San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

A find in Dominical: The Jolly Roger

During college I found myself plopped down in front of every NFL game that my sports-crazed friends’ basic cable packages could access, and I still attend any football party I’m invited to. The reason for my seeming fanaticism isn’t the sport itself, though. Football found its way into my heart through my stomach, and the promise of Sundays and Mondays filled with beer and wings.

This year marked the first autumn, and the first football season, I have spent out of the States, and while I haven’t missed the hours spent watching the games, the loss of my favorite culinary vice has stirred up more than a few bouts of homesickness.

There are a few restaurants in San José with passable wings, and accompanied with a cold Pilsen or Imperial they can satisfy most of my intense wings cravings. But I had yet to encounter anything that compares to my favorite wings restaurants back home.

Hot Sugarcane chicken wings

Hot Sugarcane chicken wings at the Jolly Roger.

Lindsay Fendt

While on assignment in Dominical, I was immediately drawn to a sign off the Costanera Highway for the Jolly Roger, a restaurant promising the best wings and beer in town. So, the day after the sign sighting, Tico Times Weekend Editor Ashley Harrell and I made the treacherous hike up dirt mountain road in our rented (and ill-equipped) Rav4.

The remote location seemed unlikely for a restaurant, but the reason for the backwoods trek soon became obvious. Perched on the edge of a hill, the open-air restaurant had one of the best ocean views in Dominical. Unfortunately, the words “beer and wings” had distracted us from the hours posted on the Jolly Roger’s sign. The restaurant is closed on Sundays. We made our way back down the hill disappointed, vowing to return the next day.

We made the scary drive again the next night, in the dark, in the rain, with high hopes that our repeat effort would be rewarded.

We weren’t disappointed.

The Jolly Roger proudly displays its offerings of wings and burgers on a wall over its kitchen. For $9, you get ten wings and can choose from 19 different flavors.

We placed an order for three flavors, 30 wings, an ambitious task for two diners accustomed to taking down ten wings at the most. Selecting from the columns of flavors with strange names like Habanaro Holla Boy and Bollywood, we chose the restaurant’s most popular, the Hot Honey Garlic, our waiter’s personal favorite, Troubadour and the alluring Hot Sugarcane.

While we waited, we chose from the restaurant’s fairly extensive beer menu, which listed imports like Stella Artois and Leffe Blonde alongside ubiquitous Costa Rican brews. While we waited, the restaurant filled with a steady stream of expat regulars and tourists, and as time passed I worried that our waiter had forgotten us.

The service wasn’t perfect. We waited far too long for our food, and we had to flag down the waiter for more drinks, but the wait was worth it. When our three plates of wings finally came out, I knew my Costa Rican wing prayers had been granted.

Troubadour wings

Troubadour wings at the Jolly Roger.

Lindsay Fendt

These weren’t the dry, sick-looking wings I had become accustomed to in this country, nor were they the overly large drumstick imitations that I had learned to like in San José. These were perfectly shaped, meaty wings, dripping with glistening sauce.

I reached for the Hot Honey Garlic first and bit into the wing, immediately covering my face with sauce. This is the way wing eating should be, messy. It was easy to see why this flavor was the restaurant’s most popular. It was spicy, but not too spicy, with just the right amount of garlic kick.

The Troubadour was a different type of wing all together. It wasn’t dripping with sauce, but seasoned with lime and pepper, giving it a sour and tangy taste. The troubadour was the least spicy of our three plates, but still provided plenty of flavor.

Finally came the Hot Sugarcane, my personal favorite of the night. The wing’s sweet sauce was not gooey like that of the hot garlic; it had crystallized in a crunchy shell over the skin. While definitely packing some spice, this wing’s primary flavor came from the sugar, leaving a sweet aftertaste.

We greedily chomped down all 30 of the delicious wings, and had there been any available space left in my stomach, I would have ordered more. After the meal, I sat happily licking sauce off my fingers. I had finally found the Costa Rican wings of my dreams.

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