By Gaby Kyriss | Special to The Tico Times
Cheesecake, passion fruit torte and apple pie with streusel topping are just few of the homemade delicacies offered at Balcón del Café in Atenas, where the bistro is installed on the second floor of Romacentro shopping mall in the heart of the Central Valley coffee town.
Due to top quality fare and beverages, an inviting and open design, an attractive view, free Wi-Fi, a central location and accessible parking, the café has become popular among Costa Ricans, expats and tourists alike.
It’s an ideal place to start the day with a healthy breakfast, but is equally delightful for a light lunch or a coffee brake with friends.
The eatery is equipped with contemporary furnishings, potted plants, refrigerated display counters and wooden shelves stocked with international specialties.
This is the territory of Melani Lesueur, 46, whose homemade products are inspired by her mother’s recipes. Fluent in English and Spanish, the German expat and buffet cook moved to Costa Rica 15 years ago, her recipe books in tow. Lesueur`s menu stands out for its well-balanced assortment of breakfast and lunch entrees, salads, sandwiches, fresh bread and pastries.
“When I took over Balcón del Café almost three years ago, I realized that I had to offer something different,” Lesueur says. “I began specializing in freshly prepared dishes and baked goods based on high quality ingredients.”
In the morning, while the irresisitible scents of French toast with maple honey spread waft from the kitchen, Lesueur and her staff prepare up to five different types of sumptuous breakfasts, priced at ₡1,500-₡3,000 ($3-$6), taxes included.
At noon, customers can opt for Greek, Nicoise or German salads and hearty sandwiches. The day of my visit, the special was a juicy tuna steak with coconut sauce, couscous and a crisp salad for ₡3,800 ($7.10). Lesueur is also known for her stuffed eggplant and bell peppers, as well as schnitzel in savory mushroom sauce. Her authentic Indian curries are seasoned with original spices mailed from her mother in Europe.
Balcón del Café
Location: 75 meters west from the Catholic church, second floor of shopping mall Romacentro
Hours: Monday through Saturday 8 a.m.-6 p.m., closed Sunday
Contact: 2446-8592, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
In addition to the kitchen fare, over the counter products include gluten-free sausages manufactured by Atenas-based German butcher Sigi Haedel, Italian cheese and all-natural ice cream.
In the afternoon, you can linger over excellent Atenas coffee, locally-grown and processed by the farmer`s cooperative. Capucchino and a slice of rich chocolate cake (one of my favorites at Balcón del Café) cost ₡2,000 ($4).
Lesueur`s involvement with food is rooted in her family’s tradition. “When I grew up, Sunday afternoon was dedicated to family gatherings with coffee and pastries,” she remembers. “We began with one homemade cake and later switched to two and more, among the four of us.”