The first thing I did when my mom told me our family was going to Costa Rica for vacation was research the local cuisine. When I say research, of course, I mean that I went to google and typed in "Costa Rican food." I was disappointed to quickly learn that nobody thinks it's very good. The best seafood is exported and is otherwise expensive. Same for the coffee, although I was assured that it would still be good, no matter where I went.
We flew into San Jose, the noisy, crowded buzzing city in the center of the country. We rented a car and piled in. The Avis rep talked my parents into a "marriage saver," aka GPS. Thank god! As the polite, calm voice of the navigation system guided us through the city to our hotel, I started to get excited. It occurred to me that I didn't care if Costa Rica was known for it's food or not - no matter what, it was going to be a new experience, a way to learn about the culture.
That night for dinner, we asked the hotel for recommendations within walking distance. They directed us to a nearby "soda," which is sort of like a diner, sometimes with a small bar and often open to the breeze. This one was called Soda Isabel. Sodas serve comida tipica - typical Costa Rican food - and one of the most common dishes is casado. It's sort of a combo plate of rice, beans, a vegetable mixture, fried plantain and whatever meat you like. At Soda Isabel, our casado plates also came with a beet salad. I ordered mine with pork, and my mom got hers with fish. Both were fried - which I wasn't expecting for the pork, but were pretty darn good.After dinner, my step-dad picked out an ice-pop, but it had suffered a bit from freezer burn. He ate it anyway. Not a bad start to our vacation.