Want to eat like a local when visiting Costa Rica? Then you need to head to the heart and soul of Costa Rica: the soda restaurant.
Costa Rican tourism is on steady rise which has inevitably brought fast food, American franchises and a muddling of traditional culture but one authentic tradition that hasn’t been lost are the sodas.
Sodas are what Ticos, local Costa Ricans, call a restaurant and they are usually open-spaced and serve traditional, Costa Rican cuisine. These local restaurants have maintained the traditions from generations past and are family owned which have led them to stand the test of time.
Cultured and well-informed tourists flock to the sodas to eat a delicious, Tico meal, that is casual and affordable. Nearly every soda serves the same items with vary little changes to the recipes depending on the region. These dishes have been carefully crafted and have maintained their authentic flavor since they have been passed down from family member to family member.
A few traditional items you will most likely see on a soda menu are:
Casado – Casado, translated as “married man”, is the quintessential dish of Costa Rica. It is most often served as lunch and consists of rice beans, meat (beef, chicken or seafood), a salad and a side usually of plantains or french fries.
Patacones (or tostones) – Fried plantains is a staple of Costa Rican cuisine and is often served with frijoles molidos or refried beans.
Arroz con pollo – This flavorful dish is a mixture of rice, chicken, peppers, onion and any other vegetables the chef decides to add. Its usually a large portion and may even be served with french fries.
Empanada – Inexpensive and full of flavor, Costa Rican empanadas are the country’s version of fast food. They are fried, corn tortillas stuffed with various meats (chicken, pork or beef) mixed with cheese and beans. Found in almost any soda, you an also try delicious empanadas at local stands on the street.
Gallo pinto – A typical breakfast dish found in almost any soda, gallo pinto consists of rice and beans mixed together, fried or scrambled eggs, beef, plantains and tortillas.
Batido – Frozen fruit drink mixed with water or milk.
Salsa Lozano – This sauce has become very popular throughout the country and is found at almost any soda. Its a tangy, sweet sauce that is most commonly put on casado and gallo pinto but pairs well with any Costa Rican dish.