Eat List: San José, Costa Rica
Criolla market stalls, cafés, tasting menus and maybe the best Chinese restaurant in Central America.
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During the start of the pandemic much of San José, Costa Rica’s oft ignored yet oddly charming capital, emptied out and left for the beaches on the Pacific. Some stalwart restaurants closed, and many chefs moved on. The period gave the city a chance to take a breath and reinvent itself.
While many of the beach areas are still plagued by too much of the same – gringo brewpubs, steakhouses and overpriced Italian food – San José’s dining scene is increasingly diverse, despite its relatively small size. The metropolitan area as a whole, which includes several large suburbs, is smaller than Memphis, Tennessee. Yet, the population is young, creative and diverse, which is clearly evident in neighborhoods east of the center like Barrio Escalante where independent concepts have displaced any sense of the fast food and international that plagues other parts of the city.
The city’s gastronomic soul, the old school criolla stalls in the Mercado Central and neighborhood sodas, haven’t gone anywhere. They’re still the cornerstone of the city’s food scene, alongside the vast network of farmers markets, called ferias, that ring the city. Joining them are fine dining restaurants infused with endemic ingredients, innovative bakeries, specialty coffee shops, natural wine bars and maybe the best Chinese restaurant in Central America. Here are my picks:
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