The Green Room
Costa Rica was the first international destination that I visited as an adult. A memory that stands out vividly was having a really great time at the Green Room. When I re-visited a few weeks ago with my husband and baby in tow, I was not disappointed. The aesthetics and overall vibe of the Green Room are incredible. The decor reminds me of the ruin pubs of Budapest, but set in the jungle. Guests begin by walking through an outdoor area where trees are abundant, as are several dining tables.
The furniture is funky and varies a lot. There is no doubt that the Green room has an artistic and natural style. It almost feels as though you are in a hidden park, or backyard. By the maitre’d booth, there is an area for children to draw and create their own artistic pieces.
We sat indoors because the outdoor area was full. The vibe is still strong inside and exudes creativity. We enjoyed watching the mini-light show display on a fence illuminate sporadically.
Wherever there is an opportunity for avant-garde, the Green Room takes it. My favorite was the hall of mirrors I passed when visiting the restroom. I’m going to throw this at you, and hope it makes sense. The Green Room feels like camping in the jungle, an artisan market, a hippie camp, and art convention all in one. There.
The menu reflects the eco vibe of the restaurant. There were so many mouth watering and truly unique dishes to choose from. I had to go with the sweet potato and coconut crusted Mahi Mahi – although it wasn’t an easy choice! I was worried that the flavors would fall short – I’m happy to say they definitely did not. The fish was very light and fresh. It definitely took on so much of the flavor of the crust. Speaking of, the crust is soft and savory. The entire dish is incredibly tender and has a hearty, fruity, taste.
If we can back up a moment, you cannot possibly go wrong order the guacamole with plantain chips. As I mentioned earlier – one of my fondest memories from my first trip to Costa Rica was The Green Room. For years I could remember drinking hibiscus flavored beer, and have never found it anywhere since. You can bet your ass I got a bunch of them upon my return! For some reason I remember the hibiscus taste coming in a bit stronger last time – but it was still as refreshing as I remembered. There are a ton of craft beers available to try, and if you’re extra nice, you can try before you buy.
No bohemian fantasy of a restaurant is complete without live music! On the particular night that we went, there was a woman performing with THE most soulful and booming voice – it was really unexpected. Every song she covered has an island-esque vibe and undoubtedly added to the ambiance. I really feel that one cannot talk about eating in Jaco, Costa Rica without having gone here. It encapsulates so much of the ethos.
The most talked about and well known eatery in Jaco right now is undoubtedly Graffiti. Established in 2010, Graffiti has stayed true to the roots of the area while also creating a very appealing chic, modern, and eclectic mecca for foodies who visit from the world over. The trendy ideal might throw some off as that component doesn’t necessarily fit with one’s image of Jaco.
There’s no doubt about it – Jaco is a gritty city. It’s infamous for (but not exclusive to) its hookers, graffiti art, giant Walmart, and ever increasing drug scene. Graffiti marries the two concepts perfectly. Appropriately, Graffiti has branded itself as “ghetto gourmet.” If the woke mafia could pick their draws up from off the floor, I’d like to applaud this initiative.
Graffiti showcases art – namely street style art from local creatives in the area. The pieces on display are urban and include unique pieces such as skateboards used as canvases for art. However, the indoor portion of the restaurant with its glass paned walls could easily be confused as a small beachy museum. Graffiti is the perfect restaurant for those with an elevated taste and appreciation for locally sourced and ingenious cuisine, but hate the out of touch snobbery of fine dining.
It goes without saying that every option on the cocktail list seems like a good one. Cold Brew Colada, Blackberry G & T, Passion Thyme Gin Fizz…the choices are endless and difficult to make. Going with the Wildberry Basil Lemonade is the move in my opinion. It’s refreshing and light and perfect on a hot evening.
The crowned jewel of Graffiti is its coffee and cacao rubbed beef tenderloin. It is tender, juicy, and packed with flavor. It’s surprising that the coffee and cacao flavors actually do stand out on the palette – for that alone I was impressed. The portion is more than generous and the crispy onions that come atop the entree…simply to die for. Don’t miss out on the deconstructed fish tacos either, you are in Costa Rica afterall! If you’re eating in Jaco, Costa Rica – this is a must visit.
