Guanacaste sodas, small Tico-style restaurants, have a distinctly warm environment that makes anyone feel at home. Locales featured in this edition were reviewed by César Barrantes, our commercial director, whose Guanacastecan palate has sampled the fare at several sodas in the province and is well-trained in the art of home-made cuisine. In this first edition, he shares with us some favorites in Nicoya, Bagaces, Tilarán and Abangares.
All of the following sodas are run by local families, and prices range from ₡3,500-₡4,000 ($6.40-$7.30), with juice beverages included.
La Eureka, Nicoya
Photo by: Ariana Crespo
In the center of Nicoya, just 50 meters west of the municipality, is Eureka, an establishment that since 1977 has served the best patacones con chuleta (fried plantain and pork chop) in all of Guanacaste. The Ruiz González family is dedicated to keeping customers happy with good criolla (creole) food and a famous chilled barley drink called resbaladera.
Back when the Guanacastecan football club ADG played in the top division, this restaurant was always filled with hungry and thirsty fans celebrating the victories of their team. Years later, it remains filled with hungry diners seeking a home-cooked meal. Customers always return for the rice with chicken, incomparable beans with fried plantain and pork chop or “back-to-life” soups with fish, beef ribs or tripe.
Although it may seem like I’m kidding because of its simplicity, my recommendation is to try the cold slaw or beans. They’re the best in all of Nicoya.
The Good: Central location.
The Bad: No Parking.
Hours: Every day, 8 a.m.- 9 p.m.
Paso Real, Las Juntas de Abangares
Photo by: César Rodríguez.
Upon entering Las Juntas directly in front of the National Police station is the soda Paso Real, owned by Jorge Fennell and Ana Ruth Bogantes, two full-blooded abangareños. The name Paso Real pays tribute to the previous establishment in the same location.
During the day, this soda primarily offers casados, Costa Rica’s signature dish, with chicken, tilapia, beef or pork steaks and smoked or non-smoked pork chops. Everything is cooked a la plancha, or grilled.
If you’re lucky, you can also get mondongo (tripe), beef tongue or pork ribs. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, the menu is usually more varied with specials. The tilapia filet is delicious, and juices have just the right amount of sugar: ni muy muy, ni tan tan.
At night, Paso Real offers quick meals. They’re also famous for natural juices made of naranjilla, cas, chan, tamarind and other fruits that are in season.
The Good: Credit/debit cards accepted.
The Bad: Closed in the afternoons.
Hours: Mon.-Fri., 8 a.m.-3 p.m. and 7-10 p.m. Sat.-Sun., 7 p.m.-10 p.m.
Photo by: César Rodríguez.
Behind the centenary Bagaces school, 100 meters south of Banco Nacional, is soda Diana owned by Viria Jiménez Arrieta. Doña Viria has had loyal customers from all over Guanacaste and elsewhere in Costa Rica since 2002. Diners can enjoy casados with beef in salsa, beef steak, chicken or fish filets and can choose between yellow or white tortillas. Plus, check out those beans! Salads are fresh, flavorful and colorful. There also are daily specials as follows:
Monday: Olla de carne (beef stew)
Tuesday: Chicken and potatoes
Wednesday: Chicken with rice (a famous dish here)
Thursday: Pork ribs
Friday: Tongue or mondongo in salsa
Juices here aren’t made from concentrate, and you can choose from a variety of fruits ranging from the colorful pitaya to the delicious passion fruit, although the most sought-after are linaza (flax) and resbaladera (barley), which has a secret ingredient that makes it unique.
You can also order great coffee accompanied by delicious traditional sweet bagaceña empanadas, soft or toasted depending on the day. They also have an amazing gallo de cuajada, or cheese curd taco made with creole tortillas.
Coming here is always a pleasure because doña Viria makes every customer feel at home, and she never stops spoiling both children and adults.
The Good: Open late.
The Bad: Credit/debit cards not accepted.
Hours: Mon.-Sat., 6:30 a.m.-7 p.m.
El Nilo, Tilarán
Photo by: Roy Prendas.
A corner soda in the heart of Tilarán, El Nilo is also known as the soda of don Cafetera. Carlos Solórzano, a good conversationalist, has offered fare from his native Tilarán since 1956. He recalls that in the beginning what sold most was syrup-based juices and white bread with sausage, although his recipe for the sweet milk beverage leche dormida – which is different than the traditional Cañas recipe – also has been famous from the start, and many customers come to this picturesque locale in search of it.
Today, El Nilo offers a wide variety of casados with fish, pork chops, or chicken and pork filets. Sometimes he has a creamed seafood soup, lasagna, meatball soup, rice with pork, mondongo, pasta or a delicious arroz guacho, a traditional rice and meat dish. The home-made chicken is excellent: I tried it and loved it.
Don Carlos’s daughter Sadye, who currently runs the business, says that customers always ask about the daily specials – with so much variety, everyone wants to know what’s for lunch. In this soda, they like to experiment with juices by mixing colorful fruits. If you visit, don’t forget to ask about the natural juices that are guaranteed to surprise you.
The Good: Cozy furniture for resting after a meal.
The Bad: No parking.
Hours: Mon.-Sat., 7 a.m.-6 p.m.