion, pumpernickel, etc.), muffins, brownies, cinnamon rolls, and breakfast specials, from gallo pinto to scrambled eggs.
In Los Yoses I like Café Ruiseñor (Avenida Central, Calles 41/43, tel. 506/2225-2562, 7 a.m.–7:30 p.m. Mon.–Fri., 10 a.m.–6 p.m. Sat.), a classy, trendy spot serving a range of coffee drinks including lattes ($1.75), plus soups, salads, sandwiches, and entrées such as curried chicken, sea bass with herbs and white wine, pepper steak. Desserts include banana splits, German apple tart, and parfaits.
Tea Land (Avenida Central, Calle 35, tel. 506/2261-0765, www.tealandcostarica.com, 11 a.m.–7 p.m. Mon.–Sat.) serves more than 100 types of teas, from berry delight to Formosa oolong. It also serves pastries, such as tiramisu and apple pie. The small glass-walled lounge also has WiFi.
Ice cream fans should head to Häagen-Dazs Café (Avenida Central, tel. 506/2280-5245, 10 a.m.–10 p.m. daily), in San Pedro. This clean, contemporary parlor serves everyone’s favorite ice cream, from cones to special sundaes. It also has espressos and cappuccinos.
Nearby, the Kai Café and Lunch (Avenida Central, tel. 506/2281-0955, 9 a.m.–9 p.m. Mon.–Sat., 10 a.m.–8 p.m. Sun.) offers a beautiful contemporary elegance, with leather sofas and walls of glass. It serves sandwiches, paninis, salads, and scrumptious desserts.
For sushi, head to Ichiban (tel. 506/2291-5220, noon–3 p.m. and 6:30–11 p.m. Mon.–Fri., noon–10 p.m. Sat.–Sun., $5–15), in Centro Comercial Calle Real, on Avenida Central in San Pedro. Try the Ichiban roll: fried noodles with crab, eel, avocado, and cream cheese.
Restaurante Club Alemán (Avenida 8, Calles 35/37, tel. 506/2225-0366, fax 506/2225-2016, www.clubaleman.org, 10 a.m.–9 p.m. Mon.–Sat., $6.50–9) is a clean and elegant place with a typical German menu: Bismarck herring, sauerkraut and sauerbraten, pork Cordon Bleu, and peach melba. It has a bakery and café and a downstairs tavern (5 p.m.–2 a.m. Thurs.–Sat.).
Whappin’ (Calle 35, Avenida 13, tel. 506/2283-1480, 11:30 a.m.–3 p.m. and 6–10 p.m. Mon.–Sat.), in Barrio Escalante, serves up delicious Caribbean cooking in no-frills surrounds. Many dishes are cooked in coconut milk, such as rondon stew, and even classic chicken, rice, and beans.
French and Mediterranean
Cognoscenti craving classical French head to Le Chandelier (tel. 506/2225-3980, www.lechandeliercr.com, 11:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m. and 6:30–11 p.m. Mon.–Fri., 6:30–11 p.m. Sat., $5–25), in a restored Mediterranean-style mansion 400 meters south of the ICE building in San Pedro. It has 10 separate dining areas, including a sculpture garden. Chef Kenh Pérez conjures up imaginative cuisine, stunning sauces, and his own version of typical Costa Rican fare: roasted heart of palm, cream of pejivalle soup, gratin of corvina with avocado. The restaurant is adorned with murals and owner Claudio Dubuis’s art.
Exuding romantic ambience with its dark wainscoting and soft lighting, the bistro-style Olio (Calle 33, Avenida 3/5, tel. 506/2281-0541, 11:30 a.m.–1 a.m. Mon.–Fri., 4 p.m.–midnight Sat., $5–12), 200 meters north of Bagelmen’s in Barrio Escalante, specializes in Spanish tapas and Mediterranean fare, such as a Greek mezza plate. Meat lovers should try the arrollado siciliano—a filet of steak stuffed with sun-dried tomatoes, spinach, and mozzarella. It has a large wine list and a small patio.
A down-home ambience can be enjoyed at Il Pomodoro (Calle Central, tel. 506/2224-0966, 11:30 a.m.–11 p.m. Sun.–Mon. and Thurs., 11 a.m.–midnight Fri.–Sat.), 100 meters north of San Pedro church; it’s a popular hangout for university types who favor the pizzas ($4–8).
Los Antojitos (11:30 a.m.–11 p.m. Mon.–Thurs., 11 a.m.–midnight Fri.–Sat., 11 a.m.–10 p.m. Sun.) has an outlet east of downtown in Los Yoses (tel. 506/2225-9525).
East of downtown, Aya Sofia (Calle 31, tel. 506/2224-5050, 7 a.m.–7 p.m. Mon.–Sat.), in Barrio Escalante, is a Turkish bistro serving hummus, goat cheese marinated with olives and herbs ($3), and sandwiches. It has belly dancing.
I like the marvelous aesthetic at Jürgen’s (tel. 506/2283-2239, noon–2 p.m. and 6–10 p.m. Mon.–Fri., 6–11 p.m. Sat., $5–25), in the Boutique Hotel Jade in San Pedro. It serves such nouvelle treats as gazpacho, mussels Rockefeller, toast Winston (beef with white wine sauce, mushrooms, and cheese with salad), shrimp gratin with camembert and jelly, and tilapia with mustard. A bar and cigar lounge offer postprandial pleasure. It has a dress code and exemplary service.
Nearby, Cyrano (tel. 506/2234-7850, www.bergerachotel.com, 5:30–9:30 p.m. Mon.–Fri., 5:30–9 p.m. Sat.–Sun.), at Hôtel Le Bergerac, serves appetizers such as smoked salmon ($3.50). Entrées include steak with mushroom and white wine sauce ($23) and lobster with creamy white wine ($24). There is also a nightly three-course special ($15).
Spanish and South American
Chef Emilio Machado works wonders at Marbella Restaurant (Centro Comercial de la Calle Real, tel. 506/2224-9452, 11:30 a.m.–3 p.m. and 6:30–10:30 p.m. Tues.–Thurs., until 11 p.m. Fri., noon–3:30 p.m. and 6:30–11:30 p.m. Sat., noon–5 p.m. Sun., $5–15) in San Pedro. The large selection of seafood dishes includes paella Marbella (shellfish and sea bass) and paella Valenciana (chicken and seafood). The paella Madrilena (rabbit, chicken, and pork) is particularly good.
I love the combination of ambience and cuisine at Chancay (tel. 506/2225-4046, www.chancay.info, noon–3:30 p.m. and 6:30–10:30 p.m. Mon.–Thurs., noon–11 p.m. Fri.–Sat., noon–9:30 p.m. Sun.), located in Plaza Antares in the Monte de Oca district. The venue is a sleek 21st-century building with heaps of plate glass and stainless steel. You can dine alfresco on the wooden deck or inside the restaurant, done up in a handsome rust and pewter color scheme, that has alcoves stuffed with Peruvian clay dolls, and live musicians playing Peruvian tunes. I’ve enjoyed appetizers of thin sliced potato in cheese sauce and hot pepper ($6.25), and a great corvine limeña entrée—sea bass with mashed white beans and red pepper sauce ($15).
The small, simple, and inexpensive Restaurante Vegetariano San Pedro (tel. 506/2224-1163, 10 a.m.–6 p.m. Mon.–Fri.) is on Calle Central 200 meters north of San Pedro church. It has a casado with juice ($2), plus soy burgers, salads, pastas, and veggie tamales ($2).
© Christopher P. Baker from Moon Costa Rica, 8th Edition