Downtown & Barrio Amón

Costa Rica Eats Restaurant Guide: Downtown & Barrio Amón


Café Mundo √√√ ♥


Calle 15 and Avenida 9, 200 m east and 100 north of the INS building

INTERNATIONAL One of the trendiest restaurants downtown, food quality here is hit-or-miss, but the ambiance and vibe still make it a good choice. Tables are scattered around the various rooms, patios and verandas of this restored old mansion. Contemporary artwork and a lively bohemian crowd fill the rest of the empty spaces. You can get everything from traditional Tico standards to chicken satay, but pizzas and pastas are their strong suit. Mon–Thurs 11am–10:30pm; Fri 11am–11:30pm; Sat 5–11:30pm. $$$


Cafetería 1930 


Avenida 2 between Calles 1 and 3, in the Gran Hotel Costa Rica

INTERNATIONAL The food here is simply acceptable, but the people-watching from the wrought-iron tables on the outdoor patio overlooking the Plaza de la Cultura is some of the best in San José. Daily 6am-11pm. $$$


Café Teatro Nacional  √√√ ♥


Avenida 2 and Calle 3, inside the National Theater

BISTRO/COFFEEHOUSE Located in the beautiful lobby of the Teatro Nacional (or National Theater), this place features a small but appetizing menu of hearty salads, inviting sandwiches and continental main courses. When the weather’s nice there’s outdoor seating overlooking the Plaza de la Cultura. In addition to the official hours listed here, they are open until 8pm any evening when there’s a performance on at the theater. Mon-Sat 9am-4:30pm. $$


Don Wang √√√


Calle 11 between Avenidas 6 and 8

CHINESE A good bet for classic Chinese cooking in downtown San José. Don Wang features homemade Dim Sum and a host of Cantonese dishes. There’s less emphasis on Szechwan cuisine, but you can certainly get a couple of spicy dishes if you want. In fact, in an obvious effort to keep up with their neighbor, Tin Jo, they even offer up a few Thai and Indian dishes. Sun-Thu 11am-10pm; Fri-Sat 11am-11pm. $$$


Kalú Café √√√√ ♥


Calle 7 and Avenida 11

BISTRO/BAKERY The handiwork of chef Camille Perez-Raton, his place is delightful. The main open-air dining space is a covered, back patio. The food is light, creative and well-prepared, and much of it is quite healthy. You can get a range of soups, salads, pizzas, paninis and more substantial dishes. There’s a daily lunch special that’s always a bargain. This place attracts a hip and creative crowd. Attached to the restaurant you’ll find some art gallery space and an excellent artsy gift shop, Boutique Kiosko. Mon 11:30am–6pm; Tues–Sat 11:30am–9:30pm.


La Esquina de Buenos Aires √√√√ ♥


Calle 11 and Avenida 4

GRILL/STEAKHOUSE This very popular downtown Argentine joint has a lovely ambience. The large, open dining room features well-spaced tables, with slow-turning ceiling fans and Porteño-inspired photos and artworks. While the strong suit here are grilled steaks and meat dishes, the menu runs the gamut from tasty fresh to good pastas—try the homemade ravioli stuffed with artichoke hearts and nuts in a porcini sauce. Mon–Fri 11:30am–3pm and 6–10:30pm; Sat–Sun noon to 10pm.. $$$$


Restaurante Nuestra Tierra √√


Avenida 2 and Calle 15, across from La Plaza de la Democracia

COSTA RICAN This simple restaurant serves up good Costa Rican cuisine in a rustic ambiance meant to recreate a sense of rural Costa Rica from a bygone era. Whole strings of fresh onions and banana bunches are hung all around, and the staff is dressed in traditional garb. A very touristy feel to be sure, but this is still a good option for lunch or a casual meal literally anytime, and very inexpensive. Street noise and bus fumes can be a problem, however. Daily 24 hours. $$


Shakti √√


Avenida 8 and Calle 13

VEGETARIAN This place specializes in vegetarian and vegan dishes, and fresh fruit drinks. Large salads, veggie burgers and steamed root vegetables are the forte here, although I find the seasoning a bit timid and uninspired. A small shop in front sells natural products and foods. Mon-Fri 7:30am-7pm; Sat 8am-6pm. $$


Tin Jo √√√√ ♥


Calle 11, between Avenidas 6 and 8

CHINESE/PAN ASIAN San José’s best Pan-Asian restaurant, Tin Jo boasts a vast menu, excellent service, and inviting ambiance. The menu here features dishes from Thailand, Vietnam, Japan, Indonesia, and, of course, China. Most dishes are real winners, and there’s a broad selection of truly vegetarian options. Each of the various dining rooms is decorated in a distinct regional theme, many featuring artworks by prominent local artists. Mon-Thu 11:30am-3pm and 5:30pm-10pm; Fri-Sat 11:30am-3pm and 5:30pm-11pm; Sun 11:30am-10pm. $$$$


Vishnu Himalayas √√


Avenida 1, between Calles 1 and 3

VEGETARIAN So popular they have some 10 branches, this place serves healthy meatless meals. Some dishes are tastier and better prepared than others. I stick to the salads, juices and veggie burgers. Huge plato del día (daily special) changes regularly. Mon-Sat 7am-9:30pm; Sun. 9am-7:30 pm. $

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