For homemade Sicilian cuisine in Tamarindo, you won't find a better option than Antichi Sapori. That's because the owners of this unassuming restaurant hail from that small Italian island, and they cook with all the love and respect for ingredients their culture demands. Here you can indulge in classics like pasta and gnocchi, but it's the fresh seafood that Costa Rica is famous for that raises Anti Sapori's dishes to another level.
Maybe start with the bruschetta with fresh-baked bread followed by shrimp scampi or seafood linguini. There's vegetarian options also and even gluten-free pizzas for those who are intolerant. Definitely save room for dessert, because you'll want to cap the meal with one (or many) of their famous cannolis. Word to the wise: inquire about the off-menu specials—they're always cooking up something new and delicious each day.
Black Stallion Café & Surf Saloon
What could be better on your tropical vacation than enjoying a zip-line adventure followed by delicious homecooked BBQ? That's exactly what you'll find at Black Stallion Hills. This residential area located in the mountains about eight minutes outside the town of Tamarindo offers day excursions to their ranch and activities like horseback riding and zip-line tours. Since opening their restaurant, the Black Stallion Café & Surf Saloon, its popularity has skyrocketed.
The Sunset BBQ Fiesta is a buffet of ribs, steaks, chicken, and veggies all flame-grilled and served with a variety of sides (and as much sangria you can drink). All the products they use are sourced locally and they even do a ranch-style brunch using organic eggs produced from chickens on the farm. Black Stallion is a great place for any group to kick off (or wind down) your Costa Rican adventure. Note that brunch is only available to those who book a horseback or zip-line tour, and dinner is reservations-only.
Dragonfly Bar & Grill
Since opening in 2005, the open-air Dragonfly Bar & Grill has quickly become one of the premier restaurants in Tamarindo, delivering consistently impeccable cuisine presented with artistic flourishes. Really, some of their dishes are so beautiful you won't know whether to eat them or hang them on the wall. Still, great presentation is nothing without the goods to back it up, and Dragonfly's menu of locally sourced produce and fresh seafood delivers on all fronts.
The style of the food here could best be described as Asian/Costa Rican fusion, and everything on the menu is delicious. For a starter, you can choose between a variety of exotic salads, tuna tartare, and tempura shrimp rolls with plantains. For main courses, you'll find a lot of high-end surf and turf like filet mignon, grilled red snapper, and seared yellowfin tuna. Vegetarians can go for the red curry or the Buddha Bowl, a concoction of fresh veggies, organic quinoa, and chili-marinated tofu tossed in a sweet chili sauce.
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Located just a few meters off the main beach, the food you'll find at Café Tico is as delicious as the exterior of this tiny shack is humble. It's the place to come if you want a traditional Costa Rican breakfast prepared with love. Health nuts can enjoy fruit smoothies while the more carnivorous can opt for indulgent quiches. North Americans, specifically, are sure to fall in love with the bacon and egg breakfast sandwich topped with cheese and avocado.
But above all else, Café Tico is famous for its coffee. The fresh-brewed Costa Rican Arabica beans here make for a cup of Joe that rivals (and might even exceed) anything else in Tamarindo. If you really want to indulge you'll pair your gourmet coffee with one of their famous breakfast pastries, cakes, tarts, and other treats like "love biscuits" with homemade mango jam.
Green Papaya Taco Bar
Across Costa Rica, you can find restaurants offering traditional Mexican staples like tacos, enchiladas, and guacamole. One of the best places to find such fare in Tamarindo is in the town center, at the Green Papaya Taco Bar. This is a casual joint, the type of place to come for a beer and some cantina grub after a long day in the surf. While the food here isn't as diverse as what you'll find in Mexico, Green Papaya keeps diners on their toes by offering the occasional delightful twist on the standards (try the roast-beef tacos). Their menu also ticks the three main boxes for those with dietary restrictions: they offer vegetarian options, vegan options, and gluten-free options.
La Bodega is another central option, this one a little market/café specializing in organic foods. It's the place to come to stock up on healthy picnic grub before hitting the beach. Their market offers everything from organic honey and hot sauces to coconut oil, chocolate, power bars, goat cheese, and more. Of course, you can also pick up a bag of Costa Rican Arabica beans.
If you're feeling really peckish pull up a table and enjoy a daily sandwich special and salad, with banana bread or a brownie for dessert. They also have a delightfully long breakfast menu. Enjoy your meal with a cup of coffee made with the aforementioned beans or fresh organic juice.
Pangas Beach Club
For impeccable service and upscale cuisine right on the water, try the four-star Pangas Beach Club. This is one of Tamarindo's most well-regarded eateries, lauded for the interesting house specialties: the Volcanic Rocks, for example, is a plate of sizzling beef cuts served on fiery volcanic rocks, served alongside a decadent seafood platter piled high with yellow-fin tuna, grilled lobster, shrimp skewers, and fried red snapper. And if you really want to get into the tropical vibe, order the lobster salad overflowing out of a fresh-husked coconut.
Pangas' setting right in front of the ocean naturally makes it the perfect spot for a special event—they even bake specialty cakes for weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, etc. It makes a great place to come for Christmas dinner, too. Be sure to make a reservation in advance.
Shrimp Hole may be a small seafood shack, but it packs a big punch. This is another laid-back spot perfect for a quick lunch to break up beach time. The menu is small but creative, with staples like shrimp ceviche and shrimp burgers, curries, and a bánh mi, too. They have a nice drink menu featuring tropical hits like a passion fruit cocktail, and a non-alcoholic ginger-mint lemonade. Grab a bib, tuck into a giant plate of fresh shrimp, and definitely try the key lime pie for dessert.
For more information on visiting Tamarindo and elsewhere in the region, see our Ultimate Guide to Guanacaste Province.