Located on the Central Valley’s western edge, Atenas is a slice of quintessential small town Costa Rica. Since the community is relatively rural the restaurants serve mostly simple Costa Rican style cuisine. As you get closer to San Jose, the country’s capital, you’ll find more variety as well as upscale restaurants.
There is very good Italian with some delicious thin crusted pizza, American, Salvadorian, Mexican, empanada take away, and local Costa Rican food. At Tico restaurants you will find local casado, a Costa Rican meal consisting of rice and beans , tortilla, a plantain and a salad and an optional entrée that may include chicken beef, pork or fish. We like to call it 4 starches and a protein. Pork Chicken and Fish are all good choices, but you might find the beef to be quite different from what you you’re used to, unless you try it in a soup or a stew.
Restaurants come and go, but here’s a list of some of our recommendations, many of which are also listed on Trip Advisor :
- Pizzeria La Finca – This place is a favorites. The menu features a wide range of super thin crust pizza along with a few pastas and salads. They also serve a good selection of beer and wine, including some local craft beers, and a full bar. If you’d rather eat at home, there is the option of take out or even having it delivered. The restaurant keeps expanding its dining area and shrinking the parking so if you can find a spot on the street to park you might be better off doing so.
- La Casita del Cafe : Head up the main road (highway 3) past Atenas and towards Jaco and the beaches. As you reach the top of the hill – about a 10 minute drive, the cafe is on the left. It offers tremendous views of coffee fields, mountains and even the ocean on a clear day, as well as tasty but simple fare, coffee, and fruit drinks. It has become a bit of a tradition for us to head up there when we first arrive for a plate of arroz con pollo and a fruta mixto cafe or cerveza.
- El Balcon de Cafe: El Balcon has delicious baked goods and german specialties. There’s often a streudel available, or choose from a quiche and salad or some german charcuterie. You can eat there or also shop in their smal market of specialized items that you’d be hard pressed to find anywhere else in Costa Rica. This is also one of the few places in town where a real cappuccino or latte is served.
- Al Gusto: Al Gusto is a new and very needed addition to Atenas as they make wonderful breads and croissants daily. As of this writing, the don’t open their doors until 10 am, but their authentic baguettes, wonderful pullman loaves, and chocolate, plain and almond croissants are well worth the wait. They serve only lunch but you can order custom sandwiches and salads that are fresh and healthy, along with homemade juices and milkshakes.
- La Trocha del Boyero : La Trocha is run by a Costa Rican family from the a Caribbean coast.The food is mostly fish, although there are some pork and chicken options a well. Great cerviche, but beware, – most dishes are accompanied by 3 starches and the sauces can tend to be rich, albeit tasty. La Trocha is past La Trilla down highway 3 (the road that leads into Atenas from the direction of the airport) than La Trilla, by about 200 meters on the right. You’ll see a coca cola/restaurant sign on the right side of the street – make that right and take it to the end where you will see La Trocha.
- La Esquina de Los Colonchos – This tiny spot is just take out and they special in large corn empanadas available with different fillings. We order ours “arreglado” or the works which adds some fresh shredded cabbage salad, tomato and sauces. They are delicious and often sell out by the end of the day.
- Kay’s Gringo Postries : Kay’s started out as a local expat hangout and restaurant serving American classics, but after changing hands a few times it’s now a Polish/Costa Rica restaurant featuring specialties like perogies and stuffed cabbage. It is just down the road right before the red cross on the left and offers all kinds of home-made comfort food options not often found in Costa Rica.
- El Guanacaste Bar: This is a real local favorite – and probably on of the busiest restaurants in Atenas, at least every night we are there. They offer small plates of food – or bocas – similar to tapas style along with their standard menu. Take the road to Palmares/Grecia, which is just before the flashing yellow light on highway 3 in Atenas. The road will go down the hill and then up again winding to the left. Stay straight on that road for about 2 km until the road forks with a blue bar on the right. Bear right and follow the road to the right down the hill and then back up again – you will see the restaurant on the left as the road winds back up the hill again. You might also want to waze it to be on the safe side, especially if it’s dark
- Pupuseria La Fiesta De Las: Pupusas are Salvadorian corn pancakes stuffed with anything from shrimp, to pork to beans, or vegetables, even flowers. They are fairly large and or “Bocas” go well with the spicy pickled vegetables on the table. Nothing fancy, but yummy.
- Chicharronera don Yayo -This is a favorite of all the locals who live in the Atenas area and also for folks who are traveling to the Pacific Coast via the old road through the mountains. They have a variety of Tico food, including Casados and some very tasty Ceviche.
- Soda las Tres Hermanas : This is a small soda and local favorite located just to the side of the bus station building and across form the taxi stands. Delicious casados and breakfasts.