San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Good Things to Eat and Drink in Them Thar Heredia Hills

Restaurante Bromelias del Río is just 50 meters west of the Guápiles highway on the road to San Isidro de Heredia. It’s the perfect roadside stop for tree-shoppers, or anyone out for a scenic drive in the country.

Starting out as a repostería with take-out pastries and savories, Bromelias del Río recently opened a charming café overlooking a lush garden. With only six tables, it’s cozy inside, but the ceiling-to-floor glass walls make the place feel airy and bright, like sitting in a glassed-in garden gazebo.

The Heredia hills are famous for coffee-growing but, alas, not so famous for places where you can enjoy a really good cup of coffee. This is one of them. The coffee is Britt and the preparation is first-class. There’s excellent espresso (₡700/$1.25) and creamy cappuccino (₡900/$1.60) or café Americano (₡700). Among the flavored specialty coffee concoctions is the Bromelias specialty that doubles as dessert: coffee with honey, rum, evaporated milk and whipped cream (₡2,000/$3.60). A steaming cup of hot chocolate is ₡800($1.40). Along with excellent hot drinks, the fruit naturales (₡900)here are first-rate: thick and fruity and not too sweet, and two glasses full.

Bromelias del Rio

If you want something sweet to go with your hot drink, there are more than 35 cakes, cookies and pastries on the repostería menu. It’s almost impossible to resist, especially with the heavenly baking aromas emanating from the kitchen. For anyone feeling a little homesick for North American sweets, there are brownies (₡1,100/$2), cheesecake (₡1,500/$2.70) and apple pie with ice cream (₡2,500/$4.50).

I am not a big fan of Tico-style pastry, but Bromelias del Río is changing my mind. Their tiny cachitos – cornucopia-shaped pastries filled with custard cream and a lick of caramel dulce de leche – are flaky and flavorful. It’s also fun to try other Tico specialties here, especially ones with such intriguing names as lacitos de higo (₡700), flaky pastries with conserved figs – the closest thing to a sugarplum here. There are also savory snacks, including empanadas, arroyados and pasteles – pastries filled with meat, chicken, hearts of palm and cheese (₡850-1,000/$1.50-1.80).

The main menu is a cut above the usual hearty and homey soda fare available in these parts. There are crepes, both savory and sweet, appealing salads with unusual additions of strawberries, grapes, golden berries, mushrooms and watercress. Creamy soups (₡2,000-2,800/$3.60-5) suit the cool climate up here, and sandwiches include tortillas colombianas, thick corn tortillas topped with shredded beef, pork or chicken and slathered with cheese, mushrooms and onions (₡3,300-3,600/$5.90-6.40). Some vegetarian choices are available, including a palmito and spinach crepe with salad (₡4,000/$7.10)and a veggie sandwich on whole-wheat bread (₡2,500/$4.50).

For heartier meals, platos fuertes of beef, chicken, shrimp or fish come with salad, mashed or sautéed potatoes and interesting herbed sauces (₡6,800-7,600/$12-14).If you’re in the mood for breakfast, any time of the day, the gallo pinto de la casa is a feast, and abargain: juice, fruit plate, the rice and beans dish, eggs, a slab of ham, fried maduros (ripe plantains), bread and coffee, with a cachito thrown in, for only ₡2,800 ($5).

Don’t have time to stop and sit? You can also order the pastries and savories at the takeout counter –as well as any coffee you like, to go, in an insulated cup with a lid. If you’re heading out on the misty highway through Braulio Carrillo National Park,this is a handy place to stock up on coffee and snacks for the car.

Restaurante Bromelias del Río, 50 meters west of the Guápiles Highway, along the road to San Isidro de Heredia, is open daily from 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. For information, call 2268-8445.

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