When I read that La Parrilla de Maria Bonita was the number one rated TripAdvisor restaurant in all of La Fortuna, Costa Rica, I seriously had my doubts. Don’t get me wrong, TripAdvisor has great travel information and tips, but I have never been impressed with top-ranked restaurants for international destinations.
For example, nothing against PaulyBee’s American Burger, but how on earth is it ranked number 3 out of all the amazing restaurants in Bangkok?
Anyways, it was late at night and La Parrilla de Maria Bonita was one of the only places still open so I decided to forget my TripAdvisor bias and give the restaurant a try.
Being late at night, La Parrilla de Maria Bonita was a little difficult to find, even though it was off the main road about 300 meters west of the main square. The restaurant was located on the second floor of a strip mall, just above Burger King.
The restaurant had a simple and open interior with a small balcony with a couple of tables. Adjacent to the restaurant was an open, counter style kitchen that allowed diners to watch the chef making food. Just off to the side of the open kitchen was a small outdoor area with a wood fire grill.
When I arrived, it was a pleasant night, so I decided to sit outside. I was sat immediately by the server at one of the glass tables on the balcony. The one thing that bothered me was the slightly uncomfortable and awkwardly shaped chairs.
After receiving the menu, the server disappeared for a good ten minutes even though the place was empty on a Wednesday night. I began to have my doubts.
Bean Dip and Chips
After the initial ten minute wait, I was surprised by the server with a complimentary bean dip and chips.
For such a simple dish, the plate was presented well with swirls of a sweet and sour sauce. Even more surprising were the great flavors of the smooth black beans topped with a fresh pico de gallo.
The chips were salted well but a little hard for my liking.
The complimentary bean dip and chips were a nice gesture, especially after being ignored for ten minutes. I was definitely excited to see what would follow.
First up was the Tortilla Soup (3,300 colones). The menu described the soup as made with the freshest ingredients and tomato base, accompanied by onion, cheese, avocado, and crispy julienned tortilla chips.
Since I was able to look into the kitchen, I was able to watch the chef preparing the soup. It appeared that the main part of the soup was frozen into a cube, which was then placed into a hot pan at serving time. Usually I don’t like to eat food that had been previously frozen, but in the case of this soup, I had no issue with it. It’s better than having soup sit at all day in a pot.
The soup was served in a large bowl. In the center of the soup was a pile of thin tortilla chips, onion, and cubes of avocado and queso palmita, a soft and salty white cheese.
Each bite of the tortilla soup was extremely creamy with a great consistency. This surprised me somewhat as the soup was frozen only moments before. Seasoning was great with a perfect mix of salty and spicy.
The tortilla chips, though hard, did seem to soften up as I mixed them into the soup. The crispy chips added a much needed crunchy texture to the otherwise soft avocado and cheese.
When I think of Costa Rican food, the last thing I would probably ever think of would be a Mexican Burger (3,700 colones).
The burger did sound strange to me at first, but I was curious to give it a try, especially after reading so many positive reviews on TripAdvisor.
Next to the balcony where I was sitting was the small outdoor wood fire grill. It was here where the chef placed the fresh, half pound beef patty. I enjoyed being able to watch the burger being cooked which also smelled amazing.
The Mexican Burger arrived on a large plate with fries, a salad, and three dipping sauces. The three sauces accompanying the burger were thousand island, sweet and sour, and mayonnaise.
When ordering the burger, you have the choice of two sides. Sides included fries, onion rings, fried plantains, and a salad.
This burger was packed. It was topped with lettuce, tomato, pickles, onions, mozzarella cheese, jalapenos, thin tortilla chips, and BBQ sauce.
The patty was cooked well done, which I usually don’t like, but it was well seasoned with a slightly sweet taste similar to taco seasoning. I enjoyed the smoky flavor and sear, thanks to the patty being cooked over fire on a hot grill.
I was expecting a little more heat from the jalapenos, but I could only find a few. If you want more heat, be sure to ask for a side of sliced jalapenos.
Like I have mentioned before, the chips were once again a little too hard, but added a great crunch to each bite.
The fries were also seasoned well but quite simple. Also simple was the salad which was full of fresh vegetables. No complaints there.
To my surprise I was served a delicious and complimentary Papaya Sorbet. Maybe the owners of the restaurant knew I was a food and travel blogger, or maybe not. Probably not.
The sweet papaya sorbet was served in a cocktail glass. It was simple yet cold and refreshing which was great in a place as hot as Costa Rica.
Last but not least, the Chicken Quesadilla (2,950 colones), a flour tortilla stuffed with refried beans, mozzarella cheese, and herb seasoned chicken.
The thick quesadilla was served with a salad and fried plantains, but you can also choose fries or onion rings. I really wasn’t a fan of the fried plantains as they were a slightly dry and not as flavorful as I would have hoped.
Just as with the burger, the chicken used in the quesadilla was cooked over fire on the outdoor grill. With every bite of the quesadilla, I could taste the smoky BBQ flavor of the thick chunks of chicken. Along with the chicken was a generous amount of cheese which is a must in any quesadilla.
The top of the quesadilla was grilled beautifully. The bottom though became somewhat soggy thanks to the refried beans. The more I ate, the soggier it seemed to get.
On top was a fresh and light pico de gallo with zesty flavor. The bright colors of the salsa complemented the dark quesadilla.
When I was first sat and given a menu, I was ignored for ten minutes, even after trying to get the attention of the server. He just seemed to be in his own world. I had my doubts. After he returned, service was surprisingly amazing. I was checked on constantly, given two complimentary dishes, and even visited by the friendly chef. So, the level of service could vary on your visit.
Being number one on TripAdvisor, I seriously had my doubts with La Parrilla de Maria Bonita. I was proved wrong. I still have my doubts with TripAdvisor restaurant lists. That won’t change.
La Parrilla de Maria Bonita may serve the opposite type of food you dream of when you think of Costa Rica, but let me tell you, after eating casado every day, a burger and quesadilla hit the spot. The food was smoky and decent, the service was friendly and quick after a few hiccups, and the food was cheap.
If you are in the area and want something different or nothing else is open, then La Parrilla de Maria Bonita may be just right for you.
- Smoky meats cooked over wood fire grill
- Complimentary items
- Much better food than I was expecting
- Chef came by table to ask how dinner was
- Initially ignored by server
- The interior of the restaurant was lacking any sort of ambiance
- Restaurant was located on separate floor as the restroom
- Awkward and uncomfortable chairs