San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

West-Side Sodas Offer Tico Fare at Budget Prices: Soda Roble Sabana

The soda – a small mom-and-pop restaurant serving traditional Tico fare – is a Costa Rican institution that offers a true taste of Tiquicia at budget prices. Here are two of our contributors’ favorites on the west side of San José.

Soda Roble Sabana

Between Santa Ana and Pozos, on the corner of Centro Comercial Roble Sabana. Open Monday to Saturday, 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Phone: 8894-9904.

This tiny-sized, big-hearted, open-air soda kiosk sits right on the crossroads between Santa Ana and Pozos, southwest of San José, and attracts some 100 lunchers a day at shared, round, concrete tables on the sidewalk under a tin roof, or up at the counter.

Owner Guillermo Jiménez, or Don Memo, and staff know most clients by name and offer a welcome handshake, a splodge of Bactex sanitizer gel for your hands and whistle-fast service. Orders are yelled to the girls, who never make a mistake, and Chito the cook sweats over his minute kitchen kingdom with a wonderful look of culinary angst. This is the essence of street-café soda eating at its simplest and best.

Rotating daily specials include pork fajitas, beef stew with onions, chicken “Gordon Blue” and garlic fish, with rice, beans, salad, maduro (fried ripe plantain) and avocado. But the basic protein base of pork chops, beef, chicken fillet and breaded fish are always available to be cooked fresh to order.

Daily lunch of ₡2,300 ($4.60) includes homemade soup, doraditos (fried corn chips with ketchup and mayo), fresh juice (try the arroz con piña) and casado. For takeaway orders, add ₡250 ($0.50).

Breakfast (₡1,700/$3.40) includes gallo pinto with eggs, ham, juice, coffee and first dibs at the daily La Extra.

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