We spent the beginning of November in Costa Rica. While most of New York was suffering through a less than smooth transition into winter, Keith and I were walking, driving, and tanning in San Jose, La Fortuna, and Santa Teresa in flimsy clothes and flip flops. Because this was our second time visiting Costa Rica, we felt really comfortable exploring the capital city and renting a car to drive to the (active as recently as 2010) Arenal Volcano to hike in the mountains and enjoy some time in the hot spring pools at the Los Perdidos Springs Resort.
Though each day had its own food, scenery, and coffee highlights, one of my favorite parts of our vacation were the trips we took to the Mercado Central (Central Market) in San Jose each morning. Our first day in town we met some locals who advised that we get our morning coffee and as many meals as possible at Mercado Central, so that very day we went in search of the legendary market (founded in 1880) and returned every day thereafter when we were in San Jose. A short, but sturdy concrete and aluminum structure crammed with over 200 different stalls, shops, and counters, Mercado Central is an indoor market overflowing with whatever you could need for life, ever. The market is stuffed with overlapping incarnations of vendors selling spices, fresh squeezed tropical juices, meat, fresh fish, fruits and vegetables, prepared food, florists, garden and pet supplies, shoes (lots of shoes), aprons and hats, ribbons, candles, baby clothes, and one coffee shop serving some of the best cafe con leche I’ve ever tasted. A maze of skinny corridors and hidden exits, Mercado Central was a wonderland of sights, tastes, and smells that over stimulate the senses and impart that same conflicting vibe balanced between welcoming and grimy that I found to be characteristic of most of Downtown San Jose.
Though I can’t speak to the origin of the majority of the edibles that are sold at Mercado Central, I was sure to stock up on Organic Coffee from the Moka Coffee Counter. Described to me as the ‘coffee that most Costa Ricans drink’ I was loving this coffee from the first sip. A roundly and deeply flavored coffee void of the overly acidic burn one might associate with a dark roast (thank you for ruining coffee, Starbucks), these beans are so good that I regret only bringing back 4 kilos (aka 8.8 lbs).
Corn Tortilla fried con Queso Fresco
The Florist Vendors
One of the many entrances to Mercado Central
Cristal Restaurant in Mercado Central
Aprons for Sale
Central Market Food Counter
Butcher’s Meat Case