Yesterday morning, we decided to go into Atenas and have breakfast at Anita's. This is a soda in the centro market place of our town, right across from where the red taxis park, and it's all under cover. Here you will find several butcher shops, vegetable and fruit stands, places to buy boots, shoes, purses and bags, jewelry, get a battery for your watch or have your broken glasses welded together (Lance did this) and lots more.
I consider this market to be the heart of Atenas, along with the Catholic church and the park. It is located right beside the local bus station where the old Bluebird buses ((which were manufactured in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada - of all places) travel back and forth from all the outlying towns and communities. It's also close to the other bus station where the more modern buses travel between San Jose and Alajuela.
The courtyard of this market has recently been updated, with new benches to sit on, landscaping and a big bird feeder.
A soda in Costa Rica is a small family run place serving "typico" or typical Costa Rican food. There won't be menus but there may be a chalkboard with the daily offerings. The food will be cheap, fast, tasty, filling and authentic - the best deals around in my opinion. You sit at a counter on a stool and the lovely ladies in the small cooking space will have your meal ready in no time.
At Soda Anita, we were welcomed by a really nice Tico who spoke some English (or Spanglish as he called it) and we speak some Spanish (Spanglish) so it was all quite easy to order. He told us what they had for desayuno (breakfast) and I ordered a canelone with cheese, corn tortillas and black coffee. Lance ordered a chicken canelone, corn tortillas and gallo pinto (black beans and rice), plus black coffee.
New to me is the "canelone" ... it looked like a rolled omelet but the word "canelone" threw me off because I kept thinking of the more familiar dish "cannelloni" - pasta stuffed with a filling and covered with a sauce. Well, this item is actually the same pasta stuffed with meat and rice or whatever you select and then rolled in an omelet. I think the Spanish name is canelones de carne envueltos en huevo.
Both our choices were delicious and the coffee was hot and strong. Next time I may add some potatoes or bacon. It really was nice to sit there in this open sided Tico market, watching everyone go about their morning business - waiting for buses, shopping, having something to eat before heading for work. Atenas is a small town but it's bustling. A smile at one of our cooks earned me an even bigger smile back. We have always been made to feel welcome in Costa Rica.
Also on Anita's menu board are casados. "Casado" means "marriage" and this dish is a marriage of rice, beans, salad (cabbage based), a meat of your choice, plantains, cheese, potatoes and whatever the chefs decide should be included. This choice will keep you going from morning to night.
Final cost for both of our breakfasts: 4,500 colones (about $11.00 CAD or $10.00 USD). So not only did we have a filling breakfast, we also mingled with the locals, practiced our Spanish, and immersed ourselves even more in this culture. Soda Anita opens quite early in the morning and serves breakfast and lunch.
Afterwards, we wandered down to the park and sat for a while on the benches around the new well facilities. Then we walked over to El Canario, a Tico grocery store I frequent. This is where I have learned a lot of Spanish words for different meat selections and I always get a big smile from the butchers and they don't mind correcting my Spanish. Picked up what we wanted to get and then Rodrigo drove us home in his taxi. He has his annual Christmas display set up on the back shelf of his taxi, complete with lights. We always know when Rodrigo is in the taxi lineup because he plays Latin music nice and loud in his taxi.