The Casa del Café (tel. 506/2645-5901, 7 a.m.–7 p.m. daily), above the Serpentario in Santa Elena , is run by the Coopesanta cooperative and serves cappuccinos and espressos. You can taste and buy various locally produced coffees.
Morpho Café (tel. 506/2645-7373, 11 a.m.–9 p.m. daily), in Santa Elena, has relocated but has reproduced its decor of rough-hewn furniture. The menu includes salads, sandwiches, killer burgers, pastas, casados (set meals for $4), and a house special of beef tenderloin with Monteverde blue cheese ($18).
A copy-cat with a difference, the Treehouse Café & Restaurant (tel. 506/2645-5751, www.treehouse.cr , 7 a.m.–10 p.m. daily) is built around a tree. Its menu ranges from burritos to fondues. My favorite? Chocolate fondue with brandy ($34 for two people).
The quaint, colorful Dulce Marzo Bakery & Café (tel. 506/2645-6568, 11 a.m.–7 p.m. daily), in Cerro Plano, is good for wraps, sandwiches, and cookies. Chef Lisa Peters’s peanut butter cup is especially to die for.
For breakfast, try Stella’s Bakery (tel. 506/2645-5560, 6 a.m.–6 p.m. daily), in Monteverde. The rustic setting is perfect for enjoying granola with homemade yogurt ($2), pancakes, omelettes, doughnuts, sandwiches, and killer milk shakes ($3).
For elegant dining, make a reservation at Garden Restaurant (6–8:20 a.m., noon–2 p.m., and 6–8:30 p.m. daily), at Monteverde Lodge , which dishes up superb gourmet cuisine. A typical dinner might include shredded duck empanadas ($6), roasted leek quiche ($8.50), and entrées of almond chicken curry with rice in a coconut cup ($13), followed by profiteroles ($7). It has a large wine list.
The finest dining is at Sofia (tel. 506/2645-7017, knielsenmv [at] hotmail [dot] com, 11:30 a.m.–9:30 p.m. daily). It serves gourmet Nuevo Latino dishes. Chef-owner Karen Nielsen whips up mean appetizers, such as a roasted eggplant, tomato, and goat cheese quesadilla, and black bean soup. For a main course, try the seafood chimichanga ($12) or plantain-crusted sea bass ($12). The bar serves killer mojitos, caipirinhas, and other cocktails ($5). It has wine tastings and occasionally hosts live music, from choral to jazz.
In 2010, Karen also opened the super-chic fusion restaurant Trio (tel. 506/2645-7254, 11:30 a.m.—9 p.m. daily), in Santa Elena. Decked out with an urbane chocolate, pea-green, and white decor, it has huge windows and a deck with forest views. Try the cream of carrot and sweet potato soup with coconut and tamarind ($4), followed by mojito shrimp ($12.50). Wow!
Karen also runs a gourmet yet casual tapas restaurant, Chimera (tel. 506/2645-7017, 11:30 a.m.–9:30 p.m. daily), with an open kitchen. Choice selections include cold roasted eggplant ($3.50), coconut shrimp lollipops with mango-ginger sauce ($7.50), and smoked provolone with sun-dried tomato sauce ($3.50).
Restaurante y Pizzería Tramonti (400 m uphill from the gas station in Monteverde, tel. 506/2645-6120, www.tramonticr.com , 11:30 a.m.–9:45 p.m. daily) offers good ambience along with excellent spaghetti dishes, carpaccio, lasagna, fried squid, and wood-fired pizzas.
While we’re talking Italian, Johnny’s Pizzería (one km east of Santa Elena, tel. 506/2645-5066, www.pizzeriadejohnny.com , 11:30 a.m.–9:30 p.m. daily), in Cerro Plano, is both classy and offers a wide-ranging pizza menu ($4–10, small–large) plus pastas and daily specials such as smoked salmon and capers.
The Restaurant de Lucía (100 m south of the bullring in Cerro Plano, tel. 506/2645-5337, www.deluciamonteverde.com , 11 a.m.–9 p.m. daily) is also genuinely Italian, with cappuccinos, lasagnas, and vegetarian dishes.
The Restaurante Sapo Dorado (in the Hotel Sapo Dorado, tel. 506/2645-5010, 6:30–9:30 a.m., noon–3 p.m., and 6–9:30 p.m. daily, $5–20) is recommended for health-food dishes, including whole-grain pizza, banana bread, and tofu with vegetarian primavera; also try baked orange chicken with peppercorn, shrimp in sambuca mushroom sauce, and killer desserts.
For a chocolaty treat, head to Café Caburé (tel. 506/2645-5020, www.cabure.net , 8 a.m.–8 p.m. Mon.–Sat.), at Paseo de Estella. Argentinian owner Susana Salas’s eclectic menu offers chocolate-inspired dishes and drinks from around the world. You must try the passion-fruit-, rum-, and vodka-flavored truffles. She also serves salads and wraps ($9.50). It has WiFi, plus an excellent chocolate museum.
Head to Heladería Monteverde (tel. 506/2645-6558, 10 a.m.–8 p.m. daily), run by the cheese factory and serving 20 flavors of ice cream, such as blackberry and cherry. It’s in the heart of Santa Elena.
You can buy baked goods at Musmanni, next to La Esperanza, and Panadería Jiménez (4:30 a.m.–6 p.m. Mon.–Sat.), which has outlets in Santa Elena and Cerro Plano. Monteverde Whole Foods Market (tel. 506/2645-5927, 7:30 a.m.–5:30 p.m. Mon.–Sat.), opposite Stella’s in Monteverde , sells organic veggies.