El Hicaco Seafood
El Hicaco Seafood is the pearl of Jaco. Set directly on the beach it is the perfect spot for a dreamy sunset dinner. Watching the waves roll onto the beach and the palm trees sway is pure bliss. Make no mistake – this is no little taco hut. The wooden wire cages around the lights, palm leaf fans, and bamboo details create a minimalistic yet sophisticated beachy ambiance. The clean white aesthetic inside help El Hicaco stand out as an elevated seafood experience.
The surf and turf is a popular option at El Hicaco. If you order a dish without any seafood component – you’re nuts. The restaurant does seafood perfectly, in spite of that, my entree was way too big to finish. I ordered the lobster tails sauteed in butter and God knows what else. They’re meaty, flavorful, and easy to get out of the shell. The tails paired with a daquiri as the sound of the waves roll in – paradise.
Whenever I find a Mexican establishment anywhere in the world – I feel at home. I’m not even a fraction Mexican, but I truly feel this way. It might be that Mexican culture is so warm and inviting. I’ve never met a Mexican person who was not genuine – especially in the service and tourism industry. The people are incredibly hard working and go massive lengths to satisfy clients and customers. Senor Harry’s is a great example of such ethos.
I wish I lived at Senor Harry’s. The staff is really accommodating, kind, and welcoming. Our maitre’d let us have our pick of table and went out of his way to consider our sleeping child. We had a great laugh trying to navigate our bulky stroller through the tables and another waiter joined in on the hysterics. “No problem, I love funny moments like this. That’s pura vida, right?” the maitre’d happily announced. From that moment on I fell in love with Senor Harrys.
If you don’t like Mexican or Tex Mex food – you’re just not human. Senor Harrys serves up the soul nourishing, heart warming, stomach pleasing dishes that make you do a little dance in your seat. The drinks are strong enough to give you the courage to take your little dance onto the live music stage. The restaurant is HUGE and does offer live music on the weekends. Each night of the week there is some kind of fun offering at Senor Harry’s. This includes one dollar margarita night on Mondays and free bachata lessons on Sundays and Wednesdays.
Senor Harry’s offers all of the fan favorites – quesadillas, burritos, tacos and much more. The tableside guacamole if a must, and with any luck your guac preparer will be as friendly as ours. The frozen watermelon – equal parts delicious and strong – is divine. Look to their drink menu for other fun cocktails. The drinks are concocted with iconic natural sites of Costa Rica in mind.
Hotel Club Del Mar – Las Sandalias
This one is going to take a lot of people by surprise. Hotel Club Del Mar offers really really good food. Its clientele is mostly limited to the guests staying at the resort. That is how I came to know its food in the first place. There are certain details that stand out to me from my last trip to Jaco. The food at Hotel Club Del Mar is one of them, it was just exceptional and comforting. I ate here several times and the food was always on point.
I came back to re-assess and wasn’t disappointed. Most of the staff was surprised that we weren’t staying at the resort and still chose to eat here. Step up your marketing game and get people in – because it’s an excellent eatery!
The banana daiquiri is the best I had in the city, and I have order them from everywhere I visited in this post. The comida tipica is exceptional and fairly priced. I ordered the fish option although you can also choose other types of protein. It was fresh and flavorful. The rice and beans which accompanied were filling and well seasoned. On a hot day, be sure to order a bowl of gazpacho. It’s tangy, creamy, and could rival the gazpacho in Seville. I’m drooling just thinking about it.
Morales Steak House
The Morales House just feels like Jaco. The city for the most part has a rough and tumble, street, type of vibe to it. If Jaco were a person it would probably never cry, keep its distance, but also kick your ass if it needed to – no questions asked.
Morales House is a no frills outdoor joint. It is equipped with no less than 9,000 televisions all showing UFC matches simultaneously. The atmosphere is busy, lively, and comfortable. It is rustic, no frills, and there is always a crowd. It’s a fantastic place to grab a cold beer, watch a fight, and dive into their meat-centric menu. You can’t go wrong with a classic steak, potato, and veggie option here. Meat is their specialty.
This restaurant isn’t in Jaco – it is found in Manuel Antonio which isn’t impossibly far away. I wanted to squeeze in a small review because I’d been yearning to go and finally got the chance.
El Avion is incredibly popular with tourists because of two reasosn.
First – the impossibly amazing view:
Second – It is inside of an airplane!
Beyond the drinks which will get you butt-wasted – the food is nothing to write home about. It’s not bad, but it’s basic. I wouldn’t visit here hoping to have comida tipica. Generally the rule is the better the view – the more sub-par the food. No exception at El Avion. As I said, the food isn’t bad – but no wow factor. Come, have a burger and strong drink and enjoy what might be the best view in Manuel Antonio.
