Stashu's con Fusion is truly a work of art, and a labor of love. One of Puerto Viejo's longest running restaurants (it was formerly called El Loco Natural), Stashu's has been helmed in the kitchen since the early days by Stashu himself, chef and artist whose creations are as pleasing to the eye as they are the palette. Stashu's is a breezy, open air place a few steps south of the center of Puerto Viejo, naturally decorated to feel like the tropical escape that it is, and the menu is full of inspired dishes that make the most of the bounty of local fare- the fish plates are always delicious, but save room for dessert, too.
Recommended for Group Friendly because: Families and groups are welcome at Stashu's, reservations are suggested.
Sophia's expert tip: Excellent choice for date night, closed on Wednesdays.
With a name like Chimera, one might expect an a diverse selection of food, and this Santa Elena restaurant delivers. Every plate is a creative fusion of flavors, many of which are Latin, all of which are wrought from the bounty of local ingredients that only the little enclave of Santa Elena, near the Monteverde Cloudforest, can offer. Tapas are the perfect solution for hungry travelers, and Chimera has a way with them. Perfect for sharing among a group of friends and especially for a romantic tasting dinner, each dish is an inspired fusion. The gazpacho appetizer, coconut shrimp, and ginger margarita all come highly recommended.
Recommended for Group Friendly because: Small plates and tapas are group friendly and fun to share.
Sophia's expert tip: In Greek Mythology, a Chimera is a fire-breathing female creature of Lycia in Asia Minor, comprised of sections of three different animals: a lion, a serpent and a goat.
Serenitea is a delightful place to enjoy lunch or just a cup of finely brewed tea in the fine neighborhood of Escaz�. Its peaceful atmosphere encourages relaxation and contemplation, so it makes a fine addition to an active day of sightseeing and dining out. Choose from 45 different flavors of tea, and nibble from a menu of bite size sandwiches, healthy wraps and savory salads, all designed to complement the exquisite tea-drinking experience. One of the highlights of Serenitea is the dessert selection, which includes macaroons as tasty as they are colorful. Serenitea is open 7:30 am to 7:30 pm
Recommended for Group Friendly because: A special occasion room is bookable for tea infused group celebrations.
Sophia's expert tip: This is one of the few places to find true tea experts in a land of coffee.
Although it's a fine Italian restaurant first and foremost, with experienced chefs in the kitchen that turn out exceptional dishes based on authentic Italian recipes that come to life with Costa Rica's bounty of fresh ingredients, Cafe Viejo is also a great place to enjoy a cocktail at the bar, and on special nights, dance to the beats of talented DJs who frequently hold later night events at the restaurant. Slightly more sophisticated than its beachfront counterparts, the bar at Cafe Viejo wraps around and spills almost on to the street, and it couldn't be more centrally located on the main road near the middle of town.
Recommended for Group Friendly because: Heavy wooden tables can be pushed together to accommodate a bigger group, so long as a reservation's made in advance.
Sophia's expert tip: On some weekends the restaurant becomes a DJ spinning dance party after the dinner dishes have been cleared.
Amimodo is an old-school yet new-school family style and family friendly Italian restaurant on the main road in Puerto Viejo. A nondescript, single story cafe style that's invitingly and casual from the street side and the beach side, Amimodo doesn't need to toot it's own horn; those in the know have been coming here for excellent authentic Italian dishes and special occasions since the doors opened nearly twenty years ago. The seating spills out from inside to out, and there is a little bar inside for pizza and cocktails. Some nights a live band plays spirited Caribbean music, but mostly it is a mellow vibe.
Recommended for Group Friendly because: Small groups can settle in and relax with bottles of wine while pizzas and pastas are cooked to order.
Sophia's expert tip: Happy Hour is on most days, with inexpensive tapas and "drinks of the day" specials, like a Pipa Loca, fresh green coconut spiked with rum and garnished with an exotic flower.
