If you want to taste the best Costa Rican dishes, San Jose has a vibrant culinary scene offering a wide variety of dining options for the whole family. But with so many choices, where exactly do you go? Here are my recommendations for some of the best restaurants in San Jose Costa Rica to get you started.
Note- over and over I read about great food in Barrio Escalante. It’s the ideal place to walk around and menu shop before you choose a dinner spot. If you can’t make it there, these are some of my favorite places from around Costa Rica’s capital city- map them and I bet one will be near where you are traveling!
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Tin Jo Asian Restaurant
I love Asian food, and this is hands down some of the best Asian food I have had anywhere in the world. From special occasions to a night out in San Jose, I highly recommend Tin Jo for some really good food.
Tin Jo combines elegant Latin American design with authentic Asian details, Tin Jo is a fantastic spot for people looking for true Asian cuisine in downtown San Jose. The menu is diverse, featuring specials from India, China, Indonesia, Korea, Japan, and Thailand and a host of vegetarian and gluten-free options. No matter what you pick, every bite will leave you craving for more!
Sit in one of the five themed rooms dedicated to different Asian cultures and enjoy magical selections from a fare of your choice. Start with the Sushi Maki or Tom Kha Gai Chicken Soup. Then grab some Steamed Fish Fillet before wrapping things up with a Banana Tempura or a margarita cocktail.
Children can have something from their own menu too; there’s Pollo Chicken, Fried Tofu, Baked Potatoes, and other fun kid food prepared to perfection to transport young diners who have had their fill of local cuisines to a land far, far away, one bite at a time.
Note- I had to include this restaurant on the list because it’s one of my favorites! It’s not really a great family dining spot though, so if you can leave the kids at home I would.
Restaurante Grano de Oro
Experience fine dining in this cozy and modishly decorated restaurant, famed for its alluring international and local cuisines. Located in the luxurious boutique hotel called Hotel Grano de Oro, Restaurante Grano de Oro specializes in French-Mediterranean cuisine made from fresh local ingredients and tropical flavors and it does it well.
There are plenty of fares to get your juices flowing- like the famous Crème Brûlée. But don’t succumb to their sweetness before sampling the heavenly Costa Rican organic snails in puff pastry or the local seabass delicately crusted with macadamia nuts.
Your kids will delight their taste buds with the breaded chicken breast fingers or other bonne bouches from the children’s menu. Certainly a place for the whole family. Just don’t forget to leave room for dessert – that Tarte Tatin is really just as toothsome as it sounds!
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For authentic traditional Costa Rican dishes, check out La Criollita. The brightly colored interior covered with framed art gives this laid-back family-friendly eatery a fun, funky vibe and a welcoming ambiance, making it a favorite of many. If you prefer to eat outside, there’s a cozy patio in the back for outdoor seating with beautiful wrought iron furniture where you can enjoy your meals as you watch a family of birds flit about their houses.
You will love the hefty portions of fish and chicken served with white rice, black beans, and salad, created to satisfy both hungry locals and foreigners famished from long flights. Get your stomach ready with the Tico-style ceviche, chicken soup, or any other treat from the wide selection of Costa Rican appetizers. Desserts are a real bargain too; the flan, tres leches, cheesecakes, and local pastries are definitely something you want to try before you leave.
It’s important, however, to note that lunchtime fills up quite early with people working nearby, so make sure to go before it gets too busy.
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This restaurant is absolutely amazing and if you can go, I highly recommend it. We’ve taken my parents and they are as enamored with the best view in all of Costa Rica as they are with the excellent service and friendly staff.
At Mirador Ram Luna, you’ll not only taste some of the best traditional Costa Rican dishes, you’ll also have a taste of contemporary Costa Rican cuisine as well. On weekends, there is also traditional music- marimba and cimarrona, folk dances, and shows from local artists.
Commemorating a special day? This is an excellent spot to celebrate birthdays and anniversaries with your loved ones too. Soak up every moment with breathtaking views of the magnificent Central Valley radiating the brilliance of the colorful lights from the capital.
If you have a craving for traditional Costa Rican food, I promise you, it will not be easy to leave Ram Luna. Everything from main courses to desserts screams Costa Rican heritage. Try the olla de carne meat stew, picadillo de arracache, or a bowl of chifrijo. You’ll not forget the experience.
