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Central America Guide
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Username: Central

Post Number: 4
Registered: 5-2004

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Restaurants

Ambrosia
Centro Comercial de la C. Real
San Pedro, Costa Rica
Phone 253-8012
Cost $5 to $20
Downtown San José
Eclectic
The navy-blue canopy of an open-air shopping mall heralds this chic restaurant in San Pedro. The menu is international, featuring inventive salads, soups, pasta, and fish dishes. Start with sopa Neptuna (a creamy fish soup with tomato and bacon), and follow with either the light fettuccine ambrosia (in a rich cream sauce with ham and oregano) or the corvina troyana (covered with a shrimp and tarragon sauce). The atmosphere is relaxed, and the informal decor matches the adventurous cooking: watercolors, wood and cane chairs, and plants. AE, DC, MC, V. Closed around Easter and last wk in Dec. No dinner Sun.

Café Mundo
C. 15 and Avda 9, Barrio Otoya
San José, Costa Rica
Phone 222-6190
Cost $5 to $20
Downtown San José
Eclectic
You could easily walk by this corner restaurant without noticing its tiny sign behind the foliage. Walk in and upstairs, however, and you'll discover an elegant eatery serving some excellent food. You can dine on the porch, on a garden patio, or in any of several dining rooms. Chicagoan chef Ray Johnson offers a creative array of salads, pastas, pizzas, hot and cold sandwiches at lunchtime, and grill dishes for dinner. Start with the soup of the day and some fresh-baked bread; then try penne in a shrimp and vegetable cream sauce or lomito en salsa de vino tinto (tenderloin in a red-wine sauce). Save room for the best chocolate cake in town. AE, MC, V. Closed Sun., around Easter, and last wk in Dec.

Casa Luisa
Avda. 4 and C 40,
southeast of the landmark
Controlaria building;
Sabana Park South,
San José, Costa Rica
Phone 296-1917
Cost over $10
Downtown San José
Spanish
The moment you enter this homey, upscale Catalan restaurant, you sense you're in for a special evening. Its ambience is eclectic and artful, with wood floors, arresting artwork, soft lighting, and Flamenco music in the background. Start the meal with gazpacho or eggplant pâté, accompanied by a glass of top Spanish wine. The wonderful main dishes include rosemary lamb chops, suckling pig, and grilled lobster. Finish with a platter of nuts, dates, and figs drizzled with a wine sauce or, for the decadent, a crema Catalana with a brűlée glaze. For paella, the popular seafood and rice dish, call and order at least two hours in advance. Reservations are recommended. MC, V. Closed Sun.

Eco-Shakti
Avda. 8, between Cs.
13 and 11,
San José, Costa Rica
Phone 222-4475
Cost under $10
Downtown San José
Vegetarian
Between the baskets of fruit and vegetables at the entrance and the glass-topped terrarium tables, there's no doubting you're in a vegetarian-friendly joint. Serving breakfast and lunch, the restaurant offers soy burgers, pita sandwiches (veg or chicken, for carnivorous dining companions), macrobiotic shakes, and a hearty plato del día that comes with soup, green salad, and fruit beverage. The ensalada mixta is a meal in itself and features a large variety of root vegetables native to Costa Rica. The atmosphere is on the bohemian side - incense burns throughout the afternoon. Good food makes this a popular alternative to the meat-based lunch specials around town. Reservations not accepted. No credit cards. Closed Easter and last wk in Dec. No dinner.

II Ponte Vecchio
100 yards east and
25 yards north of
Fuente de la Hispanidad,
San José, Costa Rica
Cost $5 to $20
Downtown San José
Italian
A simple, romantic setting and good food have kept this little Italian place in San Pedro popular for years. After a Caprese salad, tuck into one of the many homemade pasta specialties, such as seafood pasta with oysters and shrimp or traditional tomato lasagna. Cream sauces are excellent across the board. To top it all off, there's a wide array of Italian wines. AE, MC, V.

Mama's Place
Avda. 1 between Cs Central and 2,
San José, Costa Rica
Phone 223-2270
Food under $10
Downtown San José
Costa Rican
Mama's is a Costa Rican restaurant with a difference: the owners are Italian, so in addition to arroz con pollo and corvina al ajillo (sautéed with garlic), they serve homemade seafood chowder, an array of pastas, and meat dishes with delicate wine sauces. The brightly decorated coffee shop opens onto busy Avenida 1; the more subdued restaurant is upstairs. At lunchtime, it's usually packed with business types drawn to the delicious and inexpensive daily specials and macrobiotic shakes. AE, MC, V. Closed Sun., around Easter, and last wk in Dec.

Manolo's Restaurante
Avenida Central between Calle Central and Calle 2
Open Daily 11:30am-10pm upstairs;
24 hours downstairs.
Tel 506 221-2041
Downtown San José
Latin American Inexpensive
All items $3-$10
Credit Cards: AE, MC V.
Spread over three floors, on a busy corner on Avenida Central, you'll find this large popular restaurant. Take a first-floor table to view the action passing by on the street, or catch the live folk-dance performances that are staged nightly upstairs. The open kitchen serves: steaks and fish, also a popular buffet that includes several Costa Rican dishes: plátanos, black-bean soup, etc. for about $5usd. The first floor has the feel of a diner. A good place for a quick sandwich or the fried dough churros and a cup of coffee--or espresso. There's another Manolo's located on Avenida Central and Calle 11.

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