Cheap Restaurant St. Petersburg – Trips Diner

My husband and I have been on the prowl for cheap restaurants in St. Pete ever since moving here this time last year. We’ve discovered a few gems that I have yet to post about, but will soon. We recently discovered that a new diner opened up close to where we live, just down MLK from us and there was always a packed parking lot on Saturday and Sunday mornings, which is a good indication of how the food is. Continue reading

Cheap Food St. Pete – Five Bucks Drinkery

Five Bucks Drinkery – St. Petersburg, Florida


We’ve recently been on the hunt for cheap food in St. Petersburg, Florida since moving here a few weeks ago. We’ve cruised around the downtown area a few times with friends to help us get acquainted with the area and on one particular visit we were showing around some friends visiting from Tennessee. After visiting the Saturday farmer’s market, we strolled down to Central Ave where there are some great restaurants and stores by the water.

We saw some places that weren’t screaming ‘cheap food’ at us, like the BellaBrava, but we thought we’d pop our heads in for a beer. I’m sure the waitresses at these places weren’t thrilled that we were ordering the happy hour Bud Light special and no food (we tipped well), but we were more interested in checking the places out and having a beer or two and moving on to the next place. This was our kind of tour of St. Pete and a chance to check out the menu at places that might pique our interest for a later time.

After a little bar/restaurant hopping, we walked into the 5 Bucks Drinkery and our world changed. It was around lunch time, so we were one of the first (if not THE first) customers of the day. The six of us bellied up to the bar and got quickly acquainted with the big-ass beers. While they aren’t under $5, they were just a dollar more and were 32oz of deliciousness.

They had all kinds of great beers on tap as well as an endless supply of bottled beers. I settled for the Magic Hat #9 and started to peruse the menu just to see.
5 Bucks Drinkery Menu
That’s when I fully understood the name “5 Bucks Drinkery”. There wasn’t anything on the menu over $5. That includes everything from a patty melt (which I’ve had and is delicious, but isn’t as good as a Waffle House or Denny’s patty melt…sorry folks) to loaded tots and their ‘haute’ dogs.

Sometimes there is something on a menu that I just have to try, no questions asked, no buts, I just have to. The 5 Bucks Drinkery had that item on their menu that I knew I couldn’t walk out without having tried. Their broad menu touted a few ‘Favorites’ including deep fried bacon with a maple syrup dip. Um, hello? Fried BACON? Like, deep fried bacon? Yes! They call it ‘Chicken Fried Bacon’ but my guess is that the batter is the same as their chicken and they want to be clear that it’s not just traditional pan-fried bacon. So, for $2.99 we ordered a basket of deep fried bacon with maple dipping sauce never to be forgotten.

Cheap food - Deep Fried Bacon

The bacon was cooked well-done inside, the way I like it, and had a crispy batter coating it around the outside. The whole experience was like dipping bacon into pancake batter and pouring maple syrup on it. It was as heavenly and intriguing as we had hoped. This 5 Bucks Drinkery gets a gold star for a great cheap beer menu and awesome deep fried bacon!

Cheap Food Costa Rica – Puerto Viejo – Bread and Chocolate

We hit another cheap food destination while on the Caribbean side last weekend. In case you didn’t see our other cheap breakfast post about La Botanica Organica, make sure you check it out. This particular Sunday was rainy on-and-off, which is typical Caribbean weather, but we didn’t care much. We had our sites on this little well-known breakfast nook in Puerto Viejo.

The restaurant and bakery is on a rustic porch similar to most restaurants in the area and unlike the usual weekend morning, there was a table open for us when we arrived. The place was filled with friendly faces and delicious food and coffee in front of most. To be honest, before even going in, our friends had told us the best part of the selection is the homemade chocolate brownies, so we were looking every which way to catch a glimpse before sitting down. And we found them, on a bamboo display not far from our table.

