Whenever a person is exploring a new country, there’s always one aspect of it that sticks to their minds. It could be the culture, the food, or the hospitality of the people.
Any of these things tend to leave an indelible mark on a person’s memory, so much so that it can compel them to keep coming back for a visit. Well, did you know that in Costa Rica, you can experience culture, food and hospitality in a single place? We’re talking about the local Sodas of Costa Rica.
But what is a Soda? What makes them unique and so appealing to travelers in Costa Rica? Well, let’s find out.
What is a Soda in Costa Rica?
Despite the name, a Soda isn’t actually something you’d drink on a hot day. In Costa Rica, at least, a Soda is what a resident would call their local restaurants. They’re normally an open air restaurant, usually family-owned and are staffed by the family themselves, and typically serves traditional Costa Rican cuisine.
They’re characterized by inexpensive foods and a very open environment, where you can have a chat with the staff or any of the other patrons, if they feel like it.
Generally, every town you visit has at least one Soda, and if you’re looking to eat like how the locals do, or at least save some money on your trip, then they’re a great place to start.
Why Eat at a Soda?
Sodas are a unique experience to Costa Rica. Although there are tourist spots that are worth visiting on your trip there, you shouldn’t pass up an opportunity to visit the local Sodas. Here are some of the reasons why you should eat at a Soda.
When you’re out on vacation, you’re usually at a loss as to where you eat. When you do find a good place, they’re usually expensive. What happens then is that a huge chunk of your travel budget goes to food. Sodas a great solution to that.
The Sodas of Costa Rica serve relatively inexpensive meals. In fact, it’s not uncommon to have a complete meal for no more than $5 USD. The best part is, there’s a good variety of meals to choose from, so whether you’re looking to have a hearty breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner, you can easily find them in a Soda for cheap.
Another appealing aspect of the Sodas in Costa Rica they are family-owned and run. This means that whatever meals served here are made from scratch and have a personal touch to them. Sodas are great places to get homemade meals, especially if you’re tired of high-end restaurant food, and want something a bit closer to home.
Experience the Culture of Costa Rica
The way Sodas are set up, being open-air restaurants, you can experience Costa Rica’s culture right at the thick of it. The places where you’ll usually find Sodas are also where many locals hang out, so it can be as authentically Costa Rican as it can get.
It’s also a great chance to interact with the locals, thanks to the fact that not many foreigners hang out in these local restaurants.
Where Do You Find Sodas in Costa Rica?
The location of Sodas in Costa Rica is as diverse as the design of the establishments themselves, and it’s not uncommon to find at least one in each town.
In fact, you can pretty much find them in almost every street in any town or city. They’re typically found in places where locals hang out, like marketplaces, town squares, and near churches.
They’re easy enough to find, too; usually on the side of the road, but some of the good ones might be off the beaten path, on the side streets.
What is in the Typical Soda Menu?
As we’ve mentioned before, Sodas typically serve what is known as Typico, or Tico cuisine. Rice meals filled with a variety of meats, beans and thick salsa are the usual fare. Also, Tico dishes are served with juice rather than water to help accentuate the flavor. Here are some of the dishes you may find in a typical Soda menu.
This is a very popular dish, and a Soda that doesn’t serve one is usually not considered a Soda at all. It’s considered to be a breakfast meal, though you can find places that serve it during lunch or dinner.
The dish is comprised of rice, onions, peppers, black beans, and the famous Lizano sauce, a favorite Costa Rican condiment. It’s usually served with scrambled eggs or with local white cheese on the side.
Casado is a hearty meal considered a staple dish in Costa Rica. It’s comprised of a type of meat, whether pork chop, steak, fish filet, or chicken, and is served with beans, rice, fried cassava. Casado is usually served with salad on the side.
If you don’t have the time to sit down and eat, Sodas also serve empanadas as a cheaper fast food alternative. Think of them as smaller, deep-fried calzones filled with chicken, pork and beef. It’s also stuffed with chopped vegetables, cheese and beans for good measure.
As you’d expect from a place that serves a hearty meal, Sodas don’t just settle with plain water. The typical drinks served in Sodas are usually comprised of fruit juice blended with either water, which is the case with naturales, or milk, which is the case with batido.
Of course, many Sodas also serve soft drinks and alcoholic beverages for a refreshing way to end the day for local workers.
3 Popular Sodas in Costa Rica
Soda La Casa de Ara
Located in La Fortuna, northwest of San Jose, Costa Rica’s capital, this Soda is known for its special Lizano salsa. It’s a great place to visit if you’re planning on going to or have just left Arenal Volcano, la Fortuna’s main tourist spot. This Soda is usually very busy during lunchtime but has plenty of space available if you’re looking for breakfast or brunch.
If you’re in the mood for Costa Rican tacos, then this Soda, located close to the La Paz Waterfall, is a great place to have lunch. It’s located north of Alajuela. A bit remote, but at least if you’re on your way to visit La Paz, you won’t find yourself without a place to eat.
Located in Monteverde, this Soda has an expansive menu, with items you wouldn’t find anywhere else. Monteverde is known for its many rainforest trails where many tours are done. This means Sodas, and really, anywhere you can grab a bite to eat, are quite popular after a long hike through the jungle.