Costa Rica’s cuisine is continuously evolving under the influence of other cultures who bring their spices and styles to the country’s traditional fare, which varies from region to region. Gallo pinto (spotted rooster), a mix of rice and beans cooked with garlic and cilantro, is Costa Rica’s most ubiquitous breakfast fare, served with eggs and a dollop of natilla (sour cream) on the side. Try an excellent version at La Criollita in San Jose, where you’ll also find tasty casados (marrieds) at lunch time, laden with chicken, beef or fish, rice, beans, and salads. Other traditional dishes include olla de carne (soup of beef, carrots, plantains and yucca, and arroz con leche (rice pudding). The Caribbean coast is strongly influenced by Afro-Caribbean culture and there the cuisine has a distinctly Creole flavor. Pati are spicy meat snacks that resemble empanadas but are packed with special Caribbean flavors, find the best at the small shack in the center of Puerto Viejo de Limon. At Maxi’s Restaurant in Manzanillo, dip into a steaming bowl of rondon (run down) soup made with yucca, plantains, coconut milk, and shellfish or pork. Locally grown cacao lends its rich flavor to the selection of baked goodies at Bread & Chocolate, and don’t miss a latte made with Café Britt, the country’s premier brand of coffee at Café Rico.
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