Our friends, whom we were visiting, work at a nearby hotel and thus know most other hotel and restaurant owners, so immediately upon arrival to Bread and Chocolate, the Maryland native owner came over. He was a great guy and being a born-and-raised Marylander myself, we reminisced about blue crabs and Old Bay seasoning before we ordered. The menu itself wasn’t huge, but it was full of meal descriptions that made me want to try them all. I was absolutely torn as to what I should order, so I of course asked my husband to split two (out of 6) of the dishes we were both curious about.

We settled on a fried egg sandwich (fried hard to my liking of course) served on a bagel with homemade home fried potatoes and an order of biscuits and gravy. Keep in mind we’re in Costa Rica here and biscuits and gravy isn’t something you can really find anywhere, so we were psyched about the prospect. The fried egg sandwich was served on our choice of an everything bagel, which was crisp on the outside and soft on the inside, the way they should be. Not the way Bagelman’s makes them in the city. To our delight the potatoes were seasoned perfectly and while the biscuits were slightly dry, the unique mushroom gravy that topped them more than made up for it. My husband and I divided both plates in half and devoured our servings in no time flat.



So, after breakfast and another two cups of joe, we grabbed our brownies to-go. I chose the mint variety while our friends got the walnut type. When we got back to our friend’s Bali-style house on the beach we hung out with the dogs and later dove right into our mint brownies heated and topped with chocolate ice cream. It was bliss, I couldn’t believe I had never had a mint chocolate brownie before, knowing my affinity for mint chocolate chip ice cream, but this was awesome. The outside had a slight crust and the inside, extra fudgy. Heaven.

We can’t say enough positive things about Bread and Chocolate. We wished we could have tried everything on the menu and each dessert in the glass case, but our budget didn’t permit, so we’ll just have to wait until the next trip down there. Pura vida Bread and Chocolate!

Cheap Food Costa Rica – Puerto Viejo – La Botanica Organica

La Botanica Organica

On our recent trip to the Caribbean side, we discovered that the best restaurants are the breakfast ones. There aren’t a ton open before 9am but there are a few that we went to and fell in love with. The first morning we were there our local friend brought us to a little place called La Botanica Organica (make sure you like their Facebook page), who has the freshest, most organic produce you can find around Puerto Viejo.

From their page:

Breakfast and Lunch Menu:
Super Goji Berry and Hemp Seed Granola…Whole wheat Pancakes.. Whole Wheat French Toast, Organica Eggs.. Organica Coffee and tea.. Lentil Burgers.. Hummus Sandwiches.. Fresh Salads.. Lunch Specails.. Vegan, Veggi and Raw and Gluten Free Options!

In the Shop: Everything from Tea Tree Oil to Natural Deodorants and Toothpaste.. tinctures.. natural Medicines.. Essential Oils.. Incense .. Crystals.. Special Ordering available

While most small farms in Costa Rica can’t afford the official certification for organic status, some are abiding by all best practices and with a tour of the farm you can see it for yourself. These small farmers are sought out by the owner of La Botanica Organica and they have an open and honest working relationship. One of the goals of the restaurant is to help the local economy so they don’t grow the food themselves, but rather support those in the area. It’s a great concept.

When we walked in we immediately noticed the concrete floors (mainly because my husband is now doing decorative concrete) with imprints of Costa Rican flora. It was rustic, yet modern, just how we like it and it fit in perfectly with the foliage creeping in from all sides of the place.

The rest of the charming decor included rustic wood benches and tables with centerpieces poised with local flowers and verigated leaved plants. They had their morning delivery of produce spread out on a back table which allows you to see just what your prepared food is made of. The kitchen is open where you can see a few locals running around putting together everyone’s orders. The macrobiotica on site is just off of the main patio for easy access after you eat.

