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Costa Rica's Homestyle Restaurants Bring Heart and Soul to the Table



Tuck into a stack of "Health Nut" pancakes at the Lizard King Resort in Puerto Viejo de Limon while ensconced in a cozy corner booth of the open window cafe and you'll wish you never had to go home. The comfort food served here is created with organic ingredients like the fresh papaya atop the pancakes and perfectly fried platanos served with homemade bread. Even the beef for the the gourmet burgers is ground by hand at this modern homestyle restaurant. A few doors down, the Italian family of Amimodo has been cooking up their family recipes at their ocean front restaurant, and it's a longstanding favorite for Italian comfort food near the center of town. At Veronica's Place, vegetarians get the royal treatment and the breezy upstairs dining room can easily accommodate family dinners. Across the country in Puerto Jimenez, Il Giardino's family recipes are the secret to this cozy restaurant's success, and in Turrialba, Restaurante Don Porfi extends unparalleled hospitality alongside its menu rich in comfort food. In San Jose, Doris Metropolitan's humanely treated and pineapple fed cows make delectable steaks, nicely complemented by homemade loaves of sourdough bread. But for just about any occasion, there's La Criollita, the original family style restaurant in the heart of San Jose.


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Bakea


Bakea makes its home downtown in a historic home that's been upfitted quite eclectically – one room boasts a Plexiglass floor that provides underfoot lighting to showcase the house's original foundations. Another room boasts a postmodern style, while yet another carries with it a traditional feel. While the menu is International in range, it centers on French cuisine and employs highlights from regional cooking. Notable favorites include the risotto and the juicy tenderloin smothered in a tantalizing guava glaze and served atop polenta. Reservations are strongly suggested. Find Bakea in Barrio Amon, 300 meters north of Parque Morazan. Closed Sundays.

Recommended for Homestyle because: Where better to indulge in homestyle cuisine than in Bakea's dining rooms in a restored historic home?

Sophia's expert tip: This is a delightful choice for date night and for foodies in search of excellent European inspired cuisine.

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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 Homestyle because: Casual diners and special occasion dinners are extra special at this romantic restaurant.

Sophia's expert tip: Stroll the trails that lead down to the lake side before or after your meal.

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A lovely atmosphere met with generous portions of delectable fare make Restaurante Don Porfi a longstanding favorite in Turrialba, and an excellent choice for both family gatherings and romantic dinners. The owner is a gregarious gent named Sergio, who may have more than a little something to do with this place's popularity, as he's been known to help diners make tour arrangements as well as suggest the best glass of wine to match their meal. Finding this place is easy enough, just ask a taxi to take you there since it's a couple of miles north of the town center.

Recommended for Homestyle because: Homestyle only begins to describe the cozy vibe that Restaurante Don Porfi achieves.

Sophia's expert tip: This is a delightful choice for a memorable group or family meal to celebrate a visit to Turrialba.

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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 Homestyle because: Tapas created from local ingredients are perfect for sharing family style.

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.

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In the southernmost corner of Costa Rica in the postcard perfect region known as the Osa Peninsula, lies Il Giardino, the first, and many agree, the best, Italian restaurant in Puerto Jimenez, owned and operated by an Italian family that takes nothing more seriously than providing a delightful, thoughtful dining experience. At Il Giradino, the food is deeply rooted in family tradition; each recipe is a family secret, right down to the made to order and from scratch pastas and even lasagna. Daily specials include catch-of-the-day seafood, and there is a wine selection for everything. Nowhere else in the Osa can you enjoy such fine Italian food, exceptional service and take in a relaxing ocean view while feasting on scrumptious Italian fare.

Recommended for Homestyle because: Authentic Italian family recipes are made from scratch and top secret.

Sophia's expert tip: Il Giardino has an impressive collection of Boruca masks on display, showcasing the art and craftsmanship of the local indigenous people, who were the original Costa Ricans of the Osa Peninsula.

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La Criollita
Photo courtesy of slamonica

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.

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Airport - Sjo

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; sometimes lacking in Costa Rica's regular grass fed beef. Specialties include meat cured all-naturally in a process known as French Dry Aged and Chateaubriand Tenderloin. In case you fall in love with the cuisine, there is now a Doris Metropolitan in New Orleans, too.

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Amimodo
Photo courtesy of Sophia LaMonica


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 Homestyle because: Long wooden tables with bench seating make for intimate meals.

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.

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Whether you're in the mood for fluffy pancakes made with real organic chocolate or a platter of huevos rancheros, the Lizard King Café has something on its menu for everyone. Burritos at the Lizard King Cafe are legendarily delicious flour tortillas stuffed with farm fresh ingredients and topped with special salsa unlike any other. The lunch menu includes a range of farm fresh dishes from traditional casados to Caribbean specialties and twists on Mexican favorites, like the reggae roots nachos and the marlin and pineapple kabobs served with coconut rice. Homemade bread and pastries are treats, as are the cheeseburgers.

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La Criollita Restaurante (no relation to La Criollita in San Jose) is a charming roadside restaurant near the lush green city of Cartago, a "soda" in the traditional sense in that this is a homestyle cafe with just a handful of tables, serving wholesome plates of traditional Costa Rican cuisine, which includes casados with fired chicken, mariscos (seafood), and a "plate of the day," which often includes french fries. Every Christmas, locals line up for La Criollita's tamales, which are perfect for taking to-go. A stop at La Criollita is ideal en route to or from the Orosi Valley or Cartago.

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Meet Sophia LaMonica

On Sophia's first trip to Costa Rica, she came face to face with white-faced monkeys, gasped at the sight of giant purple crabs, and rode horseback through plunging waterfalls. Costa Rica...  More About Sophia

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