I am travelling from La Fortuna in the north, mid-western part of Costa Rica, to Playa Conchal, on the pacific coast. It is a four hour drive and I am starving. "We will stop at Aromatico," my shuttle driver says as if reading my mind. He stops at an unassuming soda (the name for inexpensive restaurants) in the center of a small town.

My salad is composed in front of me, an amiable man piling on fresh vegetables and homemade salsa. I add some chilero, a traditional, marinated hot pepper condiment, from the large jar on the counter. My husband's plate is generously filled with black beans, rice and fried chicken. We both top everything with Salsa Lizano and proceed to clean our plates entirely.

Costa Rican travelers take note: while the food at resorts is not bad, offerings are widely modified for the tourist's palate. It was those meals I savored outside of the resorts, most at hole-in-the-wall sodas, that left their impression.


Jennifer Rhodes is a writer and teacher whose big mouth and complete absence of sound judgment make her a liability in most professional and social situations.