Getting to spend a week traveling around central Costa Rica with my dad was a rare treat. This bonding trip was a last hurrah before I become a father myself, so we tried to pack in as much as possible. In between spotting poison dart frogs during rainforest treks, fishing for guapote (rainbow trout) in a primordial lake at the center of an extinct volcano crater, and relaxing in natural hot springs, we had a chance to check out the local food scene. These are my favorite culinary moments from our adventuresome excursion.
We had the best meal of the trip up in the cloud forest settlement of Monteverde. This tiny, backroom restaurant at the local artists cooperative serves well-executed comida tipica (traditional food) that’s equally fresh, flavorful, and filling. My arroz con pollo (rice with chicken) came with small salad and a glass of just-juiced guanabana (soursop), all of it simply delicious and well priced.
Stumbled across on an unassuming side street in the dusty tourist town of La Fortuna, this diminutive squeezed-to-order café came as a welcome surprise on a hot afternoon. I opted for a strawberry-mango smoothie, while Dad ordered a show stealing mango batido – fresh fruit blended with milk and ice – that I wanted to steal as soon as I’d tried a sip.
Otherwise known as the German Bakery (not to be confused with the Austrian Bakery, which is just a few doors down the hill), this laidback operation in Nuevo Arenal is perfect for breakfast. Strong cappuccinos go well with a basket of the house-made rolls and hearty whole wheat toast, or maybe one of their winning cinnamon buns.
My favorite coffee in the world comes from one of the most difficult-to-reach roasters on the planet. Their rich dark roast is more than worth the three-hour drive over pothole-riddled dirt roads. A pick-me-up espresso was so outstanding that my 85-year-old father declared it was one of the best he had ever enjoyed in his entire life. And this is coming from a guy who has enjoyed dopios from the tip to the top of Italy.
This unassuming gem in Nuevo Arenal offers an excellent representation of regional fare. Breakfasts were particularly memorable. I always ordered a casado – a plate full of scrambled eggs, gallo pinto (spiced rice and beans), fresh slices of avocado, a few fried plantains, fresh sour cream or a slab of fresh Costa Rican cheese, and one or two palm-sized tortillas.