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Don Rufino

Don Rufino

Destination: Arenal

Named after one of the city's founders, Don Rufino is the classiest haute in La Fortuna. The restaurant's enormous menu is daunting until you learn about the Rufino Grandmother's Chicken smothered in a tangy barbeque sauce wrapped and roasted in banana leaves infused with chocolate, tarragon and coffee. A molten lava of sauce bubbles out as the server slices open the wrapped chicken tableside – though it'd be better if they'd taken off the aluminum foil beforehand.

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Other nearly irresistible temptations after a day of hiking around Arenal Volcano include the bacon-wrapped filet, the beef tenderloin and the fresh Tilapia on a bed of tender and savory crab risotto.

Not one to miss out on the finer things, a couple of friends and I dabbled in their cocktail list. We lead with a round of delightfully tart Pisco Sours sprinkled with nutmeg. For Round two, I tried the Guaro Sour made with Costa Rica's infamous moonshine while a friend got the Don Rufino cocktail rum, pineapple, orange, strawberry and coconut cream blend garnished with pineapple—our favorite drink of the night. 


Old-school, polished wood bar tops, floors, and tables akin to a business casual setting. Relaxed but still classy, I'd feel uncomfortable in a swimsuit but could probably get away with sandals.


Friendly and informative, the bilingual staff starts by asking if you'd prefer English or Spanish and follows up by telling the evening's specials. Rufino's service stands out as attentive, even when the restaurant is full.


Entrees range from $20 to $60, but the prices are at least better than many of the nearby hotels and worthy of a night on the town. Cocktails are reasonably priced for the area; $3 dollars for local beers and $14 dollars for well-made, stiff cocktails.


Though walk-ins are accepted, you'll be hard pressed to find a table after 7 p.m. without reservations.


Dinner only; 4 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.

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