16 Best Restaurants in North and East of Downtown, San Jose

Kalú

$$$ | Barrio Escalante Fodor's choice

At one of the capital's trendiest dining spots, the panini and pastas are the standouts, but Kalú's menu incorporates Costa Rican, Thai, and American elements, too. For one of those Americanized touches, try the hambuguesa Kalú, with portobello mushrooms, mozzarella cheese, and hummus. Browse in the adjoining art gallery before or after your meal, or while you wait for your food.

Le Chandelier

$$$$ Fodor's choice

Formal service and traditional sauce-heavy French dishes are part of the experience at this elegant dining room with wicker chairs, tile floors, and original paintings. Start off with saffron ravioli stuffed with ricotta cheese and walnuts, and opt for a unique main course like corvina in a pejibaye (peach palm) sauce or hearts of palm and veal chops glazed in a sweet port-wine sauce. The more familiar pato a la naranja (duck à l'orange) gets a tropical twist as pato a la maracuyá (duck in passion fruit).

Restaurante Silvestre

$$$$ | Barrio Amón Fodor's choice
Chef Santiago Fernandez is at the helm of this ambitious and wildly successful exploration of upscale contemporary Costa Rican cuisine. The regularly changing menus use local and organic ingredients (along with fish and meat procured through responsible means) to take diners on a journey into some of the most creative (and delicious) food Costa Rica has to offer. Many dishes also incorporate a whimiscal look into an aspect of Costa Rican history and culture, such as appetizers served under a colorful devil's mask, representing Masquerade Day, a traditional Costa Rican take on Halloween. Downstairs, the darkly alluring bar, Cothnejo Fishy, offers small bites and a fun cocktail menu.

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A Dos Manos

$$ | Barrio Escalante

The name translates as “with two hands,” and that’s what it takes to handle the monster burgers here. The capital’s best burgers are made from grass-fed beef (except for the veggie and chicken burgers), with inventive toppings such as Caesar salad, mac and cheese, or hash browns. Informality reigns here with a few picnic tables scattered among the more "grown-up" furniture. Commuter trains rumble by during the evening rush hour.

Avda. 3, between Cs. 25--29, San José, 10101, Costa Rica
8868--2287
Known For
  • inventive burger toppings
  • low-carb, vegan, and kosher options available
  • support for the LGBTQ community

Café Miel Garage

$ | Barrio Otoya

A scant two tables and a small counter are the only seating in this tiny converted garage. But the coffee, harvested from its own plantation in Tarrazú in the Los Santos region, is robust and flavorful, as are the cakes and ice creams. The main branch here in Barrio Otoya has very limited seating. A more spacious outlet operates in Escazú, out in the Central Valley.

Avda. 9, C. 13, San José, 10101, Costa Rica
2221–0897
Known For
  • located in a converted garage, hence the name
  • fruit smoothies served in a jar
  • good selection of cakes and pastries

Café Mundo

$$ | Barrio Otoya
The upstairs café at this corner restaurant serves meals on a porch, on a garden patio, or in two dining rooms. Try the soup of the day and fresh-baked bread to start; main courses include shrimp in a vegetable cream sauce or lomito en salsa de vino tinto (tenderloin in a red-wine sauce). Save room for the best chocolate cake in town, drizzled with homemade blackberry sauce. Café Mundo is a popular, low-key gay hangout that draws a mixed gay-straight clientele. This is one of the few center-city restaurants with its own parking lot.
C. 15, Avdas. 9–11, San José, 10102, Costa Rica
2222–6190
Known For
  • popular LGBTQ hangout
  • delicious chocolate cake
  • place to see and be seen
Restaurants Details
Rate Includes: Closed Sun. No lunch Sat.

Café Otoya Bistro

$$ | Barrio Otoya

The warm and welcoming vibe that exudes from this very cool Barrio Otoya café is only enhanced by the friendly, attentive staff. Diners are a real mix: some chow down on a sumptuous tenderloin, while others stop in for baked goods and coffee, but almost everyone partakes in the all-day brunch, especially on weekends. Stop in for the café’s $24 Work Combo package, which includes breakfast, lunch, a table for your laptop, and free use of Wi-Fi.

Avda. 7, Cs. 11A-15, San José, Costa Rica
7118--2762
Known For
  • all-day brunch
  • $24 Work Combo package (breakfast, lunch, a table, and Wi-Fi access)
  • rotating art exhibits and live music performances

Cafeoteca

$ | Barrio Escalante

This café blends and roasts its own coffee on-site which pairs well with the cakes and pies on offer. All coffees served here are also for sale in the shop, including samplers of eight different varieties from around the country in individual single-cup sachets.

