The Best Quirky Restaurants in San José, Costa Rica

Breakfast in the city
Breakfast in the city | Courtesy of Búlali Café y Respostería Artesanal | Búlali Café y Respostería Artesanal
Jenn Parker

San José definitely has a happening gastronomy scene. You can find nearly every type of cuisine in the city. There are some restaurants though that are truly unique in their own quirky way. If you are looking to tantalize your tastebuds, these restaurants will surely do that trick.

1. Cafeoteca

Cafe, Healthy, Dessert, Central American

Café in San José, Costa Rica
Courtesy of Cafeoteca | Cafeoteca

Cafeoteca has 23 different coffees from eight different coffee-growing regions in Costa Rica. Suffice it to say this café is a coffee connoisseur’s happy place. The baristas are incredibly knowledgeable and even use multiple brewing methods. Simply put, Cafeoteca is more than just a café – it is a coffee experience – with delicious pastries that pair perfectly with their speciality brews. This trendy café is also part of the sensational restaurant Kalú.

2. Búlali, Café y Respostería Artesanal

Bakery, Cafe, Juice Bar, Coffee Shop, Pastry Shop, Smoothie Bar, Central American, Vegetarian, Gluten-free, Fusion, Healthy

Courtesy of Búlali Café y Respostería Artesanal | Búlali Café y Respostería Artesanal

Búlali means bee honey in the indigenous Bri Bri tribe’s native language. This unique café is inspired by the Bri Bri tribe’s harmonious way of life and respect for nature. There is no refined sugar or artificial coloring used in any of Búlali’s extraordinary dishes, everything is made as naturally as possible. It is here that you can indulge in delicious quinoa pancakes or electric pink smoothies with chia seeds, among so many other healthy and belly-satisfying plates, sandwiches, salads, and pastry options.

3. Café Rojo

Cafe, Restaurant, Coffee Shop, Bistro, Vietnamese, Vegetarian, Vegan, Gluten-free

© Andrea Nguyen / Flickr

Café Rojo is a cute Vietnamese-inspired restaurant. Their concept is a build-your-own-dish approach. First, you pick your base and then you pick whether you want vegetarian add-ins or fish, chicken, or pork. They have a wonderful selection of hot and cold coffees and teas too. Café Rojo makes everything in-house and uses only the finest and freshest ingredients. This adorable place will surely surprise you.

5. Tin Jo Asian Restaurant

Restaurant, Asian, Vegetarian, Gluten-free, Vegan, Thai, Jamaican, Indonesian, Chinese

Spring Rolls
© Marco Verch/Flickr | Marco Verch / Flickr

Tin Jo is a famous Thai, Indian, Chinese, Indonesian, and Japanese restaurant that is also vegetarian and gluten-free friendly. Located in an old colonial mansion in the heart of San José, Tin Jo has come a long way since it opened in the early 70s. Today they are a no-plastic straw establishment that also offers yoga and mediation classes throughout the week and a special candle lit atmosphere on Wednesdays.

6. Al Mercat

Restaurant, Central American, Vegetarian, Seafood, Tapas, French

© OakleyOriginals/Flickr | OakleyOriginals / Flickr

Al Mercat is one of the most unique and extraordinary restaurants in San José’s gastronomic district of Barrio Escalante. Chef José Pablo González is a graduate from Cordon Bleu in Paris and is an expert at taking Costa Rican staples and turning them into one of a kind rave-worthy creations. Al Mercat even has their own farm, which is where they get a lot of their ingredients from. This is truly a farm-to-table restaurant. The menu changes depending on what is in season in Costa Rica. If you are interested, you can even make a reservation to visit the farm, Finca Al Mercat.

7. Café Mundo

Restaurant, Central American, Seafood, Vegetarian, Fusion

Café Mundo now thrives in what was once an old San José home. This homey establishment is popular amongst the locals and for good reasons, the food is amazing. The menu is eclectic and offers a great spread of international flavors, including exceptional seafood dishes. It has been reported that local celebrities also frequent this highly recommended spot.

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