Jan 10 2012

Paul’s Monthly Tip to Live for Less in Costa Rica: $1 Lunch at the Central Market

(Updated May 4, 2015)

There are seven Central American Republics, Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama, and of these, Costa Rica may be the most expensive.  But the cost depends more on your lifestyle than anything else.  If you really want to simplify your life you will spend less than in the U.S. and Canada, so it’s ultimately up to you.

That being said, I found this little place in San Ramon where you can eat for $1.00.  That’s right, just one dollar! It’s in the Central Market, right across the aisle from where I get my $4 haircut and $1 beard trim. I’ve taken several Americans there to eat, and many of them don’t like it!!  I don’t know why.  It’s true that it’s small, but it’s always full of the locals – it seems that a lot of the general population eats there.  It’s seems clean, and because of a good business, I know that the food rotates there very quickly.  The name of the place is Soda Kendy, on the second floor of the Central Market (though my friend, Joe, has nicknamed it “Paul’s Famous $1 Restaurant!”)

For $1, I get a small casado, a national dish, which is a marriage of a little bit of everything, including a few ounces of meat, some rice, beans, salad, and potatoes or lentils.  A fruit drink runs another 80 cents.  Now this restaurant will give the amount of food you want.  For $1 more, they will increase the size of the plate, and they will keep increasing it in $1 increments.

  • 500 colones ($1) = a child’s plate with everything on it (sometimes enough for me)
  • 1,000 colones ($2) = what we usually get
  • 2,500 colones ($5) = a plate size that will ruin dinner and maybe even breakfast the next day (we don’t get this one)

Everyone speaks Spanish in this restaurant.  We’ve been there about 100 times and rarely see another Gringo face.  We usually drop in two or three times a week to grab a quick, nutritious, and inexpensive lunch.  Usually Gloria and I leave paying 2500 colones ($5.00) for a complete lunch with drinks.

So it’s possible to find those special places where food is cheap and plentiful.  I think if I write a guide book on the least expensive restaurants in Costa Rica, this would be high on my list for San Ramon.


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