How to communicate (in Spanish) at a Costa Rica Restaurant

Ordering cocktails at a restaurant, an American friend of ours once said, “I’m going to have to try the Sex on the Beach.” Without missing a beat, the waiter said, “OK, and to drink?”

Here are some useful terms to know when ordering at Costa Rican restaurants.

Aderezo — salad dressing. Costa Ricans usually serve salad with no dressing (other than perhaps some lime), but you can always ask for it.

Bebidas — drinks. As in most countries, drinks are generally ordered first while diners look at the menu. Servers will often ask “¿Qué desean tomar?” or “What would you like to drink?”

Casado — traditional, inexpensive dish with beef, chicken, pork or fish, plus rice, beans, sweet plantains and chopped vegetables.

Entrada — appetizer. This word is easily confused with “entrée,” but entrée is “plato fuerte.”

Gallo Pinto — rice and beans served for breakfast, usually with eggs, fruit and toast.

La Cuenta, Por Favor — “Check, please.” Note that in Costa Rica it’s considered somewhat rude for servers to offer to bring you the check before you ask for it (as if they’re rushing you to leave). You can also request a check from afar by getting a server’s attention and using your hand to mime the act of writing.

Mascarilla — facemask. Under current coronavirus rules, you should wear a mask when you enter any business, though obviously you can take it off in a restaurant to eat and drink.

Naturales — non-alcoholic fruit drinks served at virtually all restaurants, made of piña (pineapple), sandía (watermelon), tamarindo (tamarind), cas (a type of guayava) and other fruits.

Plato Fuerte — literally meaning “strong dish,” this means entrée or main course.

Postre — dessert

Provecho — the Costa Rican way of saying “Bon appétit,” or “Enjoy the food.”

Soda — traditional, inexpensive Costa Rican restaurant. This does not mean a fizzy soft drink, which is a “gaseosa.”

Típico — traditional or regional, used to describe authentic Costa Rica food. Often translated “typical,” although in English “typical” usually means ordinary and uninteresting.

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