Those with a hankering for high-quality meat should look no further than Doris Metropolitan, a stand-out- and stand alone- restaurant in Costa Rica. Embracing the locally-grown movement wholeheartedly, Doris Metropolitan partners with a cattle farm in southern Costa Rica to specially raise cow that are fed not only grass but pineapple, which gives it a uniquely marbled texture and distinct flavor; both of which tend to be lacking in much of Costa Rica's beef. Specialties include meat cured all-naturally in a process known as French Dry Aged and Chateaubriand Tenderloin. Vegetarians may have fewer exciting options, but the bread is so good they'll hardly complain.
Recommended for Group Friendly because: A large dining room and high volume kitchen easily handles groups large and small.
Sophia's expert tip: Don't miss the bread; the sour dough comes from a secret recipe that takes thirteen months to cure.
The menu at La Luz is quite diverse, afterall it was one of the country's first fusion restaurants, and still impresses with an eclectic menu of diverse tastes; the expert chef pays close attention to detail and every plate is served like a work of art. Costa Rican regional cuisine, meets California-inspired fresh ingredients and a bevy of international influences that all make for a merry culinary adventure. The glass-walled dining room exudes a classic, elegant feel and offers exceptional views, especially at night. Sunday Brunch is a celebratory affair that draws crowds of locals and tourists to this spot in the Alta Hotel, and reservations are suggested.
Recommended for Group Friendly because: The private wine room is ideal for families and groups.
Sophia's expert tip: For a special occasion, book the private wine room, or opt for patio or poolside dining.
La Casona del Cafetal is a restaurant and event destination located amidst a sprawling coffee farm, offering excellent cuisine and sweeping views of its lushly planted grounds, complete with a glistening lake, Lago de Cachi. The ambience alone makes La Casona del Cafetal an ideal choice for romantic dinners and special occasions, especially weddings and anniversaries because of its romantic setting, and since it can accommodate up to 300 guests at once, it is often booked in advance. For the casual diner, however, there is a bright and airy dining room and chef-served buffet tables heaped high with international cuisine cooked to perfection.
Recommended for Group Friendly because: All you can eat buffet lunches are perfect for hungry families.
Sophia's expert tip: Stroll the trails that lead down to the lake side before or after your meal.
La Criollita is an excellent place for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and has something on the menu for everyone. The fare is traditional Costa Rican; generous portions of meat, chicken and fish with rice, beans and salad on the side, and big selection of delicious appetizers like Tico-style ceviche and a tasty chicken soup to whet the appetite. There are three dining spaces, a main room that overlooks the big and busy kitchen, a bright and airy side room with art-filled walls, and a charming covered outdoor terrace with a bird garden and wrought iron furniture. There is rarely a wait for a table, but lunch time fills up early with nearby business people, so breakfast and dinner are ideal for settling into a relaxing meal. The coffee is excellent, too,save room for dessert; checkout the options like flan and cheesecake on display under the glass on your way in. Bonus: Full Bar.
Recommended for Group Friendly because: Large round tables in the main dining room are designed to seat small groups.
Sophia's expert tip: "Express Breakfast" specials can't be beat: try the gallo pinto with tropical fruit, eggs, toast, coffee and juice for a song.
Restaurante Tin-Jo has rightfully named itself "the best" restaurant in Costa Rica, offering delicious, healthy Asian cuisine from its home in an original colonial mansion in the heart of San Jose. What started out as a Chinese restaurant in 1972 has blossomed into Thailand, Viet Nam, and Japan for its inspired menu. The menu is full of vegetarian and naturally gluten free options, and the desserts are exotic, decadent, and to-die-for without being bad for you. Tin-Jo also offers yoga and meditation classes throughout the week, and hosts Miercoles Candelas every Wednesday evening, when the lights are turned off in favor of candles. Televisions are nowhere to be seen and cells phones are turned off in the Bamboo Room, a sanctuary annex of Tin-Jo.
Recommended for Group Friendly because: Chinese dishes and Asian tapas are great for sharing among friends.
Sophia's expert tip: Try some Tai Chi with your lunch, every Wednesday from 12-1:15 including drinks, soup or salad, entrée and dessert only $10.