Restaurants: Pig in the Ground and the Beer on Ice

June 2002
I was thinking about some things that I didn’t mention about Costa Rica. And, I am contemplating moving to Eugene, Oregon, in order to finish a book, and thoughts of opening a small restaurant there have crossed my mind – Brandon’s Bayou: The Elegant, Redneck Experience.

Does anybody think that it will work?

So, this article is going to mostly be about restaurants in Costa Rica.

First, let me say a couple of things:

  1. This has been bothering me for some weeks now. BUT, Phyllis Collins, if you see this article� I tried for a solid week to get in touch with you, to no avail… so did Ant. Neither of us could get through to the email address that you gave me. Please try again.


  2. Along these lines, I would like to say: I ALWAYS answer everybody that emails me. ALWAYS. Then, WHY, in the name of the God of Self-Importance, can’t those writers that I email on answer me?


  3. PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE read ALL of the articles that I have written BEFORE you ask me about a cheap place to stay in San Jose. I have said it like three times in a couple of articles: The Gran Hotel Imperial off of Calle Ocho: it’s $5/night for a single with a shared bathroom, and they have an internet caf� and restaurant/bar on the premises. It is the backpacker hotel in San Jose, Costa Rica.


  4. Once and for all, I did not go to the Caribbean coast… it rains too much… I don’t smoke dope… if I wanted to go to Jamaica, then I would have gone, well, to Jamaica.

Now, on to the restaurant scene in Costa Rica.

San Jose
I am really partial to two bar/restaurants in DOWNTOWN San Jose. I have mentioned them before, but I think that they are worth mentioning again.

  • Bar/Soda Morazon in THE HEART of Gringo Gulch across from Parque Morazon. It’s also called The Green Bar because it’s green on the inside and outside. They serve typical Tico fare and it’s pretty good; also, the beer is reasonably priced – that’s what sells me. It is around the corner from The Hotel Del Rey (which is managed by a good friend of mine, Jeff Ruzicka, and partially owned by his Uncle. Even Ruzicka knows that I cannot abide paying $5/beer in his Blue Marlin Bar, when I could be around the corner in The Green Bar paying $.75/beer and getting drunk for $5. The Green Bar is a half-Tico/half-gringo place. There are tourists and locals of all types.


  • Also, Bar 1930: this is an all-Tico place, but the last few times that I was in there I saw a few Americans and then, I take American friends of mine with me. Not for the girls though; this place is a cantina. The Tico fare is outstanding at Bar 1930.

San Pedro

  • One of the only cheapie places in San Pedro, the University area, is Soda La U, as in Soda La Universidad. It’s a fast food place at the end of the street behind The Church of San Pedro. Cheap, greasy, tasty cheeseburgers, and even cheaper beer. They close early, like 8pm. It’s a University hang out, obviously.


  • Sands it’s just a bar; I don’t even know if they serve food. Sands is across the street from Mall San Pedro and is the cheapest "bar" in San Pedro. On Monday nights they have 2×1 beer and it IS the cheapest bar in San Pedro, maybe even all of San Jose. Two beers for something like C380 – they’re more expensive than that when you buy them in the grocery store.


  • Il Ponte Vecchio is an Italian restaurant owned by an American. It is just past the rotunda in San Pedro. Very, very good food, expensive for Tico land, but not if you are used to taking a girl out to a nice dinner in The United States. I was last in there with Grace, my 18-year old gambling date for that night. Grace and I worked together at a sports book and she likes to gamble; I thought that a late dinner would be a nice touch. We had a full meal: salad, entrée, dessert, bottle of wine, etc., and I don’t think the bill was more than $50. The place has plenty of atmosphere: the American owner didn’t forget what was going on once he got to Costa Rica. I highly recommend this place.


  • Escazu is the Gringo Suburb of San Jose. El Che is priced accordingly. El Che is an Argentine Steak House with a sort of a sports bar feel. The food is fantastic, beer is reasonable. I was usually only in there with "the boys," so I can’t attest to their wine selection. But, you see couples having dinner there regularly.

At the Beach

  • Jaco
    • El Zarpe is the Gringo bar that you will see at the bus station in Jaco. Zarpe’s has good food and IS a sports bar. Lynn, the owner, is a friendly American woman. Her staff speaks English. The beer is reasonable. Be prepared to pay a little more than a Tico place, but it is worth it.


    • Suzy-Q’s. This place is the reason that I even wrote this article. Marvin, the owner, is a friend of mine. Suzy-Q’s is only open from 5pm-9pm, Tuesday through Sunday evenings. There is one waitress, Sue, and they don’t serve beer or liquor (supposedly). Marvin does all of the cooking himself – and Marvin makes a mean rack of ribs. The food is ridiculously low-priced. I highly recommend this place when you are feeling a little homesick, as it’s all American fare… hell, I highly recommend this place anytime. As far as the beer goes, just tell Marvin that I sent you and he might be able to scrounge up a six-pack to sell you (nudge, nudge).


    • El Rincon del Mar is on the opposite side of town from Suzy-Q’s. This place is primarily a bar, with one catch: for every beer or drink that you order, then they serve you a boca (appetizer) to go with it – and I’m not talking about peanuts and popcorn. The bocas are huge and are some of the best food in town; they vary everyday. The bartender writes them down on the back of a cigarette carton – that’s your "menu". You’d better get drunk before you go, because after a couple of beers and bocas you’ll be stuffed.


  • Quepos/Manuel Antonio
    I more or less covered the best restaurants in Quepos/ Manuel Antonio in my article Manuel Antonio is for Lovers, but I am still pitching La Liga Bar for your Tico bar with good food and cheap beer. The owner’s name is Henry and he speaks no English. Go to Karola’s for tasty seafood at Gringo prices and El Gato Negro for Italian food made by real Italians (that translates to "really good"). Finally, it’s The Mar y Sombra for breakfast on the beach.

Now, back to my restaurant idea� who thinks that it’ll work?