We started off with cups of rich organic Costa Rican coffee and for me (a ‘coffee-only-in-case-or-emergencies’ drinker) a cup of hot herbal tea with dried tropical fruit, lemon grass and other local herbs. We quickly moved on to our breakfasts of organic whole wheat pancakes with fresh pineapple topping, a free-range egg scramble with broccoli, onion, bell pepper and feta cheese with fresh baked whole grain bread (amazing!) and a bowl of fabulous granola and local yogurt with goji berries. The three of us tried each others food and agreed that we picked a place that will become a regular stop for us. We live in San Jose, but plan to make it back to the Caribbean side more often.

When we were done we felt satisfied and reminded again why we live here. The owners are from California and have adapted well to living the pura vida life. They contribute to the local economy, make delicious food which is sometimes hard to find here, and have cheerful, attentive waitstaff. Thanks for a great start to an amazing weekend in Puerto Viejo, Talamaca, Cocles. You’ll be seeing us again soon.

After visiting the restaurant we moved on to visit the Jaguar Rescue Center just down the road to play with some monkeys! Make sure you support them, it’s totally worth the $15 per person for the tour.

Cheap Food Costa Rica Tamarindo – Falafel Mundo

To our surprise, we discovered Falfel Mundo, our new favorite place to eat in Tamarindo, Costa Rica, which is the unexpected cheap food place for under $10 per person, not at the overpriced seafood place on the beach. For my birthday this year I wanted to finally master this surfing thing. My husband and I have been trying to surf on our own for the past year with little success. I’ve been doing water sports behind a boat for 20 years so I assumed surfing would be similar, but I was wrong. Waves are much scarier than a boat. So, we headed to Witches Rock Surf Camp in Tamarindo for a lesson with Maria and we learned a LOT. We corrected a few things and were riding waves before the lesson was over.

Falafel-Mundo-Costa-Rica-1 Falafel-Mundo-Costa-Rica-2 Falafel-Mundo-Costa-Rica-3

So, getting back to the food, we stumbled on a place next to the Costa Rica Surf Club where we rented boards the next day called Falafel Mundo, a Middle-Eastern Cuisine place that only served three items, but served them VERY well; falafel, shawarma and shaksuka. Shira (almost like the He-Man counterpart) owns the place with her Israeli boyfriend where they have brought the delicious tastes of the Mid-East. They bring the spices for the dishes back with them from Israel or have their mom send a care package, so you know it’s authentic as it gets.

We bellied-up to the bar on the giant wooden stumps and ordered two half Falafel sandwiches and two half Shawarma sandwiches so that we could each share both. She asked if we wanted to add hummus and if we liked it spicy and of course we replied with a tandem ‘yes’. The hummus inside and the tangy yogurt sauce on each was the kicker to set things over the top. Falafel Mundo was a great experience overall and Shira was a pleasure to chat with while she prepared our food. This has become our “Bubba’s Fish Taco” of Tamarindo, the must-have when traveling through or coming within 50 miles of this beach.

Falafel Mundo is located next to Sharky’s and across from High Tide. Don’t miss this Cheap Food Here hotspot in Tamarindo.

Cheap Food Escazú, Costa Rica – The Waffle Place

Costa Rica translates to ‘Rich Coast’. Christopher Columbus, the Great Navigator himself, was the first European explorer to encounter Costa Rica in September 18, 1502. As he was setting anchor off shore, a crowd of local Carib Indians paddled out in canoes and greeted his crew warmly. Later, the golden bands that the region’s inhabitants wore in their noses and ears would inspire the Spaniard Gil Gonzalez Davila to name the country Costa Rica.

No matter what the history books have said, I think the real gold wasn’t discovered until I walked into the Waffle Place in Escazú. This gold mine is located in the Golden Plaza close to Multiplaza Escazú. Talk about rich, delicious food. And affordable to boot! My husband claims that I’ve acquired a knack for choosing the best thing on the menu the first time, and in this case I did. Now, it’s been a few weeks since I’ve been there and I have been lazy about posting, so I’ll let the pictures and descriptions do the talking.

