Sodas, home-style cooking eateries

Home-style authentic cooking in Costa Rica lives in every little hamlet in eateries called “sodas”. Don’t be confused by the American slang for carbonated drinks. Club soda is also called soda in Spanish, but this is about the luncheonette -greasy spoon- coffee and sandwich shop-diner-café that serves breakfast, lunch and occasionally early dinner. The basic portion of each menu is identical – combination plates (casados), rice and beans (gallo pinto, for breakfast), rice dishes (e.g. arroz con pollo), sandwiches, hamburgers, sandwiches made with tortillas (known as “gallo”), fruit juices coffee, soft drinks, smoothies (batidos), friend and/or roasted chicken, beef slices in gravy fried or grilled fish, pork cutlets and a few desserts.

The prices are rock bottom. Blue plate specials averages about US$ 5 and give you your choice of beef, pork, chicken or fish along rice, beans, salad, fried plantains and tortillas. The décor is simple but well worn. Mostl have at least one and as many as three sides opened to the outdoors. Some only have hard wooden unpadded benches or metal folding chairs. I.e. a very “rustic” ambience. The food is usually fresh and well prepared because when we ticos miss breakfast or lunch at home, we eat similar style food at the “sodas”. They also have mid-morning or afternoon snacks.

Food poisoning is VERY rare. Fruits, vegetables, greens, water and ice cubes are all safe or even safer than they are in North America. For visitors on a budget or for a taste of basic homestyle food, trips to “sodas” are an essential experience. There are enough of them all over the country, but the list below is based on local popularity, unusual features or advantageous location. They are listed alphabetically by name, not by ranking.

Soda Olga’s, in Playa Pelada – Guanacaste
El Jardín, in La Fortuna – Arenal
Fiesta de las Pupusas Salvadoreñas, in Atenas (old route to Jaco)
La Radial, in San Ramón (on the way to Arenal)
La Fiesta del Maíz, in La Garita (close to Zooave animal rescue center)
Soda Miss Isma, in Puerto Viejo (south Caribbean coast)
Soda Janet, in Puntarenas (central Pacific)
Soda Kathia, in Playa Herradura (close to Los Sueños)
Soda Piedra Mar, in Mal País
Soda Tapia, most known is around Sabana Park – San José