C. 31, Avda. 5, San José, 10101, Costa Rica
2253--8426
Known For
  • good selection of specialty coffees from around the country
  • knowledgeable baristas
  • only works with small coffee suppliers

Dolce Gelato

$$ | Barrio Escalante

The homemade gelato served at Dolce Gelato gives Costa Rica’s ubiquitous Pop’s ice cream chain a run for its money. These folks get adventurous with their flavors: maracuyá (passion fruit) and mango are two popular ones. Eat inside or in the pleasant garden with your gelato on a crepe or get it to go in a waffle cone.

Entre Nous

$ | Barrio Escalante

It’s the crepes—salty or sweet—that draw the crowds here. It’s a bright, cheery place with a covered terrace to stop for dessert after an evening out in Barrio Escalante. There are also heavier, main-course items, such as burgers or panini, on the menu if the hunger pangs get to you. The folks here also operate branches in Alajuela and Heredia out in the Central Valley and in Liberia in Guanacaste.

Franco

$ | Barrio Escalante

Fashionable Franco serves gourmet beverages made from the country’s premium coffees. Your inner amateur barista may want to check into the slate of coffee workshops offered here.

Avda. 7, Cs. 31–33, San José, 10101, Costa Rica
4082–7006
Known For
  • cool, tree-shaded patio is an oasis in the busy city
  • farm-fresh ingredients from small suppliers
  • informative coffee workshops

Giacomín

$ | Los Yoses

We have to admit that Costa Rican baked goods tend toward the dry-as-dust end of the spectrum, but Italian-style bakery Giacomín, near the University of Costa Rica, is an exception—a touch of liqueur added to the batter makes all the difference. Stand European-style at the downstairs espresso bar or take your goodies to the tables and chairs on the upstairs balcony. You'll also find branches in suburban Moravia and Rohrmoser, as well as Escazú, Santa Ana, and Heredia out in the Central Valley.

La Terrasse

$$$$ | Barrio Otoya

Dining here (by advance reservation only) feels as though you’re a guest in a private home, and indeed, the restaurant is located in a converted house that dates back to the 1920s. Main-course offerings at this cozy restaurant rotate, but might include a blanquette de veau (veal ragout) or a daube provençale (a hearty wine-marinated beef stew). A couple of tips: the sign is easy to miss, and credit cards are not accepted.

C. 15, Avda. 9, San José, 10101, Costa Rica
8939–8470
Known For
  • carefully prepared French food
  • impeccable service
  • strict reservation policy
Restaurants Details
Rate Includes: Closed Mon. No dinner Sun., no lunch Sat., No credit cards, Reservations essential

La Trattoria

$$ | Barrio Dent

The excellent, reasonably priced homemade pastas make this popular lunch spot worth the stop. Begin your meal with fresh bread and excellent antipasti, and make sure to save room for tiramisu. The back patio makes a pleasant respite from the bustle of the city. Soft, live music is on tap Friday evening.

Restaurante Amón

$ | Barrio Amón

Reasonable prices and a hearty breakfast of gallo pinto (beans and rice), scrambled eggs, bread, and coffee at this artsy restaurant will fortify you for a morning of sightseeing. The bargain $7 lunch special consists of the standard casado—choose from fish, chicken, beef, or pork—accompanied by rice, beans, vegetable, salad, and dessert. This place is far from your typical mom-and-pop shop, though.

C. 7, Avdas. 7–9, San José, Costa Rica
2221–2960
Known For
  • typical Costa Rican flavors
  • minimalist setting
  • rotating art exhibits
Restaurants Details
Rate Includes: Closed weekends. No dinner

Sikwa

$$ | Barrio Escalante

The indigenous cultures of Costa Rica don't get too much attention from tourists, but this small, intimate restaurant in Barrio Escalante is trying to change that by incorporating recipes derived from the history and culture of the eight surviving indigenous ethnic groups. Sikwa has deliciously (and respectfully) bridged the gap between the country's past and present as each meal tells a different story, which the chef and servers will happily share with diners. An otherwise straightforward drink menu includes some funky highlights like a gin-tonic with cacao nibs.

Avda. 1, C. 33, San José, Costa Rica
7093–1662
Known For
  • unique dining experience blending history and storytelling
  • traditional indigenous dishes like peach palm soup and escarole tomato sauce with white corn and pork
  • small space best for smaller groups
Restaurants Details
Rate Includes: Closed Mon. and Tues. No dinner Sun.