I’ve always found it strange that certain restaurants and hotels conduct their business inside restored aircrafts. Yes, it’s different and seems to get people talking. But who really wants to spend the non-transit part of a vacation inside a plane, or even thinking about planes?
It also seemed to me that if restaurant owners were dedicating time to being aviation-themed, they might be less concerned with whether the restaurant was any good.
After dining at Charter, a new restaurant with its own Boeing 727 along the road that connects Dominical to San Isidro de El General, I must admit that it is possible for an eatery to feature both an airplane and delicious food – food that in no way reminds of eating on airplanes. This is not to say I approve of the décor.
Charter’s dining area sits beneath a tall roof but is otherwise open-air, allowing for a full view of the neighboring, hollowed-out Boeing 727 that I don’t really want to talk about but simply can’t ignore.
The tables are constructed of glistening, tropical tree trunk slices, and the chairs are also made of attractive wood. But on one side of the dining area, four blue airplane seats – 4a, 4b, 6a and 6b, to be exact – have been plucked from their row and recycled as an adornment, calling to mind claustrophobia, obese and/or foul-smelling strangers, vomit bags and the like.
Our server Fabian was friendly, though, and I particularly liked the speed with which he brought my watermelon daiquiri. The sugary but stiff light pink concoction was delightful, as was my dining companion’s Margarita Verde.
The menu had impressive range, offering everything from New Zealand mussels to creamy pastas to filet mignon. We opted for one of each of those along with round two – a couple of glasses of vino tinto. The wine came cold rather than room temp, but eventually I got over it.
The mussels arrived in a sauce I never imagined could exist in Costa Rica, where chefs tend to steer clear of a challenge. The savory blend had been prepared with bacon, garlic, lime and parsley, and we sopped up every bit of it with crunchy garlic bread.
Next came the penne vodka with shrimp, which was bathed in a succulent crème sauce with bacon and garlic – it was so well-conceived that I felt compelled to announce, “this does not taste like Costa Rica.”
When our flavorful and tender filet arrived atop a moat of balsamic vinegar and covered in melted cheese and roasted red pepper (not to mention a side of potatoes that were crispy on the outside and soft on the inside), that was it. I wanted all my meals near an airplane.
I found myself asking Fabian where the plane came from, and how it got here. It used to belong to the defunct airline Allegro, he said. Charter had gotten it from Juan Santamaría Aiport, where the wings and tail had to be removed so that airplane could be stacked into a series of trucks. Getting the whole thing to Barú took three days.
Neat, I thought, taking an enormous bite out of my juicy steak.
After eating every last morsel of the main course, we had no room for the only dessert on the menu – flan de caramelo. There’s no doubt in my mind, though. That thing is awesome.
After our meal, I suggested we walk over and see about the plane, which was accessible by stairs. The inside was completely empty, and while my companion suggested that it looked cool and began taking pictures, I couldn’t help but think of scenes from plane crash movies when all the chairs have been blown out. Soon, that area will be a hotel, Fabian told us, and I ordered another cocktail.
Location: Barú, on the road from Dominical to San Isidro de El General
Hours: M-F: 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Sa-Su: 11 a.m.-11 p.m.
Prices: You’ll spend between $10 and $20 on a main course.