Finca Bonanza’s success story – achieved almost entirely by word of mouth – is the result of a combination of many talents, a lovely country setting and the always present, charming and dedicated Dutch family that owns and operates the restaurant outside Ciudad Colón, a Central Valley farming town 18 kilometers southwest of San José.
Wim and Luz Douma purchased the beautiful three-hectare hillside property in 1991. The owners of two backpacker hostels in Amsterdam and a restaurant in Colombia, the couple settled in Costa Rica to build their home and raise their family surrounded by nature.
Last year, they decided to share their treasure and opened a restaurant featuring home cooking and natural foods, using the abundance of luscious tropical fruits and fresh produce from the area. Finca Bonanza is definitely a family affair; the Doumas are always present, welcoming guests and helping out when necessary. Their daughter Amber and her husband Arne run the restaurant and bar. A graduate in the plastic arts, Amber’s sculptures decorate the fountain and her original artwork adorns each menu. Her brother Iwan, a trained chef, mans the kitchen with the help of area residents Jeanete Rivera and Ernesto León, who bake the bread and pie or cake of the day.
I have paid four visits to Finca Bonanza since it opened about six months ago.Why? Obviously, I have an affinity for the warm hospitality, home-cooked food, reasonable prices and enchanting surroundings. You can choose to sit on the breezy terrace, in the garden gazebo, indoors if it’s chilly or at an indoor or outdoor terrace bar. Another option is the loft; it offers no service, but you can carry your drink up yourself. It’s a wonderful place to lounge on cushions and watch the heavenly sunset, which is a main attraction, no matter where you sit. Many people drop by in the late afternoon for a sunset cocktail.
On my first visit for dinner, my companion and I chose to sit at the bar overlooking the twinkling lights of the valley below. The two choices of fish – the fillet of tilapia in a fresh rosemary sauce served with mixed vegetables and rice with mushrooms, or the fillet of trout in a lemon-orange and tequila sauce accompanied by stuffed zucchini – were very good and appetizingly presented. The bill, including two glasses of Chilean chardonnay, came to ¢10,500 ($20) including tax.
On my second visit, our party of six arrived for a late Sunday lunch, and the less said the better. Overwhelmed by an influx of customers – never experienced before – the Doumas were having a bad day. Don’t we all?
So I decided to reserve my judgment and returned the following Sunday with a member of the previous group, who was undeterred, and brought her husband.
This time we were pleased indeed. The chicken brochette in a hot peanut sauce was both juicy and nicely spiced; my breaded aubergine in fresh tomato sauce served with sautéed vegetables and nuts was a vegetarian delight. The baked macaroni cheese in a mushroom sauce is a Douma family favorite made from Grandma’s recipe. It contains chopped ham and bacon, lots of gooey cheese and is topped with breadcrumbs. The portion, like many at Finca Bonanza, was huge; most who order it take home a doggy bag. The general consensus was “wonderful comfort food, but slightly on the dry side.” Maybe the Dutch don’t like it as creamy as other nationalities.
A spellbinding sunset complemented my fourth visit. As it got dark, the little lanterns on the terrace tables created a very pretty atmosphere by which to dine. The usual hot, home-baked, yummy chile rolls and the fresh, mixed salad – for some palates, too lightly dressed – that come with the main courses appeared. The pork fillet grilled with the chef ’s barbecue sauce and served on a slice of pineapple was a good choice.
There’s always a daily special, and that evening the tagliatelle with smoked pork and zucchini was slightly stodgy. The carnivore sandwich was enormous and very tasty; it contained three types of cold cuts, cheese, and onions and mushrooms sautéed in garlic butter. If you crave a hamburger, the super deluxe is reported to be excellent.
Salads, a homemade soup and bocas to munch on at the bar are also available – the guacamole is excellent. For those with a sweet tooth, Bonanza crepes (¢2,500/$5) and pie or cake of the day (¢1,900/$4) are among a small selection.
Main courses range $6-8, grilled steak $13, sandwiches and salads $3-5, domestic beers $1.50-2 and a generous glass of Chilean house wine $2.
Finca Bonanza doesn’t offer gourmet cuisine at exorbitant prices, but you will find substantial meals, family hospitality and a delightful setting in which to enjoy a relaxing repast that won’t break your pocketbook.
A ramp makes the restaurant wheelchair accessible and eases the way for those who find the flight of steps to the restaurant a challenge.
Location: Take the
to Ciudad Colón. After the second flashing light, 6 km west of the Forum, turn left just past Bar y Restaurante Don Johel, continue 50 m and, on the right, follow the sign for Finca Bonanza up a steep driveway.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., closed Mondays.
Phone: 249-1185, www.fincabonanza.com.