Waffle-Place-4 Waffle-Place-2
The owner spent two years in Belgium studying the intricacies of waffles and the cuisine specific to that country and region. The menu is probably bigger than it should be, but I have yet to find something I didn’t love. I always get the waffle with creamy bacon and mushroom sauce over a fried egg. The first time ordering, not having seen the actual waffles themselves, I imagined something completely different. But, to my surprise the flavor was bursting and the richness unrivaled. Also shown here is a waffle with bacon and a fried egg over hashbrowns and topped with honey mustard for the perfect balance of sweet and savory.

Waffle-Place-3
They have a great lunch menu, as you can see from the soup in sourdough bowl (not uncommon in the US, but very scarce here in Costa Rica), there is more than just waffles here. Shown is a creamy tomato soup with avocado and a side salad. It’s pretty much guaranteed you’ll leave The Waffle Place more than just full, but completely satisfied.

Cheap Food Jacó – Bubbas Fish Tacos

WHAT’S SO GREAT ABOUT BUBBA’S?

There are several places in Jaco, Costa Rica to find fish tacos, or any tacos for that matter, like the Taco Bar and Jaco Taco, but we have certainly found our winner for best flavor, freshness and price. Bubbas was a little hole-in-the-wall place for several years and was recommended to us by our friends in Playa Matapalo. We went for the first time about 6 months ago, but each time I went, I was too excited about actually eating that I forgot to take pictures of the food and the place. Lame excuse I know, but I finally got a few pictures, but still forgot the actual tacos.

BubbasJaco3BubbasJaco1

WHAT TO ORDER AT BUBBA’S

The place is pretty non-descript, but has a blue sign saying BUBBA’S with a marlin on it. There are about four aluminum 4-top tables with a basket of various hot sauces in the middle. No matter what you see on that menu, get the fish taco, all the way. That includes fresh grilled Mahi, cabbage, cheddar cheese, fresh tomatoes, onion, jalapeños, lime and a large dose of delicious! They come with a buttered ‘elote’ or corn-on-the-cob and don’t forget to order the fresh cut french fries and a lemonade. I’m telling you, you’ll never think twice about the other taco places in Jacó after you’ve left Bubba’s. Now, no matter if we are just driving past Jacó coming from Dominical or spent the day in Esterillos, we make it a point to grab a fish taco before heading home. The best part is, you can get the taco, fries and a drink for about $6, which is more than I can say for the other places.

source: http://www.junkfoodnews.net/worldrecords.htm

source: http://www.junkfoodnews.net/worldrecords.htm

BUBBA’S HAS A GUINNESS RECORD

As it turns out, according to the Guinness Book of World Records and the Junk Food News, back in August of 2008, Bubba’s took the world record for biggest fish taco. 100% of the proceeds went to establish a reef conservation project at a local highschool in Jacó. “The mission of www.reefball.org is to rehabilitate the world’s ocean-reef ecosystems and to protect the natural reef systems using artificial reef technologies. Reef Balls are artificial reef modules placed in the ocean to form reef habitat.”

Now the little taco stand has moved two streets north and onto the beach. I don’t recall what is next to it, but everyone in town knows where it is. Bubba also runs a very successful deep sea fishing charter company, so make sure you check that out.

Cheap Food Costa Rica – Empanada Argentina

Empanadas are something my husband and I regularly lust after and following a failed attempt at cooking our own, we tried a highly recommended place in San Pedro, Costa Rica just east of San Jose. Donde El Ché is the name of the joint and it’s specialties include empanadas Argentina-style and a chimichurri that will make you want to slap your mama (I’ve been trying to work that in somewhere). But seriously, these are definitely the best empanadas you’ll find north of Argentina. The directions to Donde El Ché is: from the Muños y Nanne, 100 meters East, on the left-hand side by the Jimenez y Tanzi.

The difference between Tico empanadas and Argentinian empanadas are the crusts. Ticos love them some corn and Donde El Ché’s are flour. I definitely prefer the flour and baking them as opposed to frying them. The filling on these guys were amazing. We tried the chicken, spinach and the tomato-garlic flavors with a clear winner. Surprisingly, the tomato garlic empanada had the most unique, intense and delicious flavor of all three. I of course ordered that one and didn’t want to share, but how do you brag about what you’ve got without letting others try it out.

Baked Flour Empanada with Tomato

Next course, my husband and I split the Vacío de Horno or something close to that, which means ‘Empty Oven’. And this is by far the best cut of meat I’ve experienced in San Jose. It was cured first similar to corned beef and then baked to perfect tenderness in a delicious savory sauce and accompanied by a baked potato and salad. Our friend ordered the Churripan, which was a slice of marinated pork on a homemade bun with chimichurri sauce to DIE for. The best I could do to tell what was in the chimichurri was olive oil, pimentos, whole black peppercorns, garlic, herbs and some sort of secret magnificence that I couldn’t quite detect.

My husband describes his cheap food experience at Donde El Ché as a fiesta in his mouth and vowed that if we ever opened a restaurant he would never be satisfied unless we could create the exact same feeling of wanting to return somewhere as they did. We’ll be back, you can count on that.

Cheap Food San Jose Costa Rica – Jettsy

After being recommended by a friend in the neighborhood, we were led on the search for cheap food in Pavas, San Jose, Costa Rica. The bar’s name is Jettsy and looks like your typical Costa Rican bar on the corner but the food is extraordinary. It’s an open air restaurant, similar to the others around the country, with TV’s over the bar, rustic wood tables, plants everywhere you look and an attentive waitstaff (which is tough to find, mind you).

We were told the hamburgers were pretty great, considering the country we are in. I mean, how come hamburgers in Costa Rica are so terrible most times? But, Jettsy is different. They don’t use preformed patties and they use decent quality beef, bacon and cheese. So, if you’re looking for a decent burger in San Jose, or Costa Rica for that matter, look for Jettsy in Pavas.

The other food is great too. We ordered nachos, which came with chicken and beef, refried beans, cheese and jalapeños on a bed of corn tortilla chips. My only complaint about those were the store bought tortilla chips; I mean, come on, homemade tortillas are so much better. Take a look at the tortilla chips at Rostipollo for example. Finally, I ordered grilled beef skewers with onion and red bell peppers in some delicious sauce next to a bed of rice, sweet plantains and a salad. Great, great, great flavor and the food was definitely cheap. About $15 for two entrees and the nacho appetizer. Now, add the beers and Cacique and watch the check start to climb.

Food Bloggers Against JoeDoe

A great post made by a fellow foodie, Spork or Foon, who sites the drama of a restaurant chef that can’t take criticism and thinks all food bloggers are scum. It’s a great read and makes me want to send a flaming bag of poo to JoeDoe, via email of course.

Here is the initial part of the post (just to get you hooked):

Recently, a Yelp commenter wrote:

For entrees, two of us ordered the pork belly (mill valley belly on the menu i think), while one of us ordered the duck. incidentally, although our server was really friendly and good about suggesting dishes, he said he’d never tried the duck. i guess that’s good he was honest about it, but on a menu of 10 items, how could you not have tried everything at least once? anyway the pork belly was good but VERY VERY fatty. delicious but FAT. the spinach it came with was disappointing though, lacking in flavor and dry.

Well, watch out Yelpers, here comes Chef JoeDoe:

Yelp sucks for this reason.  Uneducated people can post stupid things on here.  Pork belly is exactly that, a belly of a pig…..fatty….that is like saying bacon is fatty??  Just silly commentary.  Kale was the accompanying vegetable not sure what country kale is condsidered to be spinach.  Further the server did not taste the dish bc we change the menu daily…it is impossible and extremely costly to tastee every new dish every day.  If you liked only the sandwich and the sundae you lack the depth of understanding to appreciate a restaurant like JoeDoe.  I think it is unfortunate that people like you offer up sucj harsh critiques….posing like you have a pallete. Please visit another restaurant, preferably one that gives a choice of sald dressing, that is what you need.
Chef JoeDoe”


Not the best response to paying customers. Isn’t the key to having a successful restaurant is by having repeat customers?

