Travel Tips: Eating in Costa Rican Restaurants: The Costa Rica Soda
Are you planning on traveling to Costa Rica? And are wondering on how much should you budget for eating in restaurants? The least expensive way to eat out is the Costa Rica Soda . This is a small family run eating establishment, not fancy but clean and offers typical Costa Rican food often cooked by the women who own the places. Service is good and prices are modest because this is where mostly the Costa Rican locals eat. The best thing to order is the “casada” or plate of the day consisting of a meat, 2 vegetables, cabbage slaw, tortillas, and a natural fresh fruit drink. Also the sodas serve sandwiches, sometimes even hamburgers and french fries. And also you may find a soda and other Costa Rican restaurants that have a buffet for a reasonable price.
What other restaurants are in Costa Rica? Locally owned and operated restaurants from the moderate priced to the gourmet restaurants which of course are very expensive.
What is moderate priced? $10-12 and up for lunch and dinner, not including alcoholic beverages.
Gourmet prices? same as in the US-expensive! But first class service, wonderful food, and an extensive wine list.
And then there are restaurants in all the above categories located in the high tourism areas. These often are overpriced for what you get.
Fast food in Costa Rica? There are the McDonalds, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Burger King, and Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell with same price as US.
Street Venders: Make sure the food is well cooked, don’t eat raw vegetables or salads from street venders. Peel the fruit before eating it.
In general what is the food like in Costa Rica? Lots fresh vegetables and fresh fruits. Meat is beef, pork, chicken, and if you are on the coast very fresh seafood. Shrimp and lobster is very expensive. Food is not hot and spicy like in Mexico. Although garlic is used extensively in Costa Rican cooking.
In tourist areas you can find restaurant from all over the world- Italian, Chinese, Japanese, Mexican, and French. Great freshly baked bread and pastries from German and French bakeries.
To make the long story short, Costa Rican food is very good and very nutritious because it is fresh and locally grown, and usually freshly prepared. Fresh vegetables are always offered. These vegetables are grown very close to the Central Valley and to truck them in takes only a couple hours.
Should I drink the water? Costa Rica has good water and plenty of it, the water source is usually from a vein high up on the side of the mountain. Pure when coming out of the earth. However, I have had tourist who want to drink only bottled water and that is OK also. Bottled water is readily available everywhere in Costa Rica.
Other tips: Costa Rican beer is very good and not expensive. Imperial is my favorite. Costa Rica makes its own rum which is good but to me not as good as the Cuban rum or Puerto Rican or the rum from Haiti.
Wine: Costa Rica does not make it’s own wine. The soil and climate is not suitable. However, one can find wine from all over the world. A lot of very good wine from Chile can be purchased at reasonable prices.
Patience: We are accustomed to fast food establishments here in US where we order and the food comes in five minutes. Well, in Costa Rica that is not the case, unless of course you are eating at McDonalds. Service sometimes, according to our standards, is slow. But that is the culture. Costa Ricans don’t rush around all the time, looking constantly at their watches.
Keep all receipts if paying by credit card so when you return home you can double check that the correct amount was charged. Also check the bill before you sign it for accuracy, and cross out any blanks. The bill will be in colones (the Costa Rican monetary unit) so you will need to know the exchange rate on that day to convert it to dollars.
Tipping in restaurants and sales tax that is added to your bill: You bill will have 10% for tips already added to it when your see the TOTAL on your bill. The bills are designed so you can see a column for tax and tips. You could add some to that for very good service-if you wish. Also there is a 13% tax (you will see it on the bill) This is a sales tax.