Just have a look at the map, where we have shown just some of the local spots. There are plenty more. We will continually add to this page more and more establishments as well as reviews.
While it’s not that close to Hostel Bekuo, this is where you are likely to find some of our guests and most certainly some of the staff on Wednesday nights. Negotiate the quirky wrought-iron-and-burlap revolving door at the entrance, and you’ve made it into one of San José’s few Middle Eastern restaurants. The Lebanese owners serve a wide variety of dishes from their native region, so if you can’t decide, the mezza serves two people and gives you a little bit of everything. For your own individual dish, try the juicy shish kebab de cordero (of lamb), or if you’re feeling especially adventurous, the raw ground-meat kebbe naye (with wheat meal) and kafta naye (without wheat meal). A hip bar in the back serves the same menu, and on Wednsesdays is the hot spot in San Jose featuring local Dj’s and an incredible mix of locals and young ex-pats.
You don’t have to go to Limón or Cahuita to get good home-cooked Caribbean food. In addition to rondon, a coconut milk-based stew or soup, you can also get the classic rice and beans cooked in coconut milk, as well as a range of fish and chicken dishes from the coastal region. I like the whole red snapper covered in a spicy sauce of sautéed onions. There’s a small bar at the entrance and some simple tables spread around the restaurant, with an alcove here and there. Everything is very simple, and prices are quite reasonable. After a dinner of fresh fish, with rice, beans, and patacones, the only letdown is that the beach is some 4 hours away.
San José has hundreds of Chinese restaurants, but most simply serve up tired takes on chop suey, chow mein, and fried rice. In contrast, Tin Jo has a wide and varied menu, with an assortment of Cantonese and Szechuan staples, as well as a range of Thai, Japanese, and Malaysian dishes, and even some Indian food. This is San José’s only true Pan-Asian restaurant. In the Thai room an 11-meter (39-foot) mural depicts a Buddhist temple. You can select from all of the above cuisines, with menus to match the varied dining areas. It’s also a restaurant that pays attention to the details. Some of the dishes are served in edible rice-noodle bowls, and the pineapple shrimp in coconut-milk curry is served in the hollowed-out half of a fresh pineapple. Dishes not to miss include the salt-and-pepper shrimp, beef teriyaki, and Thai curries. For dessert, try the sticky rice with mango, or banana tempura. The waiters here are some of the most attentive in Costa Rica. The decor features artwork and textiles from across Asia, and you’ll have real tablecloths and cloth napkins. Tin Jo is also a great option for vegetarians, and even vegans.
Tin Jo stands out with always exceptional food, attention to detail, and attentive service that make it, hands down, the country’s top Asian restaurant.
Mon-Sat 11:30am-3pm and 5:30-10pm (Fri-Sat kitchen open ’til 11pm); Sun 11:30am-10pm
Calle 11, between avs. 6 and 8
Phone: 2221-7605, 2257-3622
Jazz Cafe, located right on the Pan-American “highway” (it’s a two lane street) is a great place for food and drinks, while enjoying amazing live music. The atmosphere is a little up-sacale but not pretentious at all. Along the wall, there are hand made clay busts of the worlds most famous Jazz musicians. While it’s call Jazz Cafe, the live music ranges from Jazz, to rock, as well as some amazing 100% percussion shows.
Cover charges vary, depending on the prominence of the musical act, but usually fluctuate between US$4 and US$6 for local groups. It’s 50m west of old Banco Popular.
The Vyrus bars is located in Los Yoses/San Pedro, just 2 blocks from Bekuo, and is considered one of the best bars for rock music in San Jose. While you definitely won’t be impressed by the decor (picture 80′s dive bar, then make it half as nice) but the music is great if you’re looking for a night of 80′s or 90′s flashbacks. The upstairs balcony overlooks the street and it’s refreshing to sit outside. They also have a large projection screen outside showing old music videos, it’s definitely entertaining. The prices are great and if you’r elooking for some decent, cheap bocas, then it’s a good spot. If you get bored, you can always head next door to Roots, San Jose’s most popular reggae bar.
Set in a century old red brick house on the corner of a small street and Costa Rica’s recently revived rail system, Olio has been pleasing loyal patrons for years. Olio draws a diverse crowd in part because of its location; not too far from the University, not too far from downtown, not too far from the host of businesses located in and around San Pedro.
Inside you’ll find a restaurant divided into several small but comfortable and well decorated rooms. There is a small bar area in the back where you’ll find patrons bellied up to the bar enjoying tapas, and a small adjacent alcove for bar overflow. There are two good sized front rooms and a slightly smaller space for dining, as well as occasionally some tables set up outside on the railroad track side of the building (although not during rush hour, as the train is running during that time) for people that don’t want to deal with any smoke. One side of the restaurant is non-smoking already, and the government is even moving forward with legislation to ban smoking inside of public places, joining their North American brethren in legislating second hand smoke.
On the menu you’ll find an amazing selection of dishes; amazing tapas like bruschetta and stuffed mushrooms, followed by a lengthy and mouthwatering list of pasta’s, local meats, and fresh fish. The extensive wine list features wines for every budget from Italy, France, Spain, Germany, Chile, Greece, South Africa and Australia. You will find the staff to be attentive and well trained. A small perk for foreigners is that their credit card machine charges in dollars, which won’t leave you pondering the exchange rate or seeing extra charges for currency conversions on your bank statement. As far as prices go, Olio is one of the best bang for your buck restaurants in the entire city. Considering the atmosphere, quality of food and service, and portion size it’s one of the best deals around.
