San José’s Corn-Themed Costa Rican Cuisine
As soon as my plane touched down at San Jose’s international airport, I was ready to dive straight into typical Tico (Costa Rican) cuisine. Luckily, there’s a terrific local restaurant by the airport, on the way to downtown San Josè. La Fiesta del Maiz – translation: The Corn Party – is a much-loved local establishment. This cafeteria-style eatery serves a wide variety of Costa Rican dishes with a focus on corn as the prominent ingredient. With a reputation for turning out delicious food at cheap prices, La Fiesta del Maiz is where Costa Ricans stop for a quick bite on their way home from the beach.
The open-aired dining space is large and casual. “Fiesta del Maiz” is painted on a large wooden plaque in white lettering. Don’t be fooled by the fast food appearance of the backlit menu board and computerized registers complete with little electronic pictures of food. This isn’t McDonald’s. Samples of cornbread and chicken stew emerge from the kitchen as my Costa Rican hosts eagerly place our order.
We choose a number of local dishes: chicken tamals, fried plantains stuffed with melted cheese, chicharrones, picadillo de papa, chorreadas, extra corn tortillas and a large horchata to drink. I love a good horchata, it’s like drinking rice pudding. Although we ordered what seems like a mountain of food, we don’t even make a dent in the restaurant’s extensive menu. Tray after tray emerges from the kitchen piled with traditional Costa Rican cuisine.
My favorite dish is picadillo de papa. This traditional Costa Rican potato hash is made with onions, garlic, peppers and cilantro. I ordered mine con carne – with shredded beef. I can’t get over the deep, salty flavor. I slather the picadillo in local tabasco. My lips are burning and I’m in foodie ecstasy.
The chicharrones are also a winner. Thick fried pork rinds eaten with corn tortillas are the perfect combination of fat, crispy skin and succulent meat.
We finish off our meal with chorreadas, sweet Costa Rican corn pancakes that we dunk in tubs of sour cream.
Fiesta del Maiz is a terrific place to experience local Tico cuisine. The restaurant’s proximity to the airport allows for a quick bite on a long layover or a the perfect introductory to Costa Rican cuisine for first-time visitors.
Fiesta del Maiz is located along Route 3 in Alajuela, Costa Rica