Cheap Food Costa Rica – Flor de Loto Chinese

Best Chinese Food in Costa Rica

Best Chinese Food in Costa Rica

One notably strange difference in the Chinese food in Costa Rica (besides most of it being crap), is that they are likely to serve French fries in the dish or on top. So, don’t be surprised when your chicken curry has a few mixed in and some of the other dishes have 5 or 6 fries thrown on top. I haven’t asked the reason or background on this, but it can’t be a Chinese custom. It’s strangely delicious, so don’t let it throw you off.

Since living in San Jose, Costa Rica and working in the Sabana area, the Flor de Loto Chinese restaurant just South of the Subway in Sabana Norte has quickly become a company favorite. The front of the building isn’t much to look at, with its dingy sign and lack of parking, but it’s what’s inside that counts. Upon walking in you’ll notice the ornately textured ceilings, pleasant wait staff and amazing food.

I haven’t quite figured out why you are given behemoth-sized rolls to start the meal and a teeny-tiny spot of butter to go with it, but all you need to do is ask for the ‘salsa picante’ and they’ll bring an unforgettable oil and chili pepper mixture that is great with the bread and all your food. I always start with the ‘Chinese Tacos’, which are essentially egg rolls. Again, great with salsa picante to mix with the sweet and sour sauce that comes with them. Next up, I recommend the chicken curry or any of the noodle/rice dishes, but I have been advised to stay away from the ‘crispy rice’. I was told it is much like Rice Krispies, so if you’re up for an adventure, go for it. But I consider yourself warned. On the occasion of wanting light fare, I have also had the wanton soup thinking it would be less of a meal, but it was hardly that. They give you a very healthy portion and the flavor is amazing. So, if you’re thinking soup first and then a main dish, maybe find someone you don’t mind sharing with.

The prices are fair. Certainly not cheap on the Tico scale, but you can get lunch with a Coke or a lemonade for about $7-10 per person. Flor de Loto definitely leaves you wanting to come back, and I often do. Especially as I have visited other Chinese places that left a lot to be desired (eg. Mil Sabores, or as my husband and I call it, Nil Sabores) and the prices were around the same. It’s worth the trip into Sabana if you are staying at the airport or living in Escazú.

Cheap Food Escazu – Don Fernando

It can be quite a challenge to find fine-quality meats at a reasonable price in Costa Rica, especially beef. Unless you raise the cattle yourself, or your neighbors do (which isn’t that uncommon, actually). The sole purpose of this post isn’t to bad-mouth the local restaurants that serve steaks. But the American restaurant chains in Escazú like Outback Steakhouse and Tony Roma’s just don’t have the quality of meat that you’re paying for. The single time I’ve been to Tony Roma’s, I ordered filet minion with a baked potato and what was served to me was a big ball of tough, undercooked (to my taste) meat. So, you can’t blame it on me wanting a medium-well steak, because it was medium-rare from all angles and still tough as leather.

My husband and I had a similar experience when buying steaks from the grocery stores like Hipermas, PriceSmart and even AutoMercado. Same story, tough, over-priced meat with an almost-gamey taste that you needed a chainsaw to cut and chew through. Alas though, we were turned onto Don Fernando, the butcher shop in Escazú just past the Scotiabank and Mas Por Menos toward Santa Ana in Plaza Colonial.

