San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

East Side, West Side: Sweets All Around Town

VEGETARIAN RESTAURANT: SanPedro has dozens of coffee shops to keepUniversity of Costa Rica students fueled oncaffeine and sugar. But this cheerful restaurant,just down the road from the San PedroChurch, is the pick of the crop, deliveringhealthy – and cheap – sweet alternatives.Past the array of new-age books at theentrance, there’s a display case with a cornucopiaof cakes – 14 choices, including alight and elegant four-layered lemon andamaranth cake (¢350, $0.77), a pineapplecake with meringue icing (¢300, $0.66) anda passionfruit cheesecake (¢400, $0.88).Other intriguing fruit-and-vegetable flavorcombinations: zucchini-carrot cake(¢325, $0.71), beetroot cake with honey andcheese icing (¢350, $0.77) and a moist, pudding-like platano maduro cake (¢325,$0.71).It is located 150 meters north of the SanPedro Church and is open Mon.-Fri. 10a.m.-6 p.m. Call 224-1163 for info.CREPERIA EL COCORRICOVERDE: Down a side street directly southof the Jazz Café, this shaded terrace restaurantwith green gingham tablecloths has aParisian feel and 26 dessert crêpes on itsmenu.With a French soundtrack in the background,you can indulge in light, properlythin French crêpes stuffed with chocolate,caramel and fruit fillings, ice cream andwhipped cream (¢450-1,800, $1-3.97depending on size and fillings). Or you cankeep it boozy and simple with a crêpedoused in Grand Marnier and topped with abitter orange marmalade. For non-pancakeeaters, there are profiteroles (¢1,200, $2.65)and Poire Belle Hélène, a poached pear withvanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce(¢950, $2.09). Oh yes, there’s also a saladbar, a huge selection of savory crêpes andwine and beer to wash them down.It is located 75 meters south of the JazzCafé and is open Tues.-Fri. from 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and 7-10:30 p.m. and Saturdayfrom noon-3 p.m. and 7-11 p.m. Sundayhours are noon-3 p.m.LE PETIT CAFÉ: Still on a Frenchtheme, this très chic, glass-enclosed café istucked away in an incongruous, residentialstreet in Barrio La Granja, south of thehurly burly of San Pedro. Pastry chef IngridWebb proudly displays her graduation certificatesfrom such notable Paris cookingschools as Ritz Escoffier and Le Nôtre. Thetraining shows.Her pastry is buttery-sweet and flaky,providing the perfect base for a peach custardtart (¢1,350, $2.98) and a pear almondtart (¢1,400, $3.09) There is also a classicallyFrench Tarte Tatin, an upside-down,caramelized apple pie (¢1,450, $3.20) and aselection of excellent crêpes (¢1,700-2,500,$3.75-5.53), including strawberry mousse,suzette, chocolate and brettone (apple andcalvados).Buttery quiches, croque monsieurs(French-style, grilled-cheese sandwiches)and savory crêpes fill out the menu, alongwith 15 coffee specialties.It is located 500 meters south and 25meters east of the “Higuerón,” the non-existentfig tree that used to stand in the trianglebeside the gas station and Más X Menos inSan Pedro and is open Mon.-Sat. from 11a.m.-8 p.m. Call 283-3230 for more info.CHEZ CHRISTOPHE SALON DETHÉ: For all the fans of Chez Christophe’stake-away bakery near the Paco Center inEscazú, Christophe has just opened a salonde thé (teashop) on the east side of townnear Plaza del Sol. Finally, you can sit downin comfort in a bright, modern tea shop andenjoy Christophe’s famous buttery croissants,meltingly delicious pains au chocolatsand exquisite French pastries.It is located across from RostiPollos inPlaza del Sol, San Pedro and is open Tues.-Sat. from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. and Sundays from 8 a.m.