San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

An urban vegetarian escape

From the print edition

On any given Saturday, you can see Patricio Courbis with his unmistakable red glasses, guayabera-style shirts and oversized straw hat, rushing through the organic market in San Jose’s eastern neighborhood of Aranjuez. He’s searching for the perfect ingredient.

Patricio and his wife, Ileana Méndez, have a quaint downtown restaurant called Jardín del Parque, located just north of Parque Nacional. Their eatery focuses on vegetarian and vegan dishes, all made with organic elements bought both locally and from indigenous groups in the southern region of Costa Rica. The couple also brings certain ingredients straight from their own small farm out in Las Nubes de Coronado, northeast of San José.

Their new location has been open since December of last year, and plenty of customers continually return for the ingenious dishes. They range from delicious chickpea burgers topped with a yogurt-based sauce and a exquisite pesto dressing to a De la Casa Panini, which pairs delightful ingredients like grilled eggplant and goat cheese with balsamic vinegar to top it off, all served with homemade sourdough bread. Their tortillas are also made fresh with corn from El Silencio in the Quepos region.

Vegetarian 1

Jardín del Parque serves up smoothies and organic salads with homemade dressing.

Vanessa I. Garnica

The restaurant sits in the front yard of a well-kept old house that serves as a sort of upscale hostel, giving the place a magical touch. Vines of orchids creep up the building, and a bamboo structure holds the UV protected canvas ceiling that overlooks the park.

Patricio and Ileana’s food and business philosophies are very simple: Have direct contact with the producers. Grow our own herbs. Provide customers with a healthy alternative.

In addition to cooking with olive oil, the restaurant buys coconut oil made by an indigenous group from the Keköldi reservation in the Talamanca region. It also reuses organic waste for compost purposes. 

“We want to show people the spectrum of organic products and give it a healthy twist,” explained the 33-year-old chef.  

The menus are made out of recycled plastic bags, and to emphasize the reuse of materials, they provide customers with floppy disks to be used as coasters.

In addition, Jardín del Parque offers refreshments infused with ginger, mint, lemon zest and cardamom concoctions. Natural fruit shakes and an assortment of coffee drinks pair well with delectable fruit tarts, brownies, ginger and honey cookies and wonderful banana muffins.

All of the main entrees and sandwiches come with a small yet scrumptious salad, and the dressing and toppings change with the season. During my visit, I was presented with a salad consisting of kale, cashews, sesame and sunflower seeds, tossed in a stimulating coriander, parsley and basil dressing. 

Unfortunately, the restaurant is closed on weekends. That’s because the owners, who just welcomed a baby girl named Lola last week, spend their Saturdays and Sundays at the Feria Verde in Aranjuéz and working on their small farm in Coronado.

Prices are around ₡4,200 ($8.50) for the plate of the day, ₡3,850 ($7.50) for hot sandwiches, and ₡2,200 ($4.50) for cakes and tarts.

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