There certainly is cheap food in Escazú, at Don Fernando Carnicería. The assortment of cuts that we love include ribeyes, NY Strip, beef tenderloin, pork chops, chicken breast, turkey dogs and CHEESE. Glorious cheese, without spending an arm and a leg for it. Anyone who has spent even just a few weeks in Costa Rica will find that cheese is like gold here. For no apparent reason really. It’s made in the country but anything other than the local white ‘squeaky cheese’ is priced like an English import.

Our regular favorites from the butcher shop are ribeyes, turkey dogs and mozzarella cheese. Take the ribeyes and rub some Willingham’s seasoning (sorry folks, only available through mail order from the USA) or your favorite steak seasoning on them and grill ‘em up. We had a side of baked potatoes with black beans, butter, scallions, cumin, cilantro and salt & pepper.

Additionally, the carniceria or butcher shop, next door they have a Don Fernando restaurant where they’ll cook up your newly bought treasures if you can’t wait to get home. They also have a regular menu, which includes everything they offer in the way of meats from the other side of the kitchen. We have made a vow, even if it means going out of our way, to hit up Don Fernando to get all of our carnivorous needs.

Cheap Food Costa Rica – Grecia – Los Pira

If you like putting tacos, hotdogs, hamburgers, and friend fries together before it gets to your stomach, I have just the place for you. In the great town of Grecia, just outside of San Jose, Costa Rica, there is a place right next to the main church called Los Pira. If I had come to a place like this  in college, I would have been in trouble for sure. The outside of the shop looks no different than any little food joint in San Jose, a sign with no real design, entrance crowded with people, Ticos cooking on a grill behind the counter, but don’t be deceived. There is more than meets the eye.

The menu includes traditional hot dogs and hamburgers, tacos (Costa Rican Style), nachos etc, but un-traditionally all piled on top of each other on a bun. I got the Super Pira which was two meat tacos with a sausage/hotdog and coleslaw on a bun. Yes, it was as delicious as it sounds. And fresh french fries on the side with ketchup and a mayonnaise sauce on them. Another option, hamburger with tacos, or add a hot dog on top of that and get it vampiro-style (with ketchup). Ridiculous! And the guy next to me had nachos, and I’m pretty sure it had everything on the menu on top of the chips. Ground meat, sausages, coleslaw, french fries, multiple sauces, hot peppers, etc. Looked amazing. Maybe I’ll get that next time.

And don’t let me forget the prices. Less than $2 each plate. Unless you opt for the burger with two sausages and three tacos, which is a whopping $3. Cheap food is here in Grecia, Costa Rica. Come all!

Hacienda Mérida, Cheap Food Nicaragua

We had to get out of Costa Rica for the weekend to get our visitor’s visa renewed, so we headed to Ometepe Island in Lake Nicaragua. We were told to visit the Hacienda Mérida on the southern part of the island, hike to a waterfall and kayak on the lake. The owner is a local Nicaraguan, who speaks perfect English and knows how to run a hotel and destination for travelers.

They grow almost all their own food on the property, and it pretty regular to see some pigs stroll by while laying in a hammock or a hen and her chicks pecking the ground while eating. The garden was full of egg plant and a variety of lettuces and other vegetables, not to mention the banana trees all over the property. The Hacienda Mérida is a true example of sustainable living and sustainable food.

The best thing about the food served this weekend was by far the homemade bread. It was a whole grain bread with whole peanuts. Peanuts in the bread isn’t something I expected to see, but it definitely added an amazing flavor and texture. The sandwiches were amazing (fresh fish from the lake lightly battered and fried) and so were the enchiladas (Nicaragua-style). And talk about cheap food, the sandwiches come with homemade potato chips for $3.50, which I’m told is pretty expensive for Nicaragua.

We were sad to leave, but definitely know where to go to find cheap food on Ometepe Island and Nicaragua.

Malé – Cheap Food Escazú, San José, Costa Rica

Some nights you just don’t want to come home after 8-10 hours of working and immediately make dinner. One of those nights was tonight. So, on the way home, we swung by a place we drive past almost every day called Malé. It is a rotisserie chicken joint in Escazú with outdoor covered seating, which is pretty standard in Costa Rica, but this place has an open firing spit where you can see the chicken become delicious and fall-off-the-bone tender right before your very eyes.

