San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Great setting, interesting menu at Kafé Cereza

Named after the Spanish word for “cherry,” Kafé Cereza in Santa Ana, southwest of San José, displays a juicy-looking specimen of that fruit on its logo. Why a cherry? It’s certainly not a native fruit. The menu, all in Spanish, tells a concise history of coffee and how the beans, known as cerezas, aroused excitement and energy in the goats that ate them. If this is the stimulant you are looking for, you’ll have no problem at Kafé Cereza. The menu offers 14 choices of excellent coffee (₡800-2,000/$1.60-4), in addition to lunch and dinner options.

Breaking with the regrettable trend of new restaurants opening in commercial centers with parking-lot views, Kafé Cereza sits on a large property with two houses renovated by the Castro family. The spacious restaurant with its wraparound veranda offers seating overlooking a large, manicured garden and children’s playground. Both the outdoor and indoor dining areas are furnished with dark, heavy wood tables and chairs. Hundreds of black-and-white photos of Santa Ana in years gone by decorate the walls, depicting the history of what was once a sleepy little country town. The fascinating collection is a delight to behold.

Four of us recently enjoyed a very pleasant lunch here, in peaceful surroundings with good service. The interesting menu offers soup, salads and sandwiches (₡2,500-5,000/$5-10) and main courses of steak, chicken, fish and pasta (₡5,500-10,000/$11-20). The French onion soup and Caesar salad didn’t warrant rave reviews, but were traditional, tasty and quite acceptable. The vegetarian sandwich was huge and delicious, made with excellent, fresh, soft bread stuffed with grilled eggplant, zucchini, carrot, red pepper and mozzarella cheese, and served with crispy homemade cassava and yam chips. The portion defeated the diner but was too good to leave, so the uneaten half was taken home for a later munch. The perfectly cooked salmon, accompanied by a tangy citrus sauce, crisp julienne veggies and baby potatoes, was thoroughly enjoyed.

Our choice of desserts left something to be desired. The moist carrot cake, mocha torte and passion fruit mousse all looked wonderful but were somewhat lacking in flavor (₡1,800-2,500/$3.60-5).

For lighter snacks to go with coffee, the menu includes a selection of individual tarts, empanadas and mini quiches (₡600-800/$1.20-1.60).

The amiable Laura Castro, daughter of the owners, gave us a guided tour of the premises, including the newly designed events room with large adjoining patio and garden, located at the rear of the property. It accommodates up to 100 people, and there is ample parking.

The restaurant, which opened in November, has been trying out different hours of operation, Castro said, so it’s a good idea to call in advance to make sure it will be open.

Kafé Cereza

Location: Santa Ana, 150 m east of the Red Cross, next to the fire station.

Hours: 9:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday; 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays; closed Mondays (call to confirm hours).

Phone: 2203-8464, 2203-8352.

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