Upon entering the El Fogón de Juana restaurant, you have to scream loudly: Hello! because all the cooks are at the wood-burning stove. Among them is the owner of the restaurant, Juana Isabel Cortés.
The place is small, but the breeze whisks through from one side to the other. It’s like a dinner with outdoor tables and hammocks, just 500 meters from the entrance to Playa Copal beach in La Cruz, Guanacaste.
The restaurant offers almost every type of food, from pizza, lasagna and pasta to beef loin in sauce and casados (a local dish usually consisting of rice, beans, salad and chicken, pork, beef or fish).
Letting our tastes guide us, we order the first dish: fried fish with green salad and french fries. They brought us a medium-sized red snapper that was fresh and recently caught.
We waited no more than 30 minutes, which gave us time to enjoy the restaurant’s calm and relaxed atmosphere.
In the meantime, Juana, 43, tells us that the restaurant is the product of her savings from being a chef at hotels and 14 years of cooking and cleaning for Italians. She still does this while she runs El Fogón.
“One day I thought, ‘why not have my own place?’ People from Cartago and even gringos come here,” she tells us.
After the snapper, they brought us a casado made to order. They let us take out some ingredients that are listed on the menu in order to make it to our liking.
We ordered it with rice, beans, ripe plantain, meat cooked in onions, salad and potatoes. This flexibility is one of the high points of the restaurant, at least during our visit. The rice and beans were freshly cooked and with appropriate aromas.
The experience ended with a good gallo pinto (sauteed rice and beans) with cheese, tortillas, plantains and fried egg. Once more, the flavor was exquisite.
The prices for each dish are accessible, ranging from ¢3,000 ($5.35) —for a pasta in pesto sauce— to ¢8,000 ($14.30) for more elaborate dishes like beef medallions.
The menu also has vegetarian plates, desserts (coconut flan and ice cream with fruit) and natural fruit juices made from watermelon, papaya, pineapple, blackberry or a number of other fruits that are in season.
The Good: The variety of dishes
The Bad: It’s hard to see, but you can locate it with Waze.
Hours: From 8am to 9pm, seven days a week
Location: Playa Copal, La Cruz, Guanacaste
Phone Number: 8956-0372