ELIOT Greenspan deserves a standingovation for his second edition of “TheTico Times Restaurant Guide to CostaRica.” This comprehensive bilingual treasurycaters to both discriminating gourmandsand those with simple tastes andfrugal eating habits. The dining-outodyssey covers the restaurant scene indowntown San José, the Central Valleyand Pacific and Caribbean beaches, aswell as Arenal and Monteverde.A man of many talents, Greenspan isan adept travel writer and journalist, andauthor of the popular “Frommer’s CostaRica” and other Frommer’s guides. Sincecoming to Costa Rica in 1992, he has alsocollaborated with The Tico Times in variouscapacities. One wonders when thispoet, musician, accomplished cook andbon vivant finds the time to do all this eating!But the proof is in the pudding, as hehas shown – once again – in his excellent up-to-date companion todining out in Costa Rica.The 220-page second edition includes 400 establishments and70 new additional restaurant reviews from around the country.“THE response to the first edition was fabulous,” Greenspancomments. “I’ve tried to be as accurate and honest as possible inmy evaluations of the restaurants listed, and also gained pounds toprove it!”He consulted with connoisseurs to make sure those whose criteriaand knowledge of the industry he respects approved of his recommendationsand evaluations. Nonetheless, the restaurant businessis notoriously fickle, and establishments open and close withstartling frequency.“Quality and service can fluctuate radically, often overnight. Arestaurant is only as good as the last meal it serves,” Greenspanemphasizes.CONCISELY written with vivid anecdotes, the guide is easy tonegotiate and fun to read. Spanish translations by Tico Times editorialassistant Sonia Cordero accompany the English text and caneven help you improve your Spanish vocabulary.Greenspan covers the spectrum of culinary delights – fromworldwide international cuisine in every price range to typicalfood, coffee shops, tapas places or sports bars with NorthAmerican-style fare. The information on hours of operation andphone numbers is useful to insomniacs looking for 24-hour restaurantsor early birds foraging for breakfast. Fast-food junkies areprovided with an easy reference list of telephone numbers, locationsand express delivery services.Restaurants are rated on a scale of one to five spoons and coverthe gamut from acceptable to exceptional. Prices are rated on asimilar scale of one to five dollar signs, ranging from under $5 tomore than $30 per person. They include 13% sales tax and 10%service charge but not alcoholic beverages or additional gratuities.A sun-face symbol indicates a particularly interesting atmosphereor that the restaurant stands out from its peers in terms of qualityor service.The “Best of” list covers all the regions in the guide and highlights“The Best,” “Most Romantic,” “Most Festive,” “Best Views”and “Best Value.” Brief descriptions of house specialties and ambiencehelp you choose the perfect spot for any occasion, and 13 up to-date maps assist in finding the location.Three indexes make finding your way around the guide a pieceof cake: alphabetical listing by name, spoon rating and type of cuisine.The useful numbers list – taxis, credit card companies, hospitals,movie theaters, museums and live theater – is an added bonus.GREENSPAN has done a superb and seemingly impossiblejob in his appraisal of an eclectic choice of restaurants. Reading theguide will stimulate your taste buds and help solve your problem ofdeciding where to go for a quick bite or elegant dinner.“Discerning diners are essential in maintaining quality and variety(in the guide),” Greenspan says. So if you agree – or disagree –with him, or he’s left out your favorite haunt, drop him a line firstname.lastname@example.org.This highly recommended everyday reference book is a littlegem for both residents and visitors, and a must-have bargain at¢4,000 ($8.60). It’s on sale at Librería Internacional, Casa de lasRevistas, Automercado and Papyrus, as well as other bookstoresand hotels. You can also buy it at The Tico Times office (258-1558) in San José, or order it online at www.ticotimes.net orwww.amazon.com.