We got a chicken combo for two with a 1/4 chicken each and some delicious pasta, fries and tortilla chips with salsa and refried beans. It came with drinks and extra tortillas for 4500 colones, which is about $8.50. That’s a pretty hardy meal for the price, and when the chicken is seasoned just perfect and tender as all get out, it’s worth every penny (or colone). These Ticos really know what they are doing with rosti pollo. Cheap food is here in Escazú, at Malé.

Cheap Soda in Orosi, Costa Rica

This weekend we went for a drive out to the eastern part of San Jose, Costa Rica to explore the Irazú Volcano (Volcan Irazú). There was too much cloud cover so we re-routed our trip to pass through a few little quaint towns just south of the volcano. We drove through Cartago to Orosi and found a great little bamboo shack with promise of delicious fish.

We were thinking it would be trout from the river, but when we were told that the fish was no good, we didn’t argue. We accepted the corvina (a delicious whitefish) substitute and enjoyed one of our favorite meals so far for around $1.75 each, which included fries. Of course we couldn’t forego the ceviche, and opted for the fish and shrimp variety. It had a special tang and we enjoyed every bite of it. The ceviche is always a good gauge of how the rest of the food will be at a restaurant. We have become right snobs for it.

So, the more I look, the more I realize that there is cheap food here in Costa Rica, you just have to search for it. This place came with a mountain town feel and a beautiful lake just down the road. We know where we’ll be stopping the next time we pass through.

Taco Bar – Playa Jaco

Rustic wood, swings, a full fixins bar, it was a sweet place!

The last place we ate this weekend in Jaco was a sweet little taco bar (conveniently named Taco Bar) that we heard had great fish tacos. We walked up and found a rustic little place with a U-shaped seating area with swings on one side and solid wood stumps on the other. This place was complete with a salad bar to dress your taco to meet your style.

We started of with ceviche, which is a true test of how good the food will be, and we knew we were onto somthing with this place. Ceviche is one type of food in Costa Rica that I can’t get enough of. I ordered the fried mahi taco and the mahi a la plancha (grilled) for my husband. We loaded up the tacos with some lettuce, rice, and spicy pico de gallo. All-in-all we spent about $20 for lunch, which is more than we would have liked to spend but we loved the open and shaded atmosphere and wrought iron decor. It was modern, yet fit the style of the Ticos, especially for a place at the beach. We’ll be back there for sure.

Cheap Tico Food – Jaco Beach

Where to find cheap food here in Jaco

Where to find cheap food here in Jaco

So, we finally made it to the beach this weekend and chose the tourist hotspot, Jaco Beach or Playa Jaco. We would have preferred something less busy, but it’s the closest to San José and without a car, we are trying to limit our time on the bus. It takes about 3 hours by bus to get to Jaco from the center of San José at the Coca-Cola Bus Terminal. Sidenote- you don’t want to spend a lot of time in the Coca-Cola district.

The first place we went to eat in Jaco was by our hotel, just on the edge of the main Jaco shopping strip. It is called Los Sabores Ticos (The Tico Flavors) and I am going to rave about their food. Typically sodas are sodas (traditional tico restaurants) in Costa Rica, until you find the hidden gems. And we hit the jackpot on Sunday morning when we stumbled on the first eating establishment we came across. Los Sabores had large delicious papusas with meat, black beans and cheese for 500 colones, which is a little less than $1. The beef inside was slow cooked and perfect. I also had a fruit plate with granola (about a $1.50), and you can’t really beat the fresh fruit of Costa Rica.

There are a lot of expensive places to eat in Jaco, so make sure you are looking for the most non-descript place with dishes for 1,500 colones, plus or minus. And remember them always.