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For your own good health, I hope the server of your food and/or drink added washing the dishes, drying the glasses, washing is/her hands and indeed the lettuce, tomatoes, etc. and all to give gallo pinto its look.

I can pretty well assure that gallo pinto will not be seen on Food Network.

In fact, except on occasions, I find typical Costa Rica food tasteless unless there is an ice cold beer at hand. The stuff is very bland, even the local Chinese food lacks flavor for fear of frightening off the locals. Then again, I count my kitties every time I come home from an Asian restaurant just to make sure I didn’t for lunch.

Not only has Costa Rica turned into a money laundering paradise, according to a number of news outlets, but also we have become the haven for franchises and fast foods.

Not a week goes past that an article in the more reputable newspapers such as La Nación and La Republica that some sort of hamburger, fries and now coffee franchise store is not a featured article. The latest being the opening of “Johnny Rockets”, a throwback to the 50s and just another hamburger joint this time around with milkshakes.

The décor and worker costumes at these places are always different, the burgers are about the same and what is tossed in is some kind of special of the month like a French fry combo made with real olive oil instead of lard. Of course it costs a little bit more, but that’s the offer.

When the last three presidents all spoke of need for innovation, I don’t think they had McDonalds, et al in mind. These are “cookie cutter” franchises which have proliferated just about every street corner in just about every city in Costa Rica. What they have in common is no imagination and often times poor quality of service as well as food at hyper-prices.

Mouth watering for Mexican food, my wife and I finally ended up at the all new Chilis in Multi Plaza.

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Big mistake, but the place was full and that means a lot of people like it.

It took 1.5 hours to get the wrong order. The manager was kind enough to allow us to leave without paying for the two Coca Colas and one tiny little guacamole.

Finding decent Mexican food is almost more difficult than finding good Thai food. Only because a Popeye’s Chicken franchise is far more profitable and it does not require any imagination: Just follow the instructions.

Despite so many schools and classes of cooking, Costa Rican customers prefer the franchise method. Entrepreneurs seem to actually fear innovation and have little self confidence in their ability to manage, cook and profit from a boutique restaurant.
The average Tico worker bee cannot afford a mid-scale restaurant, the chefs are under paid and the customer (s) just love U.S. concoctions ranging from donuts to buffalo wings  at inflated prices but still well below local costs.

Sunday is the day to have lunch out. It relieves mom of her domestic slavery and gives the family a chance to see the world. Back in December, La Nación noted that 85% of the crowd who walk the endless floors and isles of Multi Plaza, this Argonaut mall end up only spending money at the food court. It is a day out and one worthwhile. And, everything within the food court is fast food, mostly offered by franchises such as Subway, KFC and of course McDonalds.

Original foods, ethnic foods, gourmet if you will, are for the more affluent. The masses rely on the franchise. But even in the original cuisine we have a plethora of Italian and now Argentine/Brazil and Peruvian fast food places.

From sushi to all you can eat carved beef, the prices are higher than most places in the United States. The reason is simple, it is either pay the going fare, eat at another franchise burger place or some small soda where who knows if any hands have been washed in the last twenty-four hours.