It was the best kind of discovery, the instinctual whim. Wandering down a side street less than a block from the beach we stopped at Jaco Rustico, a traditional soda that radiates with authenticity. It was well presented and clean but it felt worn in and deeply rooted (like the equivalent of a diner in America). It felt real.
They serve the epitome of home cooked Costa Rican food, choose what you want cafeteria style from options that change daily. Gallo Pinto, or sometimes it's the rice and beans prepared separately, and fried plantains, sweet and hot, almost caramelized, are a must. One day we get an expertly fried sea bass with crispy skin encasing mild, flaky flesh. Another afternoon provides tender roasted pork marinated in local flavors. One day there are fresh vegetables, plus a vibrant beet and potato salad, another day, glorious tiny shelled mac-n-cheese!
If the Taco Bar was inexpensive, this place was literally a steal. It cost $4 for a casado (translates loosely to a heaping plate of food) and $1 for a fresh Guabanana juice. Sometimes forgoing the research and discovering hidden gems like this laid back fresh-off-a-morning surf-session locals spot, is what it's all about. Jaco Rustico easily provided some of my favorite meals of the trip.