Or, in Costa Rica, "Hamburgesa con queso! Hamburgesa con queso!" [ahm-bur-GAY-sah cone KAY-sew] It’s a mouthful. And, if you have a teenager, you say it a lot.

A good cheeseburger in Costa Rica is hard to come by. Beef here is not that great; it tends to be gristly and just not flavorful. This came as a surprise because the country is littered with gigantic cattle farms. Gigantic farms, not gigantic cattle.

A friend who owns such a farm told me they sell the good cuts of beef overseas. Costa Ricans don’t eat much beef in their diets, so why try to sell it locally? You don’t buy steak in this country, even in a restaurant unless that restaurant comes HIGHLY recommended. If you are a steak lover on a budget, consider Argentina. (Um, just for the steaks though. Turns out, they have their own hamburger woes!)

Today, we’re just looking for a good cheeseburger. Having been too disappointed too many times by no-name local joints, out of desperation, I drive the boys to Escazu.

Ah, Escazu, City of Expats, a central valley town SW of San Jose, where newbie expats, determined not to actually live in Escazu for fear of being accused of being too chicken to "do" the fully-immersed Costa Rica experience but fresh off the boat and desperate for a dose of familiarity, go to get some.

Tgif_the_signEscazu is loaded with the familiar… Like a T.G.I.F. right next door to a Tony Roma’s. Down the street from the huge brand new Multiplaza Escazu mall. The modern and lovely Beauty Club. High rise buildings, TONS o’ construction. In fact, the Escazu landscape is being blotted out by high-rise condo buildings. Their real estate market is doomed. But I’m off real estate. At least for today. I JUST WANT A CHEESEBURGER.

We pick T.G.I.F. because teenagers like the flair. The menu is eerily familiar: same photos, same entree names in English, even the Atkins Approved menu, but with all the descriptions in Spanish.

Kind of like our conversations of late. We know enough Spanish now to actually communicate with people,
which is thrilling. Although we still totally screw up the pronouns…
I swear you have to live here a lifetime before you know when to use
the los and las!

The funny thing is, we’ll go to a restaurant or store and speak
to the clerk in Spanish. But if the clerk knows or is learning English,
s/he will only speak English. It’s quite a comical scene: the gringos
speaking Spanish, the tico speaking English all in the same conversation.
It seems normal to us now… Heck, we ALL wanna practice our new

I guess T.G.I.F. in Costa Rica wants to also practice charging U.S. prices. They got it a little wrong, though, because the prices at this T.G.I.F. are double. DOBLE! It’s a sad fact that if you aren’t eating comida tipica, you’re going to pay more. Today, we are going to pay thru the nose.

Mo has his cheeseburger – I swear that boy is going to turn into a cheeseburger. I also have a cheeseburger (we shan’t discuss what I am turning into). Ryan can’t decide what he wants until the waiter is standing there, at which moment he cheerfully orders the porkchops. THE PORKCHOPS??? I don’t say anything, but, at $18, the porkchops are damn near the most expensive thing on the menu. I love it that he is blissfully unaware of budgeting and that he orders what he wants. Unfortunately, he’s now going to have to get a job…

The food is very good, down to the coffee. This is by far and away the best cheeseburger we’ve had. These guys must have a local dealer getting them the good stuff. Ryan’s porkchops are delicious as well. The desserts are huge and tasty – good chocolate. No skimping here.

There had better not be for a $56 lunch. The cuenta [bill] says ¢27,195. That includes tax (I.V.) which is 13% on everything and the 10% that is always added for servicio. You don’t have to tip in Costa Rica. I always leave a little extra if the service is good. You can’t spend 20 years in the service industry and not tip good service, no matter the local custom.

Price aside, this was a perfectly fine meal. My teens are satisfied and happy with their taste of the familiar. Nice to have this spot in my back pocket, a carrot to dangle when I need the boys to go shopping
with me. If I can afford both in the same day.

I’m thinking there HAVE to be good, reasonably-priced, clean (there I go again) family restaurants here. There just have to be and I’m determined to find them. Key West has ruined me. After seven months of mediocre to awful dining experiences, I’ve determined I can’t live someplace without good food. I’m on a mission now. Nexium is practically free so my gastro system will survive. There will be full reports, photos and floggings for bad meals. (Aha, Dan, you didn’t think of floggings, did you?)

I am certainly no gourmet, I don’t drink so can’t review the wine, I don’t even know what’s in half the stuff Jal or anybody else cooks for me. But I know what I like, I know if it’s fresh and I sure as heck know if the baño [bathroom] is clean. Besides, Criticia needs something to do. This could be really fun.

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