The Costa Rica Restaurant Review

Los Antojitos - Restaurant Review

mnsrconnoisseur | 27 October, 2008 14:23

Los Antojitos is a chain of Mexcian-style restaurants that can be found in many locations throughout Costa Rica.

I am a big fan of Mexican food -- it is something I could eat pretty much every day.  As such, I have been to Los Antojitos numerous times, and have sampled various of their dishes.  Generally I go to their simply but tastefully decorated location in San Rafael de Escazú, but I have also eaten at Los Antojitos in Multiplaza, where they have a booth in the food court.

Though I have eaten at Los Antojitos on several occasions, it had been quite some time between visits for me.  The last time I went I had a hankering for chimichangas, having eaten them before at Los Antojitos, and having enjoyed them.  So I ran over to the restaurant to pick up an order of chimichangas to go.  They took a very long time to prepare them, and when I got home to eat them I was rather disappointed.  This negative experience prevented me from returning for quite a while.  In the meantime I had to learn to make chimichangas at home (which was good, because my chimichangas are better than theirs are anyway).

But it was late and we were hungry, and didn't want to spend a lot of money, or a lot of time preparing food and cleaning up afterwards.

This most recent visit was to the restaurant in San Rafael, we were a party of three.  We arrived during dinner hours, but in looking at the place settings I noticed that they had some executive lunch specials that looked reasonably priced.  I will consider returning for lunch in the future to try them out.

As I said, I was hungry, and so was quick to jump into the tortilla chips and salsa that are placed at the table immediately to welcome those that choose to eat here.

When I pulled myself away from the chips and salsa long enough to look at the menu, I saw that Barvaria Dark was something like 1650 colones per bottle, so decided against having a beer with my meal.  A thousand colones is a good price and allows the restaurant to make a reasonable profit of about 100% (and that's assuming that they buy beer at the supermarket and don't get a special price from the national brewery in Costa Rica).  I can even see paying 1200 colones.  But 1650 colones was a bit more than I could stomach.  I opted for an horchata instead, which is a refreshing drink, the Mexican variety of which is usually made with milk, rice, and cinnamon, among other ingredients.

In looking at the menu, I was tempted by the enchiladas -- one of my favorite Mexican dishes, but I wasn't in the mood for chicken, and that seemed to be the only variety of enchilada available.  So I opted for "Los Burritos" which is a (or a pair of, I don't remember) fried burrito(s) with your choice of chicken, beef, or sausage.  I chose sausage, and it turned out to be a good choice.  The burrito came with a side order of french fries (don't ask me why french fries are served as a side order at a Mexican restaurant) and a small salad.  One of my dining companions ordered the "pieces of pork" (rather roughly translated) which were served over a couple of tortillas.  She must have liked what she ordered because she ate the whole thing, and being a somewhat fussy eater at only 12 years of age, this was not exactly a small feat.  My other fellow diner (her older sister) ordered one of the varieties of tacos on the menu, I think "Tacos Tostados", which she also apparently enjoyed.

I have to comment here that Los Antojitos is probably only slightly higher quality than fast food.  It is not an AUTHENTIC Mexican restaurant, at least not as I would normally define such.  In truth, I probably wouldn't consider any restaurant that serves french fries to be authentic Mexican food, and the french fries also push the restaurant in the direction of "fast food" as well.  The service is ok, but there is generally quite a wait between placing your order and getting your food.  Maybe that's one of the reasons they give you the chips and salsa when you sit down.  In fairness, at least on this past occasion, the restaurant was fairly busy.  But as noted above, I had to wait an awfully long time for my chimichangas on my previous visit as well.
The food at Los Antojitos is more or less reasonably priced, but the serving sizes are not exceptionally large.  Overall, the three of us ate for a total of about $22.  I didn't leave as full as I usually like to be when I leave a restaurant, and I hadn't had any beer either.  But my hunger was certainly abeyed enough for me to go the rest of the evening without eating anything further, and my wallet wasn't unduly lighter than when I had arrived.  All in all, I would summarize Los Antojitos as "good in a pinch."

