Viva Café

You know how it is when you walk by a place dozens of times, and then when you finally wander in you say, “Wow, I can’t believe I’ve never been in here before – how cool is this?”  Well, Viva Café is one of those places.

It’s located right across the street from Cine Magaly, and doesn’t look like much from the outside, so that might be why it’s never caught my eye before.  But last night, our regular little before-the-movie hangout (Café Kubrick) was closed, so we thought, “What the heck, we’ll try that little place over there.”  And what a great decision it was!

Let’s see, how can I describe it?  It’s chic, kind of hippie, has sort of a bohemian atmosphere – it’s just a laid-back, relaxing little spot with very personal and friendly service!

Café Viva has some great café-style pastries, sandwiches, fresh fruit drinks, empanadas…

And of course, some wonderful Costa Rican coffee!

It’s not very big, so seating is limited, but that’s also part of what gives it a comfortable feel – like it’s your own little café hideaway.

Café Viva is located on Calle 23 off Avenida Central, right across the street from Cine Magaly, and it is definitely a little café oasis in the city that you should visit!

Cine Magaly – Enjoying the ‘Artsy’ Side of Life

I’ve never been a fan of ‘artsy-type’ foreign films, and that’s probably because I never took the time to learn what they had to offer – that is until I moved to San José, Costa Rica.  Now I’m a HUGE fan, and Romy and I go ever chance we get.  One of the best places to see a great selection of European films is the classic Cine Magaly, just a short walk up the street from us here in Barrio Amòn.

One of the great things about enjoying a flick at Cine Magaly is that before the movie begins, you can relax at the Kubrick Café, which is right beside the entrance to the theater.

To say that they have a decent menu would be a sad understatement.  They have some absolutely wonderful appetizers, like caprese and fried potatoes with a very special tomato dipping sauce, as well as sandwiches and other dinner-type fare if you want something a little more filling.  For us, it’s just a pleasure to sit on the open patio and enjoy a cool San José evening with a cup of hot Costa Rican coffee or a natural fruit drink, while we wait for the movie to begin.

One thing you have to get ready for – when I say ‘artsy foreign films’, I mean movies that are award winners from mostly European countries that are in the language from where they were produced.  Since we’re in Costa Rica, most are presented with Spanish subtitles. (Occasionally you’ll get one that’s in Spanish with English subtitles, but that’s rare.)  Tonight’s presentation was ‘A Man Named Ove’ – presented in German with Spanish subtitles.  But here’s the cool thing.  Even if you can’t read all the subtitles, or speak German (or French, or Russian, or Italian, etc.), the films are generally so well done that you can still follow along with the story.  As for ‘En Man Som Heter Ove’, it was a truly wonderful film!

Like I always say, it’s the adventure that makes traveling fun, and enjoying a foreign art film at Cine Magaly after a relaxing bite to eat at the Kubrick Café near downtown San José, Costa Rica, is definitely a little ‘artsy’ slice of life you don’t want to miss!

Cine Magaly is located in the Barrio California neighborhood of San José, on Calle 23 between Avenida Central and Avenida 3, and it’s just a short walk from Barrio Amòn.  Plus tickets are only 2,500 colones (about $5.00US), so it’s a reasonably priced way to spend a great evening.  If you want more information about Cine Magaly, you can check out their website at: www.cinemagaly.com

 

 

Mirador Ram Luna – Elegance on the Mountainside

Sometimes you come across one of those magical places that seem specially made for making memories, and Mirador Ram Luna, just outside of San José, Costa Rica is just such a place.

Located high up on the side of the mountain, 9 miles south of San José and 3 miles from Aserri on the road to Tarmac, it’s not an especially easy place to get to, but it is definitely worth the effort.

Even it the food wasn’t delicious (which it is), and the floor show wasn’t unique and engaging (which it absolutely is), then just the view alone would make the trip up the hill all worth it!

The food is typical Costa Rican fare, served buffet style along with a well-stocked bar if you like to indulge in adult beverages.

In his opening remarks to the diners, the host explains that they do have limits, and you can only visit the buffet line 29 times. (Point being, you can eat to your heart’s content!)

The after-dinner floor show begins with a lively presentation of cultural Costa Rican dance, known as La Bailes…

…is accompanied by Tico music and musicians…

…and is followed-up by unique Costa Rican dancers in a presentation known as La Mascarada.

Mirador Ram Luna was built in 1967 and is a San José institution of entertainment.  They are open Mon-Thurs from 12PM-10PM, Fri-Sat from 12PM-11PM, and on Sunday from 12PM-8:30PM.  For more information you can check out their website at http://www.restauranteramluna.com

If good food, a great show, and some true local culture, all presented at a location with the best view in San José is what you’re looking for, then an evening at Mirador Ram Luna is definitely something you should put on your ‘to do’ list here in San José!

Insider’s Tip:  Mirador Ram Luna is not an inexpensive evening of dining and entertainment if you purchase it as a tour through one of the many local tour companies.  However, if you call the restaurant direct at (506) 2230-3022 and book your reservation, you can enjoy the dinner and show for $40US per person (less than 1/2 what a tour costs).  Additionally, we used Uber to take us to the restaurant, and only paid $12US for our one-way fare.  NOTE: Cell phone service is sketchy up on the mountain, so it’s best to make arrangements with your Uber driver to pick you up after the show (the evening show ends at 10PM).

 

 

 

La Ventana Meraki – Fusion Street Food in San José

Every time we ride by this place taking the bus from Mall San Pedro back to the Hemingway Inn, there’s always a crowd standing out front and I always say, “We really need to check that place out.”  Well, we finally did, and what a great surprise it was!

