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Malpaís Surf Camp (7 A.M.–10 P.M. daily) serves American breakfasts (from $5), plus lunch and dinner. It has an all-you-can-eat buffet ($9) at 6 P.M. on Wednesday night. I like Casa Zen (tel. 506/2640-0523, 7 A.M.–10 P.M. daily), a marvelous Thai restaurant by night that serves American-style breakfasts ($4) such as veggie scramble and pancakes and lunches that include BLTs and tuna sandwiches. For dinner ($8), try the seared yellowfin tuna or red coconut curry.
For a great option for burgers, veggie dishes, kabobs, and slow-cooked chicken, try Burger Rancho (tel. 506/2640-0583, 8 A.M.–midnight daily), a tiny little spot that gets packed despite the road dust. It’s opposite the soccer field in Santa Teresa.
I prefer to start my days at Zwart Café (tel. 506/2640-0011, 7 A.M.–10 P.M. daily), coolly minimalist with all-white decor in and out. Opt for healthy granola with fruit, yogurt, and honey ($6), or raise your cholesterol with the buttermilk pancakes ($5). Whole-wheat sandwiches and burritos highlight the lunch menu; dinner might mean Greek salad with feta ($7.50) or fresh tuna with ginger dressing ($9.50). Follow it with a warm brownie and ice cream ($5). Plus there’s great coffee and smoothies. Yum!
Café Liberal (tel. 506/2640-0797), at Plaza Royal in Santa Teresa, has a similar vibe, plus WiFi.
The restaurant at Ranchos Itauna (506/2640-0095, 7:30–9:30 A.M. and 6:30–9:30 P.M. daily) specializes in Brazilian seafood, but also has barbecue on Thursday. It really gets a groove going for full-moon parties.
The best cuisine by far is at Néctar (7 A.M.–3 P.M. daily café only, 3–6 P.M. daily sushi only, 6–9 P.M. daily full menu) at Florblanca, where chef Spencer Graves conjures up fabulous Asian-Pacific-Latin fusion creations, including smoked trout, cream cheese, and scallion maki roll appetizers ($7) and salmon, scallion, and caviar jumbo roll ($9). Entrées include Chinese five-spice marinated duck breast with caramelized red onion latkes and butter-wilted spinach ($20). The raised hemispheric bar is a good place to enjoy top-quality sushi (don’t fail to order the caterpillar rolls). A chef’s five-course tasting menu is offered with 24 hours’ notice. It plays cool music, from jazz to classical.
Chef Graves “rival” is U.K.-born chef John Dewhurst, whose Buenos Aires (tel. 506/2640-0941, 4–11 P.M. Tues.–Sun.) is now at the Brisas del Mar, high atop the hill away from all the dust. You dine on an open deck dolled up with fairy lights. Its weekly menu might include an appetizer of fresh calamari with chipotle aioli ($7) or coconut-battered shrimp with ginger dipping sauce ($8); main course could be sea bass with capers and olives in browned butter ($13) or beef tenderloin with brandy peppercorn sauce ($17). Wash it down with sangria or an electric-mint lemonade. Meals come with complimentary pita bread and three delicious dips. Cash only.
The past few years have seen an explosion of sushi restaurants, including Omi Sushi (tel. 506/2640-0968, noon–10:30 P.M. daily), in Plaza Carmén. You can even wash down your miso soup and sashimi with an imported Sapporo beer.
In Plaza Carmén, Artemisa Café (tel. 506/2640-0561, 7 A.M.–midnight daily) is clean and modern and has WiFi plus an outdoor courtyard. The wide-ranging menu includes paninis, salads, smoked-salmon appetizer ($8), and dinners such as spinach ravioli ($7.50), as well as cookies.
Across the way, the Azúcar Restaurant (tel. 506/2640-0071, www.azucar-restaurant.com, 8 A.M.–9:30 P.M. daily), at Frank’s Place, is run by a French-Cuban couple. Norbis is the Cuban (yet London-trained) chef at the helm delivering delicious nouvelle tropical cuisine, such as seared ahi tuna with ginger ($12), and mahimahi with basil mashed potatoes with tomato and parsley sauce ($10). It’s a great spot to try ropa vieja or a burger, then a chocolate tart with ice cream before bedding down poolside for a snooze.
Dulcería Sabores, opposite the soccer field in Santa Teresa, sells delicious ice cream in two dozen flavors. You can buy fresh produce at the organic fruit and vegetable market, held in Santa Teresa every Saturday at 3 P.M.
© Christopher P. Baker from Moon Costa Rica, 8th Edition