El Jardin means “the garden”, and the owners of the San José restaurant by that name say they want it to be “a garden for all.” It offers not only a quiet haven in the city and good food in a garden setting, it does this without charging high prices.
Connected to the Hotel Rincon next door, El Jardin gives you the choice of indoor, outdoor, and in-between seating — there’s even an executive lounge for business meetings. But it’s also a great place for a simple family meal.
Each day of the week brings a different special, most at 3800 or 3900 Costa Rican colones (there are about 532 of those in a U.S. dollar, so we’re talking just over $7). These range from pasta primavera to chicken fajitas, and some come with a beverage included. As you can see, they include both Central American and more international dishes.
Moving on — if I can; the online menu is a little on-again off-again, but if it won’t load for you when you need it, at least you’ll have a little idea of what’s on it — there are also Chef’s Specials like Pescados Ahumados (smoked fish), which includes a salad, for 5500 colones; the two-person Canasta El Jardin, with samples of all the best of the house, for 10,900 colones; and the simple chicken sandwich on house-baked bread for only 3700 colones.
The rest of the menu is described as “typical”, possibly meaning more everyday, at least for Costa Ricans. It includes rice with beans (3900 colones), rice with vegetables (3200), rice with shellfish (3900) . . . you get the idea. There’s also the Casado, a small but varied meal with fish or chicken, salad, rice, beans, and plantain, for 3200 colones, and two mixed plates if you want to try a little of several foods.
There seems to be only one dessert, Boca Negra, a creamy chocolate and vanilla dish that almost anyone should like, especially kids. Soft drinks and wine are also available (details aren’t, at least online, but both wine and non-alcoholic drinks are mentioned in passing).
How does El Jardin keep its prices low, doing business in a popular tourist area of a national capital? Some online reviewers note that portions tend to be small. This is not necessarily bad if you want a light meal or you have children along, but you need to be aware of it.
Located at Avenida Calle 13, El Jardin is open every day from 11:00 AM to 10:00 PM.
Editor’s Note: Before heading to San Jose you will need to find an affordable hotel. Check out this article for our top suggestions for a girls’ trip, but work for a family as well.