I would fly to Costa Rica just for this fucking gelato. Period. The play on the name is genius, because Jaco does have more of a rebellious spirit than a beauty to it – and I love it. You will definitely be surprised how closely this gelato comes to that of Italy and Spain – I was impressed. If you are an aesthetics person you will love the cozy and artsy cafe vibe. The flavors are endless and unique. Some of the more interesting ones include Madagascar vanilla, lavendar, matcha, dragonfruit, iced espresso, lime ginger, and Nutella. There are around 20 different flavors to choose from daily along with coffee and affogato. Don’t be surprised if there is a line around the block.
If you visit Costa Rica – without a doubt you will pass some type of “soda.” I was going to make a corny joke, but I decided against it. (Da-hurr, soda?! Not the kind you drink, everyone…) A soda in Costa Rica is an eatery that serves traditional Costa Rican fare. Typically the food is buffet style (although not always.) It typically comes at a reasonable price. The atmosphere tends to be rustic and no fuss – and anytime you walk into that situation – you know the food will be good. If the soda you walk into seems to have an entire family working behind the counter – even better. I fell in love with Costa Rican breakfast at a remote soda.
Costa Rican Breakfast
When you hear the contents of a “Costa Rican breakfast” it largely sounds like none of it should go together, but somehow, it does. Typically, such breakfasts are referred to as Gallo Pinto. While there is some variation, it is safe to say that Gallo Pinto almost always looks different compared to the classic American breakfast to which many of us are accustomed. As I’ve had it, Gallo Pinto consists of mixed rice and black beans. In addition there are eggs any style, a tortilla, sweet plantains, and of course, sour cream.
I might have lost some of you at the last two, but TRUST ME, it somehow freaking works. This combination is sweet and savory at its best. It WILL leave a pool of saliva in your jaw. I have not been able to stop talking about breakfast in Costa Rica for well over two weeks at this point. Bare in mind – this whole opportunity on your dish is utterly a waste if you don’t dress your eggs in Lizano.
Many think the biodiversity of the country if Costa Rica’s national treasure. Fuck that. Lizano is clearly the superior option. The salsa is unique to Costa Rica. It comes in what looks like a hot sauce bottle. The standard flavor is NOT spicy, just very flavorful. I’d describe it as Latin salsa mixed with British malt or vinegar sauce.
I have an obsessive interest in street food. I mean, I don’t like to be standing when I eat it, but I love street food. In many of my blog posts I’ve waxed poetic about street foods from around the world. I need to add yet another to my list, and I’m drooling on the keyboard as I do so…salchipapas. There are so many takes on the quick dish, but let me give you an overview. Imagine a plate of french fries, slived pan fried sausage (a level better than hot dogs), and an array of condiments including, but not limited to mayonnaise, ketchup, and mustard.
There are several places that will add coleslaw into the mix as well. Salchipapas are meant to be shared, of course. It was great to kick back at the beach with my husband, and to nosh on a basket of salchipapas at night while getting lost in political discussion fueled by beer and frozen drinks. This is literally the perfect accompaniment to an evening of drinking and discourse.
What I Learned Is – Parent Tips
We were able to take our nine month old son to all of these restaurants. After reading this post, you can see how they all differ. From the high end to the rowdy, he was welcomed everywhere. In my experience, Costa Rican people adore children and do not think it’s weird to bring your child out to dinner late at night.
Henry was exceptional for most of the meals we shared as a family. However, on the rare occasion that he did cry and scream, it was only other American tourists who raised an eyebrow – never locals. If anything, those in service positions only asked how they could help and wanted to love on Henry as much as possible.
Costa Rica is a great place to experiment with dining styles for little ones. The overall culture is relaxed and tolerant. Most eateries offer outdoor seating. If you absolute beast (little one) starts acting up, all you have to do is push your stroller a few steps away to be out of everyone’s hair. No need to worry about doing the parent-walk-of-shame out of a crowded indoor restaurant.
In Jaco, understand that options for highchairs and basic at best. For the most part they are non functional and may not even have lap belts. Bring your own stroller – almost as cool as bring your own booze…almost.
Come prepared with a personal fan, water/Pedialyte, and toys. As stated – many eateries are outdoors where it may be very hot – even at night. Keep the kids hydrated, cool, and entertained.