San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Restaurants Infuse Fresh Flavor into Guanacaste

An exquisite dinner after a long day of sun and surf is a crucial part of any beach vacation. For beachgoers in the northwestern province of Guanacaste, there are sufficient restaurant choices to keep their palates entertained and stomachs satisfied for weeks. Here are a few relatively new restaurants worth checking out in various parts of the region.

La Dolce Vita brings the best of Italy to Playas del Coco. The restaurant’s three Italian owners have gone to great lengths to ensure that the obligatory lasagna, fettuccini and tortellini are represented on the menu and that their quality is up to the standards of that boot-shaped country across the ocean. Pasta is definitely the forte here. Most entrées fall into the $5-9 range. The restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Call 670-1384 for directions or reservations.

For sunset-hour cocktails that can float you into a starlit night on the shore, Lazy Wave Lounge, on the road between Tamarindo and Playa Langosta, offers a mix of bocas and drinks in a garden enclave that makes for a comfy lounge setting. On the drink menu are creatively named cocktails featuring fresh ingredients, such as Lichi Rum Blast and Tropical Night. A variety of Chilean and French wines and champagnes are also in stock.

Asian fusion is the theme of the food selection, but it’s also speckled with Italian and French influences. The tuna steak with goat cheese is known to be a hit, as is the Thai curry, which comes loaded with the diner’s pick of shrimp, chicken or veggies. Tempura, sashimi and rolls are sure to satisfy the sushi-deprived, and vegetarians won’t have a problem finding a wake-up from the old rice and beans. Entrées range from $5-8; cocktails run about $6. For information, call 653-0737.

For more spice and less swank, check out Coco’s Los Tacos, a recently erected Mexican grill and cantina strategically situation for people watching on the main drag. Mexican owner Juan Manuel Reyes has brought over his family’s recipes for savory enchiladas with red or green mole sauce and carnitas de cerdo, rolls of laboriously seasoned pork fried in tortillas. He’s also thrown in a few Tex-Mex and California staples, such as fish tacos and taco salads. More serious dinner entrées include filet mignon in jalepeño sauce and salmon in tequila sauce. Los Tacos’ prices are equally appealing – you can satisfy your fire-craving taste buds for about $10 per entrée. The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner. For info, call 670-1055.

Recently renovated and freshened up with a new menu is El Castillo Gourmet Eatery, formerly Harden’s Garden, in Playa Potrero. As the name suggests, the remodeling included turning this popular breakfast and lunch spot into a castle-like dwelling. Inside, you can feast like kings and queens on tasty lunch offerings such as barbecue pork sandwiches and beer-marinated chicken. The standard yet high-quality Caesar and green salads are also available, alongside creative counterparts such as Chinese chicken salad.

For breakfast, guests at the castle can fuel up on hefty breakfast burritos stuffed with bacon and hash browns and topped with zesty pico de gallo, or experiment with Mexican specialties such as machaca, a shredded, garlicky beef jerky mixed with tomatoes, onions and heavy cilantro, flanked by tortillas and fried eggs – a morning meal probably hearty enough to power you to happy hour with just a couple of snacks. El Castillo’s plates run about $6, and the restaurant is just 100 meters from the beach. Call 654-4271 for more information.

In the Nosara area, Casa Romántica is another renovated and expanded spot that lives up to its name with mood-setting candlelit tables, crisp tablecloths and eye-entertaining paintings. Located inside the hotel by the same name, Casa Romántica’s new dinner options (the restaurant previously offered breakfast only) include meaty staples with locally inspired fixings, including a tender beef filet with mango-papaya mustard complemented by refreshingly different sides, such as roasted potato cakes. In addition, shrimp curry and stroganoffs add a variety of flavors to the menu. These dishes can be prefaced with appetizers such as a caprese salad or an Italian antipasti platter that gives you a sampling of decadent meats and cheeses. An internationally representative wine list offers Spanish, French and Chilean varieties to add some grape-induced glow to your meal, and a refreshing and dainty dish of ice cream tops it all off for dessert. Most entrées range from $10-12. Call 682-0272 for information.