10 Best Restaurants in San José, Costa Rica

San José, Costa Rica is home to some  of the country's most exceptional restaurants, ranging from simple roadside sodas to modernized colonial mansions turned dining establishments. Each does justice to the lion's share of locally grown fresh ingredients. A stop at the century old Chelles is a must-do for traditional casados and cups of strong Costa Rican coffee. Modern Costa Rican cuisine may be found at Cafe Mundo, where the chef's creativity with each ingredient shines on the plate. For romantic dinners seek out the inner dining patio sanctuary at Hotel Grano de Oro, and save room for sumptuous desserts. Families will love the extensive menu menu options and the cozy atmosphere at La Criollita, a long-standing original spot for breakfast lunch and dinner, easily found near the Jade Museum. For special occasions or dining with friends, La Esquina de Buenos Aires is a favorite for its warm vibe and variety of Argentinean dishes.


Whether you're a tried and true fan of Peruvian food or new to the cuisine, Machhu Picchu is the place to savor such succulent dishes like the lemon-flavored mashed potatoes stuffed with shrimp and the chicken craklings, bite-sized chicken pieces served with a savory tartar sauce. The seafood platter is generous enough to serve two and loaded with shrimp, squid and conch cooked multiple ways. The bar serves beer, wine, and pisco sour, a Peruvian cocktail crafted from grape liquor. Machu Picchu is the site to taste and sample some of the best Peruvian flavors in San Jose, Costa Rica.

Recommended for San José's Best Restaurants because: Machhu Picchu has two locations, San Pedro and Paseo Colon.

Sophia's expert tip: A shot of Pisco is a Peruvian ritual that complements the meal.

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For the well-heeled and epicurious, Le Monast�re delivers and then some. Everything is prepared and served expertly, from escargot and French Onion Soup to chef specials like Venison Tenderloin Flambee in Port Wine and Seabass filet in Tarragon Cream Sauce. The extensive menu is enhanced by daily specials and always includes fresh local produce from some of Costa Rica's best farms and gardens; choose from a wine list 300 bottles long. If the cuisine isn't enough, take in a nearly 360 degree from above the city from this historic former monastery decorated in traditional European style down to marble statues and authentic antiques.

Recommended for San José's Best Restaurants because: Live classical music is often played on a grand piano.

Sophia's expert tip: Make reservations well in advance and mind the dress code.

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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 San Jose, Costa Rica- although there is now a Doris Metropolitan stateside, too. Embracing the locally-grown movement wholeheartedly, Doris Metropolitan partners with a cattle farm in southern Costa Rica to specially raise cows that are fed not only grass but pineapple, which yields 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.

Recommended for San José's Best Restaurants because: That homemade sour dough bread recipe that takes thirteen months to cure.

Sophia's expert tip: Let a pineapple farm be the origin of your last steak before going vegan.

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What started as a simple hotel caf-- has expanded to become one of the country's finest restaurants with well-earned reputation. Casually elegant, this restaurant is situated off the Grano de Oro Hotel's central courtyard which provides for pleasant seating options on cooperative days. A Frech chef is behind the European menu has Costa Rican influences and changes regularly, featuring seafood, beef, chicken and vegetable offerings. If it's available on your visit, try the macadamia-encrusted covina or the Gorgonzola-stuffed filet mignon, but surely whatever you choose will shine. And, most certainly save room for dessert as the offerings here are scrumptious.

Recommended for San José's Best Restaurants because: The inner patio is a dining sanctuary delivering exquisite flavors.

Sophia's expert tip: Excellent date place with banquet room for special occasion dinners.

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Airport - Sjo
Tin Jo
Photo courtesy of Tin Jo Restaurant

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.

Recommended for San José's Best Restaurants because: Televisions are nowhere to be seen and cells phones are turned off in the Bamboo Room, a sanctuary annex of Tin-Jo.

Sophia's expert tip: Try Tai Chi with your lunch, every Wednesday from 12-1:15.

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Airport - Sjo

Chelles, open since 1909 is a traditional Costa Rican soda, a casual cafe serving traditional Costa Rican dishes. An instituational dining spot in San Jose for more than one hundred years, many of the regular patrons have been dining here for decades though tourists are welcomed with open arms at Chelles, too. Drawing everyone in with a lively diner ambience, Chelles draws devotees to its generous casados, smaller bocas, and dishes like the arroz con pollo- all made to order by seasoned chefs. Chelles is open twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, and serves a family-friendly menu in additional to bar food and drinks.

Recommended for San José's Best Restaurants because: Chelles is the best long-standing soda to seek out in San Jose.

Sophia's expert tip: Practice your Spanish for ordering traditional Costa Rican bocas and dishes.

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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.

Recommended for San José's Best Restaurants because: La Criollita is original that's an essential stop in San Jose.

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.

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La Esquina de Buenos Aires is a corner restaurant behind the towering cathedral of la Iglesia de la Soledad that somehow manages to create an atmosphere reminiscent of the Argentine city of Plata in the middle of the twentieth century. It's a warm, lively vibe that emanates from the place, and the aromas of grilled meats and other Argentine dishes permeate the air. Here, the spirit of Tango is alive and well and you're invited to partake of delicious homemade pastries, wines and delicacies of Argentina's gastronomy. Open from Monday to Sunday, 11am a 3pm and from 6pm a 12pm.

Recommended for San José's Best Restaurants because: A magnetic vibe draws you in and delicious Argentine dishes magically appear.

Sophia's expert tip: Order your coffee served with fernet, the aromatic Italian spirit.

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B�lali, Caf� y Reposter�a Artesanal located on Avenida Escaz� is a health food restaurant serving delicious baked goods, gluten free treats, organic tea and coffee, and specialties like quinoa pancakes and a Smoothie Beso P�rpura, a pretty pink concoction that contains coconut and chia. B�lali, meaning honey of the bee in the indigenous Bri Bri language, is inspired by the tribe's ways of living harmoniously with nature, preserving the rainforest, and utilizing medicinal herbs. Salads and sandwiches are served along with croissants and other goodies baked fresh daily. Without added colors or refined sugars, everything is made as naturally as possible.

Recommended for San José's Best Restaurants because: Casual and cozy this corner restaurant is a new standout.

Sophia's expert tip: Homemade multigrain breadsticks make for great apps and road-trip snacks.

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San José

Cafe Mundo is an original family-run restaurant in a sprawling converted turn of the century home. Located on a corner in a residential nook of San Jose, Cafe Mundo is popular with locals, who have no trouble finding it behind the massive gate that obscures most of the facade from the road. It's also a favorite of celebrities, who turn up for the famously amazing cuisine. But Cafe Mundo is well worth seeking out for tourists, too, with a lengthy menu bursting with colorful and artful dishes reflecting a range of international flavors, lots of fresh seafood, and daily specials.

Recommended for San José's Best Restaurants because: Thanks to the chef, the cuisine at Cafe Mundo is always in a class of its own.

Sophia's expert tip: Reserve in advance for a quiet table on the ensconced patio.

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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