- 1. The Banderas, Summit, NJ
Costa Rica changed my life. I moved there after college to teach English, fell in love, and now my wife and I visit with our kids.
I tease my in-laws by describing Costa Rican food as Mexican, without the flavor. Costa Rican cuisine doesn’t feature spicy chilies; it is all about straightforward local ingredients: fresh fish, pork, beef, rice, beans, corn, tropical fruit and vegetables.
My favorite Costa Rican foods: For breakfast, eggs with gallo pinto (fried rice and black beans with Salsa Lizano), warm corn tortillas, natilla (sour cream), and strong Costa Rican coffee. Lunch, the main daily meal, might be olla de carne (beef soup), or arroz con pollo (chicken and rice). Later on at the bar, preferably at the beach, there’s the wonderful Costa Rican tradition of bocas. Order a drink (like Imperial) and a small plate comes with it. You can’t go wrong with Costa Rican ceviche, marinated in lemon or lime juice with a touch of Ginger Ale; pork chicharrones served in a tortilla with yuca and shredded cabbage; or frijoles molidos (fried beans) with crispy tortillas. I can barely remember what my black bean-less diet was like before I first visited. Other Costa Rican standards are hearty casados (literally, “married” plates) served at lunch counters all over Costa Rica – a piece of protein (grilled fish, pork, beef or chicken) with a fried egg on a heaping plate of rice, beans, sweet plantains and cabbage salad; pork tamales wrapped in banana leaves; and tropical fruit shakes (batidos).
It’s not hard to find Costa Rican food in New Jersey, if you know where to look. Eight of the 25 communities in the United States with the highest percentage of Costa Rican residents are right here in the Garden State: Bound Brook, Somerville, Raritan, Summit, Dover, Manville, South Bound Brook, and Clinton. A number of Jersey restaurants serve Costa Rican food among other Latin American cuisines. Clifton’s La Posada is a Colombian spot that also serves Cosata Rican and Peruvian dishes. Irvington’s Antojitos is a unique Costa Rican-Ecuadorean combo. We are always on the lookout for Costa Rican-owned restaurants like The Banderas in Summit. Know of a Costa Rican place we haven’t found? Let us know.