San Jose is a spectacular spot for foodies who are visiting Costa Rica
I always say that no good vacation is complete without good food and a Costa Rica vacation is no exception to that rule.
The best restaurants create the perfect balance of flavors, preparation, presentation, and umami—that perfect, hard-to-define, something more. Everyone has a favorite restaurant and foodies in Costa Rica’s capital city, San José, are no exception. Our eclectic choices, in no particular order, are some of the best in the greater San José area.
Restaurante Grano de Oro, Calle 30
Daily, 7 a.m.–10 p.m.
$$ – $$$$, reservations recommended
One of the best-known restaurants in the city, it’s the go-to place for special celebrations and a special plus for Grano de Oro Hotel guests. Presenting fresh, local ingredients with a European flair, the menu offers main courses such as tilapia with herb butter, fennel, and ratatouille. The wine list is equally sophisticated for outstanding pairings or a simple glass of wine in the courtyard. The crème brûlée, with locally sourced, organic vanilla beans, is a longstanding favorite.
La Esquina de Buenos Aires, Calle 11 & Avenida 4
Monday – Friday, lunch 11:30 a.m. – 3 p.m., dinner 6 – 10:30 p.m.; Saturday & Sunday 12:30 – 10 p.m.
$$ – $$$$, reservations recommended
The atmosphere at La Esquina is a loving and authentic recreation of a little corner of Argentina’s port city, resulting in an exceptional parilla (bar and grill). The menu exhaustively represents the Argentine tradition of grilled meet: beef from strip steak to rib eye to sweetbreads, as well as seafood and poultry, plus pasta.
La Furca, Boulevard de Rohrmoser & Calle 76, kitty-corner to Banco BCT
Monday – Saturday, noon to midnight; Sunday, noon to 5:30 p.m.
$$$$, reservations recommended
Chef Marco Leiva has brought all his experience to bear to create the best in contemporary farm-to-fork dining. From the fields and the seas, Chef Leiva works with local producers to provide the freshest quality ingredients to a full range of menu choices, including steaks, vegetarian/vegan, and gluten-free dishes.
Porto 8, Plaza Tempo, Escazú
Monday – Thursday, 11:30 a.m. – 10 p.m.; Friday – Saturday, 11:30 a.m. – 11 p.m.; Sunday, 11:30 a.m. – 4 p.m.
$$ – $$$, Reservations recommended
The extensive menu’s emphasis is on the freshest quality seafood: Thai seafood soup, whole fish, calamari, grilled octopus, mussels, or share a mixed grill of octopus, tuna, calamari, and mussels. The waitstaff will make recommendations or ask the kitchen to prepare something to your liking. The sangria blanca or a margarita flor de Jamaica makes the perfect accompaniment to your meal. Fresh, quality seafood, prepared with care and attention to detail, and outstanding service make Porto 8 a must-visit while in the San José area.
Antik Restaurant + Bar, Avenida 10, Calle 21, Casa Matute Gomez
Monday – Saturday, 11 a.m. – 10 p.m., Thursday – Saturday, 8 p.m. – 6 a.m.
$ – $$$
Well-known as an excellent spot for an executive lunch in downtown San José, Antik offers a 3-course prix fixe lunch and the options change weekly. For C6000 or 10 bucks American, you can get an appetizer, entrée, dessert and a drink—hard to beat in any language. But it also leads a double life as an after-hours party place until the wee hours of the morning, Thursday through Saturday, and- they serve the best pizzas in town on the weekend for those late night munchies!
Mantras Veggie Café and Tea House, Calle 37, Barrio Escalante
Monday – Sunday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
$$ – $$$
The organic ingredients are locally sourced to provide excellent vegetarian/vegan and gluten-free options for breakfast, lunch, or brunch: fresh salads, house-made dressings, fajitas locas (big bowl), or Pad Thai. Friendly staff, outdoor seating and a great groove make Mantras one of the top vegan restaurants in the city.
Andiamo La Oeste, Santa Ana Centro, 300 Norte de la Cruz Roja, Santa Ana
Open for lunch and dinner
$$$, Reservations required
From tomato jelly to pumpkin ravioli and beyond, Andiamo La’s dedication to the best in Italian cuisine is apparent. Typical of Italian-style dining, the best option is a 5-course meal, for a taste of everything. The owner-chef specializes in homemade pastas, meats and seafood, slow food prepared to perfection. The elegant atmosphere, excellent wine cellar, and choice of indoor or outdoor seat, adds to a feeling of fine dining with the focus on companions and food.
MadFish, 100 SE de Rose Plaza en San Rafael, Escazú
Monday – Friday, noon to 3 p.m. and 6 – 8:45 p.m.; Saturday, 11 a.m. – 7 p.m.
$$ – $$$$, Reservations recommended
This cozy boutique restaurant serves excellent and imaginative ceviches that’ve been greeted with rave reviews. Using the freshest ingredients, prepared with care, other entrées include: fish with curry sauce, octopus and shrimp with rice, as well as the old standby, fish and chips. The chef will come to your table to explain the dishes and that the food is prepared at the time of your order—not ahead of time and reheated. If you want wine, BYOB.
Mad Burger and Beer, Plaza del Rio, Local #5, Ciudad Colon
Tuesday – Thursday, 4 – 11 p.m.; Friday, 4 p.m. – 1 a.m.; Saturday, noon – 1 a.m.; Sunday, noon – 10 p.m.
$$ – $$$, No reservations
If you’re on your way to or from the Central Pacific beaches and you’ve got a hankering for a good old-fashioned burger, this is a must stop in the afternoon. With handmade beef patties, you’ll have trouble getting your mouth around the juicy burgers. Sides include a bucket of fries, sweet potato fries, or onion rings. Chicken strips and veggie burgers are available for anyone who wants to avoid red meat. Artisan beer on tap, will round out the meal nicely.