When is a soda not a soda??

cocaWhen is a soda not a soda??

Well, when you’re in Costa Rica, of course!

In Costa Rica, a “soda” is a very small café, locally owned, and usually has just a few tables and stools at a counter. Typically, you cannot really go wrong with a soda – they always seem have to have authentic and very good Costa Rican food. This is my favorite soda in Grecia, so far (mainly because I haven’t branched out to all of the soda’s yet, and also because once Greg likes a place, he wants to keep going back again and again and again):


Soda La Perla… is what I would call a “hole in the wall” – it is a teeny, tiny place, that I probably never would have went into on my own (in Wisconsin, I was raised to not trust “hole in the wall’s”). We first went here with our friend Peter, one morning, when we were leaving out early for a road trip.
He said they had the best coffee.

AND HE WAS RIGHT. This coffee is yum. Made fresh in an espresso machine. And if you want milk, you get steamed milk, so for me, it is really a latte. The best part? It’s hot to the LAST drop, and I’m not kidding. I’m a stickler for drinking my coffee HOT – not semi-hot, definitely not warm.  Luke warm or cold? Never. Look at this perfect cup, and it’s only 700 colonés (about $1.30):

IMG_3508The menu is very basic, just two sides of a laminated paper.  They serve breakfast and lunch.  However, if you know some Spanish (like me!  lol), never hesitate to ask for something that is not on the menu.  Like I always ask for  bread with my gallo pinto (rice & beans), and it comes out grilled and lightly buttered.  And if you don’t know what something means, just try it!  Chances are it will be delicious.  Like the sandwich picture shown on the menu – it just looks like a couple of pieces of bread slapped together with some stuff inside…  not the case.  I saw someone order a sandwich the other day and it was grilled and looked like a gourmet panini!  That is what I’m trying next time, for sure.


foodShown above:  I had the Gallo Pinto con natilla (rice & beans with a side of a natilla – which is a heavy cream with just a hint of sourness, similar to creme fraiche), and Greg had the Gallo Pinto con carne (rice & beans with a type of beef meat in sauce).  The bottle of hot sauce is their house sauce, which Greg deemed appropriately good (meaning:  SPICY).

So…  if you guys live in Grecia or are visiting, try this place.  It’s a good dose of authentic Costa Rican food and also their trademark hospitality.  Oh, and don’t forget to go to the register to pay your bill when you’re done (this happens at almost all restaurants/sodas here).  At La Perla, they just punch it into a calculator and show you the total.

Hours, no idea, but they are always open early in the morning every time we’ve been.  How to get there, just 2 blocks west of the park:

la perla

In other news, check out my new Arm Candy website:  CostaRicaArmCandy.com (you can now order online!).

That’s all for now!  Cheers! — Jen
PS – don’t forget to check out my book Costa Rica Chica, if you haven’t yet!  🙂


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18 Responses to When is a soda not a soda??

  1. Jesse and I love Soda la Perla too…. Jesse said “if you haven’t tried the ‘rellenos’, you haven’t lived…and, it is guaranteed to have more fat calories per gram than anything else in town.” I love the coffee latte!!!

  2. Buenos dias Jen Jen! Yo quiero ir a La Perla! All this food made me really hungry, especially since we are fasting this month. I will have one of everything, please!

    • I so wish you could come visit me here Mighty! We’d have so much fun, I’d take you everywhere – to all the sodas, etc. and you could teach me sooooo much Spanish! 🙂

  3. Glad you guys love it like I still do after 12 years. Hugo and his sister do a great job and make you want to keep coming back. yep as I turned you guys on to their coffee it rocks! hard to find better.

  4. Sounds real good. If you find yourselves on the Nicoya Peninsula near Montazuma go to Cabuya and eat at Marvin’s Soda. You won’t be disappointed. Enjoy following your blog!!

  5. Hi Jen,
    I’m Hugh. I’m a volunteer and have come from America to live in Costa Rica for a couple of years.

    At the moment I’m doing some training and I have to complete a photographic essay on a Costa Rican cultural entity.

    I’m interested generally in business development and also I’m totally curious about the Sodas I see around my town. I’m living in San Rafael, Heredia at the moment and I notice that a lot of the sodas here are operated by women.
    I’m thinking there’s maybe a thread of a “Ticas in business” story I can get into for my essay.

    However, I’m finding it tough to find information on the history and development of the Soda establishments here locally and in Costa Rica.

    I’m wondering if you, or some of your readers/subscribers could help me with some knowledge and maybe point me in the right direction on the subject of these small cultural institutions?

    Hope you can get back to me on this? I noticed your last post was in 2015….


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