- Where to Go
- The Best of Nicaragua
- Nicaragua’s Best Surfing
- Hiking Nicaragua’s Ring of Fire
- Nicaraguan Arts & Crafts
- Nicaragua’s Great Green North
- Sportfishing in Nicaragua
- Down the Río San Juan
- Nicaragua’s Celebrations & Fiestas
- Volunteering in Nicaragua
- Diving & Snorkeling in Nicaragua
- Managua’s Revolutionary Driving Tour
Cheap and Local
Fear not the municipal market: you can eat three tasty and filling corriente meals a day at one of the four counters inside for under $3. Evenings, try Juanita's fritanga on the street where the buses leave or walk to the southwest corner of the park for Asados Vilma, a.k.a. The Chicken Lady, with grilled meat, mountains of gallo pinto, and delicious frescos from $3.
Nearly every hospedaje, hotel, and beach restaurant makes a variety of breakfasts, usually for $2–3. Locally owned sodas offer Nicaraguan standards for about $4.
Cafés and Bar Food
El Gato Negro (open 7 a.m.–3 p.m. daily) serves freshly roasted organic espresso and good breakfasts, including bagels and cream cheese, in a bookstore setting.
Barrio Viejo (one block west of the bus stop) makes first-rate espresso drinks and serves breakfasts with coffee and orange juice starting at $2—a good deal.
A mellow bar with eclectic music, darts, and a great menu including a monster Philly cheesesteak, Big Wave Dave’s is open early for breakfast, then serves bar food and drinks all day long, meals from $4. It’s a good place to hang out at the ample horseshoe bar and chat with your compatriots.
For dark beer, don’t miss The Irish House, serving Guinness and probably more (we don’t know; we never made it past the Guinness).
A long row of virtually identical thatched-roof rancho restaurants runs along the central part of the beach, serving fresh fish dishes from $5 and shrimp and lobster dishes from $10–14 until 10 p.m. Josseline’s, at the southern end, offers delicious fish dishes, a notable vegetarian soup, and a pleasant atmosphere. El Timon is a longtime favorite of Nicaraguans and tourists alike. Some say it has the best service of all the ranchos; it’s also one of the most expensive.
At the south end of the bay or at ExpoMar (just east of BDF bank) you can buy grouper, swordfish, or red snapper fresh from the boat (they will fillet it for you), particularly on Wednesday and Saturday when the boats return from sea.
Bambu Beach Club (located at the far north end of San Juan del Sur’s main beach, tel. 505/2568-2101, www.thebambubeachclub.com) is a Mediterranean-influenced restaurant with stylish decor and cool bathrooms. Serving seafood bocas, sandwiches, and entrées, it’s also a full bar, relaxed beach hangout, seaside cinema, and acoustic concert space.
Mauricio's Pizzería (just west of the playground at the municipal park, tel. 505/2568-2295 for delivery, open from 5 p.m. daily) is easily one of the most popular restaurants in town, with great pasta and real Italian pizza by the slice, starting at $4.50 a pie. Ask Mauricio for a shot of his homemade limoncello after your meal.
Bar y Restaurante La Cascada (in Pelican Eyes Hotel, tel. 505/2568-2511, $11–20) offers tables set above the village with a prime view of the ocean and sunset. The chef is world class, serving delights such as parmesan-crusted baked mahi over herb spaetzle. Breakfast and lunch start at $7; or just sample from the exotic tropical drink menu. Prices are in dollars, if that tells you anything.
El Colibrí (one block south of the east side of the church, tel. 505/2568-2861, $7–12, no credit cards accepted) offers a reasonably priced assortment of delicious Mediterranean specialties in an unbeatable outdoor ambience. The menu goes from paella to polenta to chicken breast stuffed with walnuts, raisins, and basil in a red wine sauce, and don’t miss the sangria. Reservations for large parties during the high season are recommended.
El Pozo (half a block south of the market, tel. 505/8806-5708, open from 6 p.m. Thurs.–Mon., $8–12) is a modern bistro featuring contemporary American dishes.
El Jardín (tel. 505/8880-4765, open 5–9:30 p.m. Wed.–Sun., $6–8) is located outside of town on the Chocolata road heading north, but is well worth the drive. They complement Asian fusion cuisine with an assortment of margaritas and fancy tequilas; leave room for the cheesecake.
© Randall Wood & Joshua Berman from Moon Nicaragua, 4th Edition