This restaurant has an extensive wine list which is fairly rare in Costa Rica, and also serves up local beers and craft brews. Cocktail menu is on point.
Related post: Costa Rican Cocktails and Alcoholic Drinks
Another eatery that gives top restaurants in Costa Rica (and I’d argue all of Latin America) a run for their money with its spectacular display of local indigenous dishes is Sikwa. Here, you’ll savor ancestral tasting specials you’ll not find anywhere else, served in a warm, cozy atmosphere.
You’ll love the fusion cuisine combining old and new dishes together. Try the pork ribs and the duck stew meatballs, but really, all recipes are very flavorful and thoughtfully picked. Plus the team explains the history of each dish whenever they deliver it to the table, meaning you’ll also learn something about the rich Costa Rican history. Their desserts will tickle your tastebuds too – try the purple corn flan with Cuayote honey.
But Sikwa offers more than just great food; it also acts as a gallery of plants and handicrafts inspired by the country’s heritage. Moreover, every now and then, it hosts shows from local DJs that just adds to the overall ambiance of the restaurant.
Head chef Pablo Bonilla studied the indigenous foods of Costa Rica and brings them to your table at Sikwa- he’s the first “jungle-to-table” chef I’ve ever heard of. This is another great place for a date night- the food might be a little too diverse for most young palates. This is the most trendy restaurant on this list.
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La Posada de las Brujas
Boasting an extensive menu of local fares, La Posada de las Brujas is always busy, and for good reason – meals are absolutely delicious and come in generous portions. And it’s cheap! This is my favorite restaurant on this list.
This is a great place to try tons of different small plates because there are over sixty main courses, appetizers, and desserts to choose from- and they are all traditional dishes. Exciting dishes you don’t want to miss are the barbecue platter, the chifrijo, and any of the fried rices such as arroz con pollo or arroz con camarones. The caramel flan or the huge piña colada smoothies are also something to die for.
Beyond tasting awesome Costa Rican dishes, you will also enjoy being in the company of exotic birds such as pheasants and peacocks as well as friendly farm animals like sheep, goats, rabbits, and fish. For people with kids, there’s also a trampoline outside where the little diners can play and make new friends. This is the best place to take your kids on this list.
El Mercado Central
The Central Market is the heartbeat of downtown San Jose. Here, you can buy everything from spices to home remedies to traditional Costa Rican costumes.
The secret of the Mercado Central though are the little family-run restaurants inside that serve up the best traditional Costa Rican food in the country. The restaurants are referred to as a traditional soda in Spanish.
From gallo pinto breakfasts to traditional casados to the oh-so good olla carne, you can find any traditional Costa Rican food at the Mercado Central. I highly recommend you start or end your meal with a cup of traditional Costa Rican coffee too!
Don’t plan to eat and run either- leave some time to explore all of the vendors and shops here. El Mercado Central is the perfect place to try traditional food and Costa Rican street food in the same place. Weekends can get crowded, so hold onto t your kids’ hands and your wallet as you navigate the tiny aisles. It’s not dangerous, you just need to keep your wits about you.
This iconic corner restaurant is located at the north entrance to San Jose, and it’s known for its famous red and white striped awning.
You can enjoy a Churchill here– ice cream layered with shaved ice, syrup and powdered milk. They have every flavor imaginable. This is also the place said to have invented the “chifrijo” appetizer- but that’s an urban legend and the cause of many discussions among people from San Jose.
Restaurante Nuestra Tierra
Located just diagonal from the Plaza de la Cultura in the heart of San Jose, this restaurant is not one to miss if you are visiting any of the San Jose landmarks downtown.
The wooden facade and workers dressed in traditional Costa Rican costumes should clue you in to the authenticity of the food, but if not, get ready to be delighted.
All the meals are served on wooden tablets covered with plantain leaf, giving the food an extra authentic flavor AND making it gorgeous to look at.
More restaurant guides:
- Where To Eat In Jaco Costa Rica
- 30 Best San Ramon Restaurants
- A Foodie’s Restaurant Guide To La Fortuna, Costa Rica
If you would like to talk to me about a customized itinerary or specific Costa Rica travel advice for your family, (zero sales- just advice!) check out my “Ask Christa” page for more information on custom Costa Rica trip planning geared towards families.