-1 p.m. Call 224-1773 for more info.ESCAZÚ/SANTAANAThe old road from Escazú to Santa Anahas become a new highway to sugar heaven,starting at Plaza Colonial and heading west.JO AN REPOSTERIA FRANCESA:In the pleasant, tiled courtyard of PlazaColonial, this tiny kiosk is packed with pastriesto enjoy at one of the alfresco, wrought irontables. There are classic French pain auchocolate and almond croissants (both ¢400,$0.88). The fruit tarts are artisticallyarranged compositions, with custard fillingand a buttery cookie crust (¢400-600, $0.88-1.35) and there is a tempting, frosted carrotcake studded with poppy seeds (¢500,$1.10).It is located in front of Don Fernando’sButcher Shop inside Plaza Colonial, Escazúand is open Mon.-Sat. from 7:30 a.m.-7:30p.m. Call 288-1385 for info.WALL STREET RESTAURANT,BAR & DELI: Recently relocated in thenew Centro Comercial San Rafael, the stockof this popular deli/restaurant with a financialtheme has soared, with a new, sophisticatedinterior and a pleasant terrace, comfortablyset back from the roar of road traffic.Desserts here are winners and portionsare U.S.-sized, i.e. huge. Individual applepies (four inches across!) have a buttery,crunchy crumble top and the lattice-topraisin pie is a rare treat (¢1,200, $2.65 and1,500, $3.31 a la mode). The fudgy chocolatelayer cake is rich and satisfying (¢950,$2.09) and the hot fudge brownies with icecream are equally chocolatey (¢950, $2.09).The restaurant prides itself on its cheesecake,with reason. It’s a drier, Italian-stylecheesecake compared to the creamier NewYork-style version. Topped with blueberries,cherries, dulce de leche or mixed with crumbledOreo cookies or marbled, every enormous,delicious piece is a meal in itself.It is located in Centro Comercial PlazaSan Rafael, 100 meters west of PlazaColonial and open daily from 10 a.m.-10p.m. Call 289-6440 for info.RESTAURANTE CAFÉ TÉ CONTE: This new, brick terrace café decoratedin shades of terracotta and ochre always hasa buzz, perhaps from all the sugar and caffeinehappy customers are ingesting. Theshowcases are filled with French pastries:chocolate éclairs, langues du chat (cat’stongue butter cookies) and tuilles (crispalmondy curls).And there are intriguing versions of classics,such as the pistachio and chocolateDanish, a delicious, flaky spiral of contrastingnuttiness and melted chocolate (¢525,$1.16). There are also sweet crêpes, profiteroleswith ice cream (¢1,600, $3.53) andbrownies à la mode (¢1,300, $2.87). If iteases your calorie guilt, start off with one oftheir healthy, shareable, giant salads.It is located at Plaza del Río, about 400meters west of Plaza Colonial and is openSun.- Thurs. from 9 a.m.-8:30 p.m.; Fri., Sat.9 a.m.-9 p.m. Call 288-5027 for info.INKA GRILL: Enjoy the tangyceviche, the spectacular seafood platters andthe other savory Peruvian specialties servedhere, but save room for dessert. The signaturedessert, Suspiro a la Limeña (¢990,$2.18), is truly something from Lima thatwill induce a sigh – of contentment. Acreamy, brandy-flavored custard, similar toItalian zabaglione, is topped with rosettes oftoasted meringue.For chocolate lovers there’s Terrine deChocolate, a truffle-like pâté of dark, densechocolate swimming in a raspberry saucewith a floating island of ice cream (¢990,$2.18).It is located at Centro Comercial Paco onthe old road to Santa Ana and is open Sun.-Thurs. 11:30 a.m.-10:30 p.m. and Fri., Sat.,until 11:30 p.m.SWEET OUTPOSTS: Italian pasteleríaGiacomín has two branches in the west: anEscazú café 100 m. south and 150 meterseast of Chango’s Restaurant south of ElCruce, open 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Mon.-Sat.; and aslick, modern-chrome café beside the newAuto Mercado in Santa Ana, open Mon-Sat.,9 a.m.-8:30p.m. and Sundays from 9 a.m.-7p.m.

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