La Ventana Meraki is a hip little street food joint that promotes itself as serving  Costa Rican Fusion Cuisine.  It’s located on Avenida 3 between Calles 21 & 19, just east of the Parque Nacional, and across the street from the Estación Atlántico train terminal.

At first glance, there’s nothing particularly special about the place; middle-of-the-street frontage with a metal awning, a small kitchen and one cashier and a cook.  But once you sample their food, that’s when you’ll realize just how special this little joint is – and why there’s a crowd out front every time we roll by.

Eating here is about as basic as it gets, and part of what makes street food dining so enjoyable.

You scan their extensive menu printed on the chalkboard, sidle on up to the window and place your order, and then wait for your name to be called.  There are no stools or tables on the sidewalk out front, and that’s what takes us to the next little fun ‘quirk’ about the place.

Once you get your order, you walk across the street and take your spot on the cement steps out front of the train station and dig into some unbelievably delicious food!

They have some absolutely AMAZING burgers and sandwiches, fried vegetables, and dozens of special sauces to make your order even more personal and unique.  And here’s a great little bonus; considering the quality of the food, it’s surprisingly reasonable.  One sandwich and order of fried sweet potato fries was more than enough for the two of us, and the cost was about 5,000 colones (a little less than $10 bucks, and for San José, a great bargain!)

La Ventana Meraki is open Sun. & Mon. from 8PM-Midnight, Tues.-Thurs. from 12AM-Midnight, and Fri. & Sat from 12AM-2AM.  If you’re looking for something different to do after dark in San José, and want some top-notch, delicious street food, than you definitely want to give this place a try!

Café Chorreado – aka: The Coffee Condom

Okay, let me get this out of the way, even before I get into all the glory of Café Chorreado and the wonder of Costa Rica coffee.  Look at it, and tell me that this little set-up doesn’t look like a ‘coffee condom’.  There, I’ve said it, it’s obvious, I’m right, so giggle a little, and let’s move on…

Now, whether you order yours as a cup of coffee…or café, or joe, or java, or ink, or mud, or forty weight, or go juice, we all love that steaming hot cup of magical elixir, and in all my travels, never have I found it more deliciously served up as it is in Costa Rica via the Café Chorreado process.

When you order café chorreado, they bring you a 6″-8″ wooden stand with an elongated cotton pouch that’s filled with freshly ground coffee.  You situate your mug under the pouch, and then slowly pour hot water from the ceramic pitcher into the grounds and wait while your cup of café slowly brews right before your eyes.  Insider’s Tip:  Once your café is brewed and you’re ready to take out your cup, quickly slip the ceramic pitcher under the pouch or you’ll also ‘brew’ a nice little mess on the table.

Like most other things in Costa Rica, café chorreado isn’t quick, but then again, it’s not supposed to be.  It’s all part of the Pura  Vida lifestyle that Costa Ricans are so famous for.  So, sit back, take a deep breath, and enjoy the moment…and your delicious cup of café chorreado.

I’ve traveled all over Central and South America, and sampled coffee all their coffees (Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, etc.), and for my tastebuds, Costa Rica has some of the best coffee there is in this part of the world.

The economic foundation of Costa Rica as it’s known today was built on coffee.  Coffee exports are what economically spurred Costa Rica forward from a small, relatively unknown little Central American country, to what it’s become today.  I guess you could say that fine coffees are like precious diamonds in the historical jewelry of Costa Rica.

So, whether you order up a café chorreado and marvel at the little ‘coffee condom’, or just have a regular ole’ cup of delicious brewed coffee, I think you’ll find Costa Rican coffees to be as good as they come.

SJO Vive! – ‘San José Lives’ Street Concert

 

One of the great things about San José, Costa Rica, is that not only do they put a serious focus on the arts, but also that you don’t have to spend a fortune…or like last night, even a single peso to enjoy some world-class entertainment!

 

The Municipality of San José teamed up with the Orquestra Filarmònica de Costa Rica (Costa Rica Philharmonic Orchestra) and put on a street concert extravaganza in Barrio Chino (China Town) billed as ‘San José Vive’ (San José Lives), and ‘live’ it did.

Under the direction of Maestro Marvin Araya, the orchestra filled the night air with pulsating renditions of great music from the 70s, including a special homage to the rock band Queen.

Form the moment the performance started, there was dancing in the streets, laser light shows, and of course, what great evening of outdoor music would be complete without a spectacular fireworks display?

‘San José Vive’ had it all, and once again proved that the Pura Vida lifestyle is definitely a path well chosen.

Renegade Artists – San José Street Art

Being that I can’t draw a straight line with a ruler, or even stay within the lines in a Deputy Dawg coloring book, I hold those with artistic talent in very high regard.  I’m an especially big fan of street artists, and San José is home to some truly wonderful talent.

It’s interesting that most of the art we generally see around the country deals with exotic wildlife and the natural beauty that Costa Rica is most known for, but around the city of San José, the street art seems to focus more on the soul and diversity of the people themselves.

Whether painted on corrugated tin sheets that secure a construction site, or on the supporting walls of a railroad overpass, or even on a too-tempting blank concrete canvas on the side of a commercial building, you can find example after compelling example of renegade artists wielding talent and color and leaving their mark on this city.

Whether realistic impressions dealing with the day to day struggles of life, or abstract concepts to pique our imagination, my hat is off to the talented street artists who call San José home.