Saturday, 18 December 2010

Review: Cafes in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

San Juan Del Sur is a small beach/surfer town on the south, pacific coast of Nicaragua, close to the Costa Rica border.  It is well equipped for travellers and the small town is full of restaurants, cafes, internet and surf hire shops, souvenir shops and hostels.  We decided to end Rachael’s holiday here as she had wanted some beach time and it was both cheaper and easier to get to than some of the Costa Rican beaches.

Unfortunately the weather was not on our side during our stay – in fact it was quite unpredictable!  This meant a fair amount of rain, large storms, wind, then sun.  It didn’t affect our time too much as we had a great time just relaxing, playing cards and eating good food in different cafes across town!

San Juan is great for ‘western’ style individual cosy coffee shops with really tasty food and drinks – the type I often wish I could find in central London instead of another Starbucks!  We visited three in particular which I’d like to mention here.

The first and probably my favourite is ‘El Gato Negro’.  This coffee shop has a really relaxing, homey feel to it.  There is a large library of books (although most are just for sale and they don’t let you read them!), a coffee grinding machine for their own brand of coffee, a variety of seating – some sofas, hammock chairs (we loved these!), large tables and smaller tables.  There is also an outside area, although I don’t really feel they are making the most of it at present!

We spent many a morning in El Gato Negro tasting the different coffees such as the Irish Cream Mocha and the Raspberry Cheesecake Latte!  If you have a standard coffee then you get free re-fills, great if you need to spend some time reading travel guides or on your laptop sending emails etc!  Then the breakfast menu….where to start, so many good options!  Between us we had the AMAZING banana chocolate chip pancakes (some of the best pancakes I’ve ever tasted!), a variety of bagels with egg, bacon, cheese, hummus, tomatoes and avocado inside, and the banana raita – a bowl packed with fruit, yoghurt and granola.  In addition they claimed to sell the best brownies in the world – ‘expresso fudge brownies’ so of course we had to sample….well they WERE exceptional!  They are not just chocolate but also contain expresso coffee and this really gives the flavour a rich, strong, moreish appeal.

The second of the cafes we enjoyed is ‘El Barrio’.  This place is much more of a surf/sports vibe but for those of you who also don’t like football don’t worry, it doesn’t overbear!  There is a book swap here and lots of info re local events/classes/tours.  The bebidas (juices/smoothies) here are amazing and also come in pint glasses which is rare!  They also have happy hour on good cocktails and wine each day and again, a great menu, especially breakfast.  Our favourite here was the eggs Benedict – wow!  I never dreamed I would eat eggs Benedict in Nicaragua!  The pancakes are also very tasty here and a large portion.  We also sampled the pesto pasta (great satisfying and fresh meal) and the burgers which are exceptional.

The third café/bar is ‘Big Wave Dave’.  Once a week they have a food market here (unfortunately we missed this) but it has good reviews and you can try lots of fresh bits and pieces.  We had burgers here one evening which were very tasty, although some come with strange accompaniments (such as Chinese noodles….I would stick to that traditional chips!)  Rachael and I also had some very tasty fruit flavoured bellini cocktails here – hmmmm!  The staff are friendly and relaxed and there is a darts board along with book swap.

Finally ‘The Black Whale’ is more of an evening bar with food.  We went and played some pool here, had fun with the artwork and ordered the famous giant burgers!  You really only need one burger between 2 people, although its quite clever marketing as people tend to order a whole themselves for the ‘challenge’!  It was a tasty burger although the bun was not so good and I don’t think as tasty as in El Barrio or Big Wave Dave.

So if you spend some time in San Juan, ensure you have some time to relax, read, chat or just people watch (and of course eating and drinking!) in some of these great locations.


Anonymous said...

It's a shame the weather wasn't too good but it gave you the chance to spend some time in the local coffee shops. You wouldn't expect them to be so westernised- Raspberry Cheesecake Latte sounds delicious - would definately be a hit in the UK I'm sure! You are doing a great job with your Globe Troffer. You should consider trying to get this published when you get back to the UK - a great record of your travel experiences and much more informative than some of the travel guides available. Keep up the good work!

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