Friday, May 17, 2013

Gluten Free In Jaco Beach, Costa Rica

I plan on writing a nice big round-up of our trip to Costa Rica when we get home, but for today, just a quick recommendation for anyone looking to eat out gluten free in Jaco Beach.  Yesterday we found ourselves hot, thirsty, and tired after a morning of sightseeing along the coast, and decided to stop in Jaco Beach for lunch before heading back home.  Jaco has a ton of eateries, though not all are open before noon, and not all are traditional Costa Rican eateries.  I have nothing against eating at expat places, but when I'm in a foreign country I like to frequent local spots as much as possible.  When looking for gluten free options, it's actually easier at the local food places than the ones catering to North Americans. 

The North American restaurants mainly had signs for pizza, hot dogs & hamburgers, sandwiches & wraps.  Since those items are off limits for our gluten free kid, looking local made more sense.  Costa Rican food typically consists of rice, beans, meat, fish, fruits and vegetables.  We found a local spot that was full of locals, and that had a sign advertising breakfast from 2000 colones, or about $4 US. 

El Chante Tipico is a small eatery with tables carved from huge tree trunks.  The owners speak some English.  Rather than choosing from a menu, there is a small serving area where you ask for what you want from a buffet of food.  Normally I advise against buffets, but not this time.  Here's why:  1) The employee serves the food, and there are separate utensils for each dish.  Less cross-contamination is likely to occur.  2) Nothing (nothing that was available the day I was there) contained gluten.  The only thing that could have contained it was the fried fish, but it was coated in corn flour.  The thing is, wheat flour is very rarely used in day to day cooking.  It's common in the sweet breads sold at bakeries, but most cooking is done without it.   Still, I always recommend asking, as recipes change.

The price of the lunch buffet ranged from 2500 colones ($5) to 3000 colones ($6) depending on whether you added fish to your plate.  Three lunches plus three bottles of water came to the equivalent of $16 US.  Aside from beans and rice there were a variety of vegetables, fried plantains, meat, fish, and salads to choose from.  The plates were overflowing with typical food that tasted great and was safe for our son to eat. 

My plate: rice & beans, fish, plantains, vegetables & salad

My husband's plate; Rice & beans, extra beans, plantains, 2 different types of vegetables & meat

My son's plate: rice & beans, boiled potato, mixed vegetables

The location is convenient, right on the main street next to the beach, right across the street from the park on Avenida Pastor Diaz.  The restaurant is a small eatery but it is bright and airy and the bathrooms are clean.  I don't know how the menu changes at night, but the lunch deal was cheap, plentiful, and delicious.  Sadly, we were the only tourists there.  The place was full of locals, but most English speakers were across the small side street at a place advertising jumbo hot dogs with not a Costa Rican in sight and prices easily 3 times what we paid.  I know because we scoped out the menu.   

When in a new place, we try to eat where the locals are eating, especially if that coincides with great gluten free options.  We felt welcome at this small eatery, and everyone was friendly.  Even if you speak little to know Spanish, you can always point to what you want.  Worth a visit!

1 comment :

  1. Good post. We've posted a similar jaco beach, Costa rica profile here: