First a plug for a favorite that I previously praised: Galeria Steakhouse in Florencia Mall, Escazú serves great food at reasonable prices. The décor is lovely. Talented Chef Jorge and wife, the lovely Tatiana, are warm and friendly. Of 47 Trip Adviser reviews, 36 were great and 10 were very good. I have no idea why so many diners haven’t gone there yet. You should. If they were to go under for lack of support it would be a crying shame. One nice feature is their economical section in the menu. Many places take quality ingredients and reduce size to sampler portion size and make it a daily special. Not at Galeria. We recently felt like eating less than their grand portions and ordered instead Delmonico steak for less than C6000 and pork spare ribs for less than C5000. We started our meal with complementary bowls of superb cream of pejibaye soup. Both entrees came with crisp fries and a salad of lettuce, tomato and avocado nicely dressed. The meat portions were as filling as many other restaurant top-of-the line dishes and both were prepared perfectly. The steak was juicy, tender and flavorful. Garlicky fresh tasting chimichurri and picante strawberry sauce added extra splendid touches. The meat from the five ribs fell off the bone and they were beautifully seasoned and sauced. We could hardly finish (we both left some potatoes on the plate) two lovely meals from the economy menu. 2289-3901
Four decades ago, London was a gastronomic wasteland. Pub food and neighborhood Indian restaurants were the only decent venues short of high tea in exclusive hotels. I spent a month as visiting faculty at Hammersmith Royal Postgraduate Hospital and dined pleasantly on pub food. In the past quarter century, London has become an international dining mecca and gastropubs have ascended far beyond steak and kidney pie, shepherd’s pie, bangers and mash, etc.
On the subject of gastropubs…
Last month’s update included Santa Ana’s Tap House, a nice pub with good burgers and sandwiches. The owner has added a fine Reuben sandwich to the menu and probably deserves a promotion to gastropub, since corned beef and pastrami of decent quality are endangered species in Costa Rica and his burgers, pulled pork, smoked brisket and smoked chicken are more nearly gourmet versions of pub food than all the competition in Santa Ana.
A Hause Alajuela Stuart was one of the first readers of Feasting in Costa Rica’s Central Valley. He asked why I left the Alajuela gastropubs, A Hause, out of the book. The answer, my friend, is that it serves well as a pub, but the gastro part of it disappointed me so much, that I can’t recommend it. Rather than malign the entire operation, I’ll keep the specifics to myself. It is located 350 meters south of Agonia Church on the opposite side of the street.
Ravi Gastropub & Cafe Located in Barrio Escalante, 200 meters north of Intensa. Does a vegan restaurant qualify as a gastropub? Clearly it doesn’t fit my sausage and meat pie image. All I sampled was a refreshing cold beer on a hot afternoon with Portobello pizza that was quite tasty in a pleasant environment. Two of my neighborhood food scouts love their cheese board. One also raved about a mason jar drink of gin, ginger and soda water. They really like the owners and friendly service as well. One audiophile commented that the music actually goes through quality speakers rather than typical standard amplifiers. Good service. Good drinks. My vegetarian friends are at odds with each other over the food. They agree that the menu is creative and presentations attractive, but disagree on flavor and execution. I will defer to knowledgeable vegetarians. They do agree that it deserves the designation of gastropub. It would take too many visits for me to form a valid opinion and weigh in between Ravi’s admirers (majority) and detractors (minority) and most of my visits to restaurants happen at the noon hour when they are closed. 2253-3371. Hours: Tuesday through Saturday, 3 pm to midnight.
El Gaff is a delightful gastropub. Dozens of local and international beers pair nicely with three or four well prepared daily specials. Chef Eric is half Brazilian, half Tico, fluent in English and 100% charming. He buys the freshest and best quality ingredients in the morning markets and prepares them accordingly. Having sampled his salmon with crispy skin beautifully seasoned and cooked (C5500 with a bed of mashed potatoes and a side of vegetables plus a cold drink), reasonable seafood and rice and standard olla de carne, I can attest to his kitchen abilities. I hear his New York strip steak is also a fine special. In addition to daily specials, the menu offers burgers, pizza, fish and chips, seafood and veggie options. The prices are about average for gastropubs. Two dozen beers range from C1200-3000 except for pricier triples. An entire menu page of hard liquor options are roughly in the same price range. The three comfortable dining areas are front patio, bar room and back garden. Focaccia drizzled with pesto was a complementary sample starter on our last visit. Baked on oven stones it could not have been lighter or nicer. We also sampled four small glasses each of brews on tap. The IPA was my hop-laden favorite. There were about twenty taps. Located near the intersection of Avenida 8 and Calle 29 in Los Yoses, across from the restaurant Il Retorno. Hours: Tue.-Fri. noon.–2:30 a.m.; Sat., 7 p.m.–2:30 a.m. All major credit cards accepted. 2234-1596, 8886-0156.
Tico Pub Momentum Plaza, Santa Ana - In the location that Bagelman’s vacated, Tico Pub moved in late in July. The décor has been upgraded including the second floor and both balconies. The place is first and foremost a pub. It offers 24 beers and a full bar. With no pretense of being a gastro pub, it has a straightforward menu of classic Tico bar food including all of these: nachos, chicken wings. chifrijo, patacones, French fries, tomato soup, chips and dips and a dozen more. The tomato soup is on a par with the best tortilla soup around. The base tastes like chicken broth rich with bright red tomatoes accented with a splash of citrus. With a generous bowl of the soup soup come avocado slices, fresh crisp corn chips and grated cheeses that melt easily. The chicken wings can be ordered uncoated or empanizado. The latter are terrific. Crisp meaty wings coated in flavorful coarse breadcrumbs reminiscent of Panko are done perfectly, juicy and not oily. Six pieces include three drummettes and three wings. I had the hot buffalo sauce. It was good. More carrot and celery sticks than most places serve came with standard ranch dressing. The amiable bar tender speaks English well. Service is efficient. Prices vary from C2500 to C3500, not bad at all for this high rent district. It fills a previously empty niche very nicely in this sea of other eateries. Hours: Noon to midnight except Mondays. 8729-5654
Wökàpi is also not a gastropub. It is a coffee and tea café. The name is the Bri Bri translation for coffee bean. It is a tiny space with miles of charm that should please all comers even though it is designed for lovers of organic healthy food. Daniel, his brother and cousin share ownership but he is the on-site chef, manager and jack-of-all-trades. Charming people. Carefully prepared organic tasty paninis, salads, gluten-free cakes, breakfasts and host of very nice hot and cold coffees, teas and fruit drinks. My favorites include the smoked trout panini, the prosciutto panini, the turkey panini, the ginger iced coffee or the iced coffee with chai spices (yum), the chocolate and coconut cake and the almond zucchini cake. Both cakes are gluten free, delicious and moist. Everything is made to order so it doesn’t qualify as a fast food experience. If you are looking for a sweet, relaxed, artsy place to linger and chat with a friend or two and enjoy yummy drinks and food, Wökàpi can’t be beat. The prices are quite affordable. Paninis are C3000, but for C4900 you can order a combo with two drinks and dessert. A little hard to spot, it is attached to the nursery (vivero) adjacent to Taco Bar and across the street from Andiamo La and Mas X Menos in Santa Ana. 2282-8745 Open every day from 8am to 7pm.
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