M.C.

Note:  As noted above, Los Antojitos is a restaurant chain. Their restaurants can be found in many places throughout the metropolitan area of Costa Rica including Heredia, multiple locations in Escazú, Rohrmoser, multiple locations in Tibás, and Desamparados.

Hotel Pico Blanco Restaurant - Restaurant Review

mnsrconnoisseur | 27 September, 2008 21:19

The restaurant at Hotel Pico Blanco offers typical Costa Rican, American, and Continental cuisine.

This hotel/restaurant is located up on the mountain south of the center of San Antonio.  The location is quite enchanting.  From the hotel you have a beautiful view of the mountain tops to the south, and you can see the entire city below you to the north.  The restaurant area seems a bit old, like it perhaps could use remodeling, but it is tastefully decorated.

We arrived for lunch just after 12:00 noon.  The lobby area was open, and when we asked if the restaurant was available we were invited to take a seat anywhere we liked.  The place was completely empty when we arrived, but by the time we left there were a couple of other tables occupied.

My companion ordered fish prepared with garlic, which was to include rice, vegetables, and salad.  She also ordered a fruit smoothee to drink.  I decided on a cheeseburger and french fries, and had a couple of beers.  The drinks seemed to be a little slow in arriving, but that was ok.  After all, they had the fruit smoothee to make, and we were in no hurry on a weekend lunchtime.  We waited and enjoyed each other's company as well as the pleasant view.  We continued to do so after the drinks arrived, and had plenty of time to do so as the food was somewhat slow in coming.  Again, we were in no hurry, so I didn't keep track of the time well enough to report here exactly how long we had to wait.  But it definitely seemed to take longer than it should have for us to receive our food, especially considering that we were the only ones in the entire restaurant at the time.  So the service here was slow, but the waitress that attended us was cordial and attentive enough to see that we had everything we needed.

When the food did finally arrive, I tasted my companion's fish, and was not at all impressed.  It was a flat filet - about as thick as a pancake, so there was not a lot there.  It was supposed to have been prepared with garlic, but I didn't taste any garlic.  It was slightly tough, meaning it was overcooked, and in truth, I found the taste to actually be mildly unpleasant, and I normally love fish.  The vegetables on the side were rubbery, and she reported to me that the rice was not cooked sufficiently.  The salad was two pieces of lettuce with some tomato salsa globbed in the center of the lettuce leaves.  The french fries that came with my hamburger were definitely the pre-frozen variety, certainly not made from scratch.  They had very little flavor and the texture left something to be desired.  My cheeseburger was thrown together and was certainly nothing special.  I have actually had worse hamburgers at some of the little sodas that I have eaten at, where one receives a pre-frozen processed patty that seems as though it is mostly made from soybeans.  The meat in this burger was at least not in a factory cut-out shape and size.  It was probably the highlight of the meal, and I certainly did better ordering it than I would have had I ordered the garlic fish plate.  Still, it was nothing to be compared with a good homemade hamburger like they make at California Western, which is reviewed elsewhere in this blog.

The price for our drinks and the meal described above was around $20. While that may not sound like a lot of money for a lunch for two people, the food was definitely low-end soda quality, and as far as I am concerned (based on my experience of eating at many restaurants and sodas throughout Costa Rica) should not have cost us more than $10 or $12, plus perhaps a little extra for my two beers.

I cannot at all recommend the restaurant at Hotel Pico Blanco.  On account of the mountain view, it may be a worthwhile location for having a couple of drinks, my beers were cold and were served with a clean glass, afterall.  But I won't be eating there again any time soon.

M.C.

Note: Hotel Pico Blanco is located in San Antonio de Escazú, 1 kilometer south of the final bus stop, up the hill.  You can visit their website at http://www.hotelpicoblanco.com
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