Soda Tapia – A True Urban Legend
Soda Tapia – A True Urban Legend. Years before the soda fountain culture was brought back to life in movies like American Graffiti, an enterprising idea was born in the minds of Bruno and Alice Tapia. It was 1964 and the couple was already running a successful eatery in San José’s central market. But Bruno and Alice had shinier dreams, setting their sights on a modern place with gleaming plastic counters and booths. The menu would be all on its own, while ultimately becoming synonymous with traditional Costa Rican food.
More than a half-century later, Soda Tapia (Facebook) remains a must-try location like no other. Aside from traditional gallo pinto and casados, the dining spot serves hamburgers and also arreglados — a refried bean and ham sandwich with cheese, Salsa Lizano and veggies. “Churchills” are also served in every variety. A Churchill is a shaved ice dessert that can incorporate condensed milk and powdered milk (granizado when sold on the beach) or ice cream, jello and fruit salad.
Soda Tapia features a unique and wide-ranging menu, including options you can tick off from a list. The combinations are endless and made to order.
Located on San José’s main drag in La Sabana, Soda Tapia is an urban legend in the truest Tico sense that everyone should savor.
Digging into the Soda
This regional dish carries with it a bit of controversy. It originated in San José bars in the 1990s, but one man claims to have invented the layered combination that includes rice, beans and salsa, topped with fried pork and served with tortilla chips. The surrounding controversy led to the first-ever patent on an appetizer.
When you walk into a soda don’t expect to always be served at the table; you may find yourself sitting uncomfortably waiting for a server who will only reluctantly come. Your best bet is to go directly to the counter and say hello and then ask for a menu. Remember this is a local eatery where servers are used to the same locals coming in every day, so polite banter when you arrive will go a long way.
Your Tico taste of home
Visiting a soda is like eating at the table of a local family. You enjoy home-cooked food, mostly unprocessed and healthy. Reflecting the everyday meals of Costa Ricans, sodas are the authentic way to experience traditional cuisine. Sodas around the country have particular dishes that represent local tastes. In Limón, for example, you can have rice ‘n’ beans any time of day — that is, gallo pinto cooked with coconut. Soda menus also reflect the location’s growing seasons; a casado side dish can be any number of local vegetable combinations or even a pasta salad, perhaps a surprise to eat with rice and beans. Each soda will also reflect the local cooks — normally a group of women — and their unique food preparation styles.
Sodas are a super-affordable and delicious way to eat your way through Costa Rica. Step out through the door wherever you are, walk in any direction and you will find one.
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