A ranch without walls rises above a 9,000 square-meter property just 10 minutes from downtown Nicoya with tables and wooden seats. A plain is across the street, scorched by the sun. A blue, oxidized barril is next to it, tied to the trees, ready for enthusiasts to use it as a bull and practice their riding. Joan Sebastian’s “Secreto de Amor” plays in the background.
La Fonda Chorotega has a landscape straight out of a Guanacaste postcard that you would buy to send to a friend in another country or keep as a souvenir.
It has a menu full of Guanacaste’s past and smells like grandma’s kitchen. Just thinking about it puts the taste of wood-burning stove in your mouth.
Delia Campos has been cooking for 10 years and will turn 60 this year. Her task is to cook many of those plates. Among them is fried plate, which is one of her best and is made religiously at the Fonda Chorotega from Thursday through Sunday, the days that the restaurant is open to the public.
“Frito” is made with pig head and giblets like the heart and tongue. “You chop the meat into fine pieces and add chile, cilantro, onion and garlic,” she says. “It’s what I know how to cook, traditional food, because I don’t know anything about gourmet food.”
The taste is delicious, but intense. It’s heavy because it has a lot of fat. Adding lime before eating can help digest it better. They serve it with freshly made tortillas from the comal.
“Frito” is common in traditional festivals like those in Nicoya in honor of San Blas. It’s hard to find throughout the rest of the year.
Heidy Rodríguez, owner of the restaurant, says that has been the idea of the place since they opened a year ago. “To serve creole food all year long, all while saving the Guanacaste identity.”
Chicken with salad and tortillas are also part of the menu. Delia says that it’s one of the most sought after plates, which isn’t hard to understand. The chicken is so fresh that the meat falls off the bone and is made in a tomato sauce that makes it even juicier. Another tip is to go willing to get your hands dirty because it’s the best way to enjoy it.
Another option is the giblets in salsa, pig’s trotters and shredded beef. It’s all made on a wood-burning stove.
Though it’s not on the menu, we are told that the dumpling soup (chicken stock with dumplings) on Saturdays and the beef stew on Sundays are among the best plates in the restaurant.
Rodríguez says that La Fonda is also open for special events like weddings or work parties if reserved in advance.
“I see the business growing, with busses of tourists coming to try our identity,” the owner says. “I want to have our own garden and a small farm so people have an attraction to visit.”