Top 5 Local Hangout Spots in Heredia Costa Rica
This article of mine originally appeared in The Costa Rica Star, please stop by and have a look around. Thanks, Solson
To most valley dwellers Heredia means, traffic, universities, call centers and Intel. To the foreign visitor it’s all just San José. Most outsiders haven’t a clue about the places we prefer and most of them are not famous outside our little city, unlike places in San José like Soda Tapia and Avenida Central. We’ve got our favorite spots to meet and eat, and I’ll share some with you.
Fair warning, the following are presented with absolutely no scientific study and are in no way definitive, feel free to add to the list.
5) Bol Cariari. Probably the latest arrival to the trendy list in Heredia. Tucked awkwardly near the Real Cariari Mall you may have seen the sign from the highway, but you still may have a little trouble finding one of the few bowling alleys in the country. Locals have found it just fine. By American standards it’s a bit cramped and noisy, but it’s brand new, good fun and usually hopping. You’ll probably have to wait a while for a lane (charged by the hour not by the game) and be sure to dress appropriately. Its proximity to business centers, and the ritzy Cariari area means that most folks are on the upper side of the income scale and are either blowing off steam after work or pre-gaming for a night out so you won’t find many grungy tee’s or blue collars.
Food here is a predictable assortment of fried things, nachos, pizza and beer. Also, if you’ve ever attended a bowling alley in the States don’t expect anyone to follow any sort of basic lane etiquette, so just breathe deep and have fun.
4) Café Scarlett. A block east of the courthouse, this unassuming cafe is the requisite meeting place for local politicians and lawyers. A number of expansions over the years means that diners are often seated in a labyrinth of rooms where one would expect to find the kitchen. The odd layout brings new meaning to the term “backroom deal.” Don’t be surprised if you end up rubbing elbows with folks like the mayor, city council members or other folks you’ve seen on TV, but don’t be intimidated, plenty of locals stop by as well.
Open for breakfast, lunch and afternoon coffee, Café Scarlett serves up a nice alternative to the greasy spoon “sodas” widely available in downtown Heredia, often featuring lovely green salads and lasagna. Be sure to be in early enough to grab lunch while they’ve still got some.
3) La Parrillita de Pepe. Open late (5am on weekends) and serving up goodness for what ails you La Parillita de Pepe has seen near instant success despite a somewhat awkward location on the fringe of downtown. Featuring a mix of local “soda” style short order as well as Colombian specialties means they have an extensive menu that is especially well suited to the tastes of local college students. While students aren’t their only customers, the proximity to university watering holes means they’ve taken full advantage of the buzz-busting power of their menu. They’ve recently expanded their dining area as well as their hours (opening at 11:30am) while retaining their speedy delivery service. I expect that they get quite a lot of late night business from our next place on the list.
2. El Bule. Technically it has the awkward name of Bulevar Relax Bar Restaurant & Grill, but ask for it by that name and you’ll get nowhere. This is THE bar in Heredia. Locals go and bring their out of town guests with them. Weekend nights mean loud music overflow onto the sidewalk, and little access to parking on the streets. Heaven help you on game day. Like La Parrillita de Pepe the clientele is largely student driven but it’s iconic status means that young and the young at heart still drop in to revel. I can’t say anyone I’ve met has ever commented on the food, but we’ll take that as a good sign. They open for lunch but the party gets started late.
1. El Parque Central. The historic central park still serves its role as meeting place for the community. It’s where championships are celebrated and heartbreaking losses are mourned. High school students flirt and kill time while older gentlemen complain about the government and the the management of Club Sport Herediano. All the bustle is flanked by the historic “Fortin,” the historic post office, the renovated Escuela República de Argentina, and a couple of iconic eateries: Pops and Soda Testy.
While Pops has grown into a well recognized national ice-cream franchise, the central park location has been there for close to 40 years marking it as an Heredia institution. It’s always bustling with folks of all ages with a sweet tooth, but an endless stream high school students keep this place in the black. Soda Testy is equally iconic, serving up classic Tico short order food and is well known for its air-raid type siren that sounds with unwavering devotion to the victories of the local soccer team.
Well let the debate begin, this is my list, make your own. Let some other towns chime in with their best local guides, I’d love to know where the local hot-spots are for when I’m wandering about.