The lunch counter in La Galeria
The lunch counter in La Galeria. Exclusive photo by the Q!

inding a good an affordable lunch in Costa Rica isn’t that difficult, it you take the time look around at the options.

In San José there are many sodas, Costa Rica’s equivalent of diners. At a soda, you’ll have lots of choices and at reasonable prices. For example, San José’s Mercado Central (Central Market) offers up dozens of gritty soda stands, where you will find authentic Costa Rican foods like the olla de carne, sopa negra, gallo pinto, arroz con pollo, etc.

Still in San José, another hot spot for a good and inexpensive lunch, the La Galeria lunch counters, where for ¢2.000 colones you get a complete lunch. And quick. Since there really is no menu, everyone kind of has the same meal prepared for the day.

The meal of the day at La Galeria soda. Exclusive photo the Q
The meal of the day at La Galeria soda. Exclusive photo the Q

The Galeria is located half block west of the Presidente hotel on the boulevar (Avenida Cental). The sodas are in the basement level (or street level if you come in from Avenida 2).

The Bourbon market area is another great place for a soda lunch. The area is a little (ok a lot) rough, smack in the middle of the Zona Roja (Red Zone) on Calle 6-8 and Avenida 3-5. But, here you can find some really tasty meals.

Sodas can be found all over the downtown core of San José. Some are around for a few months, while others have been around for years, decades even.

Not in the same number as in San José, sodas can be found in all of Costa Rica’s cities and towns.

Dining at the a Costa Rican soda is an acquired taste.

The alternative to the soda for authentic "tico" taste.
The alternative to the soda for authentic “tico” taste.

For many foreigners and younger Costa Ricans, the soda is not something they can stomach. With that in mind, one fast food franchise is appealing to diners who want the traditional Costa Rican taste, but in a modern environment: enter the “Tico” sandwich by Quiznos.

For ¢1.090 colones (2 American bucks) Quiznos offers a sandwich with carne mechada (shredded beef), frijoles molidos (mashed beans) and Sala Lizano (a Costa Rican condiment developed in 1920 by the Lizano Company) in with lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise.  This  IS NOT a paid advertising by Quiznos.

The chain calls the taste “muy nuestro” (very much ours).

For North Americans, part of living in a different culture is trying the local foods.

If you can’t, just can’t do the Central Market, La Galeria or others like Chelles, the Tico sandwhich will give you that authentic Costa Rican flavour.


Stay up to date with the latest stories by signing up to our newsletter, or following us on Facebook.