A cheeseburger in paradise: Atenas, Costa Rica
I just got back from leading a month-long high school exchange trip to Costa Rica....I had heard that food in Costa Rica was not that good, but I was actually pleasantly surprised. I'll write a bit more about this in another post though.
My group and I stayed for 12 days in Atenas, which is about 45 minutes west of San Jose in a very pretty coffee growing region. I mostly ate with my host family, but on one of the last nights, I made my way up to the hamburger stand (owned by the host father of one of my students) that my kids had been raving about. It was definitely good enough to warrant a special chowhound post.
The burgers (which come in regular or large sizes) are seasoned with garlic and salsa lisano (among other things). I got a burger with 'everything', which included melted cheese, a slice of ham, lots of sauteed onions, crushed potato chips, mayo, mustard, ketsup, tomato and lettuce...all on a buttered and toasted bun. The burger was a little tricky to eat, but it was one of the best burgers I've ever had. There aren't really tables, since the hamburger stand is set up in the front lawn of a house, but there are some steps to sit on next to the road.
The hamburger stand also sells a few other items (french fries, tacos). The tacos didn't look appealing to me at all, they were deep fried and topped with cabbage, mayo and ketsup. But some people apparantly like that...
The hamburger stand is only open in the evenings (from 5 or 6 PM until late), and is generally closed on Tuesday. From Atenas, take a taxi to the neighborhood "Mercedes de Atenas", almost any taxi driver will know the place, but in case they don't, it's across the street from Bar La Fortuna (where you can grab a beer after your burger). A taxi there costs about 1500 colones (about 3 dollars). If you have your own car, ask directions and follow the one road that goes to this neighborhood and you'll find it as well....if you have an evening in the Atenas area, this place is definitely worth checking out.....a real taste of Costa Rican small town culture and a great burger!
Wow, I didn't see this post until today! Glad you guys liked it....if you do speak to the owner (or any members of the family, actually) tell him that David (who led the exchange group last summer) says hi! He should remember who I am. Glad the burgers are still good!
re: Dave MP
Hi Dave -
And I just was wandering around Chow Hound today for an trip to LA next week and saw your post : ) Will definitely tell them you said hello next time we are there. We have gone a couple of times but have moved to Palmares. Actually closer as the crow flies then where we lived before, but the road between Palmares and Atenas is really, really scary at night, so we have not gone since we moved. Pura Vida!
Just got back from the Atenas hamburger stand and wow - Dave was right - awesome burger - definitely the best we have had in CR so far. We got ours with everything too and it was the perfect balance of flavors - just right! I'm a big fan of potato chips on burgers : ) And sorry, cagey, but this burger cost all of 850 colones, or about $1.80. Wrapped in wax paper secured with a toothpick, washed down with a Coca - heaven!
To get there - from the main highway in Atenas going west, make a right on the road just before the sole traffic signal (like you are going to Palmares). When the road kind of forks, stay to the left, instead of bearing right to Palmares. You will drive a little bit into the Mercedes neighborhood - past the school on the right and then up ahead a bit you will see Bar La Fortuna on your right. The stand is before you get to the bar and will be on your left. It is a little blue building up on a hill, with nice steps leading up to it. We talked to the owner and his daughters who were helping him in limited Espanol and he was pretty happy he was on the internet. We are going to print this out for him and take it there the next time we go - and we WILL go back. Hours are 5:00 PM until 2:00 AM and they are open everyday except for Tuesday.
Thanks for that tip. Was just in Atenas but missed that one! Will have to catch it next time. It's next to impossible to find a good burger down in Costa Rica (especially when tempted away by all the fresh seafood). Occasionally one gets a hankering, but more often than not the meat is mixed with a lot of breading.
I did have a pretty good cheeseburger over in Manuel Antonio. Cafe Aqua Azul - on the main road from Quepos to the park - has a terrific view, friendly owner, and decent menu. The "Big Ass Cheeseburger" was exactly that. Big and good quality for around $7. The view is the icing on the cake.