Olio is located in Barrio Escalante 200 meters north of Bagelmans. Open Monday through Friday 11:30 A.M. to 1 A.M., and Saturday 4 P.M. to midnight.
Bar Rio, located on Avenida Central in Los Yoses, just west of Mall San Pedro, is one of the cities longest running bars. With a simple layout, fair prices, and some decent food, Rio has managed to outlast dozens of other bars that simply try too hard to do whatever they’re trying to do.
Located right on Avenida Central, Rio has become a regular stop for a lot of Chepenos trying to avoid the horrendous rush our traffic. Many will pull over, find a parking spot on the frontage road and have a couple of beers, while watching a football match and waiting for traffic to die down. The bar is also the preffered watering hole for guests from two of the areas hostels, Casa Yoses and Hostel Bekuo. For University of Costa Rica, Rio offers a more relaxed atmosphere than the craziness that is constant at La Calle de Amargura.
If you frequent Bar Rio, it won’t take long for the staff to remember you. Elvis and Manuel seem to be constantly on duty, and while elvis looks pissed off most of the time, and is constantly distracted by the beautiful women that frequent Rio, he still manages to keep a full beer on your table. Manuel is the kid of server that everyone in Costa Rica wishes they had working for them.
Last fall, Rio started a major remodeling operation, and even expanded the size of the bar by taking over the old Domino’s Pizza location next door. The front of the building and inside look brand new. There are new flat screens for enjoying sporting events, and the men’s room even has actual urinals, as opposed to a trough with water dripping in it like so many other bars in Costa Rica. they even picked up a new waiter, he’s the tall guy, but we haven’t gotten his name yet.
If you’re looking for good bar food, Rio has it. Don’t miss the chifrijo, a splendid mix of pork, beans and rice, with tostados on the side. For the bottomless stomach, there are many other great tapas or main dishes like filet mignon or enchiladas. Hours vary from dry season to rainy season, you can call to see if their open at 2225-8371.
There’s truth to the last Lonely Planet guide published for Costa Rica, where it’s written “…you’d be hard pressed to find a neighborhood boasting better restaurants than San Pedro and Los Yoses.” Jurgen’s is one of the restaurants that certainly raises the bar as far as dining goes in Costa Rica. You’ll find poached salmon with a dill sauce, and grilled tilapia with a Dijon mustard sauce, roasted duck and tuna fillet encrusted with sesame seeds. The steaks are top cuts of beef, locally raised and perfectly prepared. On any given night, locals may notice some welterweights from the Costa Rica political scene, or some of the more well heeled families enjoying an elegant dinner. Located on the Boulevard Los Yoses, a nice bending road that cuts from the heart of Los Yoses to the Rotunda de la Bandera, Jurgen’s is easily accessable for anyone from downtown and to the east.
As with many mid-level and upper end restaurants in the area, there is an extensive wine list. Maybe have a glass or two, or share a bottle, and then hit the nearby Automercado on the way home to save some cash.
While this isn’t a budget option by any means, it’s always nice to finish up a country with a great meal. Often, Costa Rica is the final stop for a lot of round-the-word trippers. The lighting is low, there is a loungey atmosphere, and service is extremely professional, which makes it a great spot for a traveling couple to escape to for a romantic dinner.
Jurgen’s is open Monday-Friday, noon-2:30pm and 6-10pm; Sat 6-10:30pm. The restaurant is Inside Hotel Jade, 2 1/2 blocks north of the Subaru dealership, Los Yoses, San Pedro/Los Yoses. For reservations call 2283-2239.
Walking through the eastern barrios of San Jose like San Pedro, Los Yoses, Barrio Dent, Barrio Escalante, and others, will give you a constant reminder of the train system that Costa Rica used to have running from Coast to Coast. From Limon to Caldera and on to Puntarenas, the train carried cargo and passengers since it’s inception in 1873, and was completed in 1890. In the 1930′s, part of the rail system was even electrified. In 1991, a strong earthquake brought so much damage to the system, that the cost was too high to bring it back to it’s original operating condition, and in 1995 the governemtn ceased operatios all together. However, since 2003, the railroad has been operatig again in San Jose as a sort of light-rail system for commuters. Although there’s nothing light about it – the system is using heavy diesel pumpers to pull the trains – the train lumbers across San Jose, from San Pedro to the University of Costa Rica, all the way west to Pavas. There is even a line that is running from San Jose to Puntarenas, privately operated and directed at tourists.
What does the Costa Rican railroad system have to do with an amazing pizza place in Barrio Escalante? If you didn’t ride the train, you might never know it was there. Right along a section of the tracks that runs from Barrio Escalante to Barrio California, with no access to a street, is Lolo’s, in small yellow house. when you walk through the front door and into the living room, what is now the restaurant, a feeling of being at home sweeps over you. Not just because it is a home, but because the inside is tastefully and comfortably decorated, making it feel like you just walked into your slightly extravagant aunt’s house. In the back is the totally open kitchen, where you can see the small staff effortlessly tossing pizza dough or preparing lush green salads.
Sit down to an impressive selection of pizza toppings and style, as well as a deep wine list that has a variety of international flavor. The service is excellent, the ambience, even the music is enjoyable. Prices are super reasonable, and a large pizza can fill even the heartiest of 3 stomachs. We know when travelers come to San Jose, or Costa Rica in general, that pizza isn’t something that they are really excited to experience. But when you get tired of rice and beans, an awesome pizza can be a welcomed change of flavor.
Lolo’s can be found in Barrio Escalante. From Avenida Central, head north from Bagelmans, turn right at the first corner. When you hit the railroad tracks make another right, Lolo’s is a few doors down on your right hand side.