San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

New café in Dominical features healthy fare, spicy sauce

Surf Shack,falafel

The Surf Shack’s falafel wrap is one of the many lunch options on the restaurant’s menu.

Lindsay Fendt

As a notorious party town, Dominical, on the central Pacific coast, is full of beachfront bars with the bar food to match. But with the flood of health-conscientious tourists to the area (helped along by the annual hippie festival Envision in February), one long-time restaurant owner saw the need for a change.

Enter Surf Shack, a breakfast and lunch café for the health-conscious. Featuring wraps, paninis and smoothies, the beachfront eatery provides one of the town’s few alternatives to the bar scene.

“That’s the kind of food I eat,” said Mike McGinnis, the restaurant’s owner. “It’s light food, a mellow atmosphere and no booze.”

Surf Shack’s menu also appeals to those on a budget, with most menu items for less than ₡4,000 ($8) for lunch and ₡3,000 ($6) for breakfast. The menu also offers snacks and a la carte options.

San Clemente Bar and Grill

San Clemente Bar and Grill is located on the main road in Dominical. You’ll know it from the full-sized VW bus above the restaurant.

Lindsay Fendt

McGinnis is hardly new to the Dominical restaurant scene. He’s owned San Clemente Bar and Grill – which, if you know Dominical, is the place with the giant VW Bus suspended over it – for the last 20 years.

An organic permaculture garden project is underway and McGinnis hopes that in time he will be able to grow 90 percent of the produce for both restaurants.

“All of our greens are already organic, but we want to grow our own,” McGinnis said.

The fruits and vegetables aren’t the only things that are homegrown. Disappointed by the lack of real hot sauce upon his arrival in Costa Rica 25 years ago, McGinnis began making his own.

“I had never made hot sauce before, and I was at this little soda using their chilero and I thought, ‘why not just take most of the vinegar out of this put the other ingredients in a high-powered blender?’” McGinnis said. “So that’s what I did.”

Spicy Mike’s Hot Sauce is made from chilies bought at the Mercado Central in San José and grown in the mountains of the Central Valley. McGinnis gets the rest of his ingredients from farmers at the local produce fair.

The sauce provides far more kick than any typical chilero available in Costa Rica, so much so that the sauce won in the international category of the fiery food challenge in the 1997 ZestFest, a culinary festival dedicated to spicy food.

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