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.