Eating and drinking

Food


Few people return from Costa Rica raving about the national dish. The food is simple, relying heavily on the staples of rice and beans. Mixed with shredded beef, chicken or sometimes fish, served with a couple of warmed tortillas and you have the dish of
casado
that fuels the majority of the country's workers. Only you will know how long you can enjoy the pleasures of rice and beans day after day. One way of spicing up the food is with liberal helpings of
Salsa Lizano
which is always somewhere near the dinner table.

If you want to try national dishes the best place to head for is the central markets. While general advice is to avoid markets, fairly good food hygiene and food sold so quickly it barely has time to go off make most markets in Costa Rica a safe bet. You can tell if the food is good by the number of people waiting. The market is also a fairly good place to pick up fruit and salad if you want to prepare food yourself. Naturally you will need to clean it, but the produce is often fresher than it is in supermarkets - and a fraction of the price.

Courtesy of the influx of nationalities from around the globe, dining in Costa Rica is tantamount to culinary globetrotting. You have the freedom to explore national delights one day, and more familiar dishes from around the globe the next.

Local restaurants tend to do most of their business at lunch times when
comida típica
(typical food) is served at a cost of a few dollars. More upmarket restaurants improve the level of service, atmosphere, food and, naturally, augment the price. You'll find almost anything your palette desires in San José - French, Italian, Asian, Pacific fusion, seafood - and in the more popular locations round the country. Further afield you can enjoy regional specialities and menu limitations.

Drink

Being a fairly conservative nation, Costa Ricans don't indulge heavily in drinking. On Friday and Saturday nights the streets are not filled with people struggling from one bar to another - but the bars are lively. Once you've tapped into the local happening bar, beer is the lubricant of choice with
Imperial
and
Pilsen
being the most popular lagers and
Bavaria
a darker malty option. The spirit of choice and convenience is rum (
ron
). Other spirits and good wine find their way to the tables of bars and restaurants as the price rises. How much do you need a gin 'n' tonic? The sugar-cane, falling-over juice found in dive-bars hidden down poorly lit alleys and best kept there is
Guaro
- guaranteed to provide a sore head and a night you won't forget, even if it is only for the headache the following day.
Café Rica
is a caffeine-based liquor, true to the country's coffee origins.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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