San Jose Restaurants & Nightlife
Housed in a 19th-century historic home, this Italian eatery strikes a balance of elegance and gourmet cuisine. Dine al fresco on the covered back patio – the best seats in the house also afford views of the restaurant's wood-burning pizza oven and open kitchen. Come with an appetite and choose from the rotating menu of antipasti, pizzas, pastas and other delectable dishes.
Completely redecorated in 2011, Casa China, or the Chinese House, promises the city's best Chinese food. Excellent prices are only eclipsed by the restaurant's authentic dim sum menu, which features mouthwatering morsels perfect for sampling and sharing. For a true experience, pair the meal with an ice-cold Tsingtao beer.
Peruvian cuisine specializes in seafood, and no one does it better than Chancay. The menu offers ethnic dishes like the trilogia de causas – cold octopus, tuna, and prawns on a bed of spiced mashed potatoes – and adds Asian flavors like shrimp baked in oyster sauce. For serious indulgence, try the seafood au gratin, a trio of calamari, shrimp and fish baked in cheeses and served on the half shell.
Many consider Fuji to be one of the world's best Japanese restaurants outside Japan, and for good reason. The restaurant is a study in Japanese culture, decorated with tatami mats and hot tables, and has chefs schooled in traditional Japanese flavors and preparations. The restaurant's unique sushi preparations are excellent.
Grano de Oro Restaurant
This downtown favorite serves French food in a restored colonial mansion. The restaurant, which is part of the Hotel Grano de Oro, offers upscale cuisine with prices to match, but is definitely worth the splurge for special occasions. The chef outdoes himself with dishes like sea bass coated in toasted macadamia nuts in a light orange sauce, or the marquise de chocolate, a dessert crafted from semi-frozen dark and white chocolate terrine, served with Bailey's ice cream and raspberry coulis.
La Esquina de Buenos Aires
This Argentinean restaurant is the go-to destination for meat lovers in San Jose. The Argentinean grill always seems to sizzle with short ribs, chorizo, and chicken kebobs. For a more formal dinner, try main courses like beef loin in black beer reduction or Buenos Aires-style shrimp served in a creamy fish sauce.
Definitely the best Moroccan food and vibe in town, Lubnan is home to low-slung couches, giant mezze plates, belly dancers, and flavored hookah. This is a great choice for groups of friends, as the varied menu offers a little of everything, from spicy, traditional Moroccan to vegetarian favorites like baba ghanoush and falafel.
For a traditional Costa Rican feast, even the locals head to Nuestra Tierra, which sits across the street from the National Museum. Order a fresh-brewed coffee from the traditional Costa Rican coffee sock, or pick your favorite flavor of casado – rice, beans, salad and plantains served with beef, fish, chicken or pork. Some of the choices can be a bit bland, so ask the waiter about daily specials.
San Jose is home to a slew of vegetarian and vegan-friendly restaurants, but none is so popular as Shakti. Here, macrobiotic fare is the specialty, and the kitchen serves up a host of ingenious and flavorful dishes. Enjoy unique takes on Costa Rica's exotic fruits and vegetables, or grab a thick slice of healthy homemade bread. Shakti is about simple fare and delicious cuisine.
As San Jose's only restaurant dedicated solely to Indian cuisine, tables at Taj Mahal are in high demand. From crispy samosas to creamy chicken tikka masala, the kitchen turns out dishes that are seasoned according to the customer's preference – choose your own spice level. Diners will enjoy sitting in the peacock garden or on the outdoor patio, while groups and private events often enjoy the restaurant's private salon.
When the sun goes down, San Jose beckons visitors to get their dance and drink on at these top venues:
One of the capital's best choices for traditional dancing, Castros plays merengue, salsa, cumbia and bolero, with a bit of reggaeton thrown in. Arrive by 9:00 p.m. to secure a table.
With locations in San Pedro and Escazu, the Jazz Cafe has the city covered for chill evenings and live music. Local Costa Rican beats and soulful jazz are popular, but the Jazz Cafe also gets nostalgic with regular visits from 70s, 80s and 90s cover bands.
A favorite among the cultured crowd, the Shakespeare Bar is a popular stop after a night of live music or opera. Sophisticated decor and tranquil music complement the cosmopolitan atmosphere.
Techno beats pump so loudly that club-goers can't hear themselves speak – but isn't that the point? This is San Jose's hippest spot for electronica, and Vertigo plays up the image with strobe lighting, glow-in-the-dark wristbands, and other kitschy details.