High on Hops: Burgers (and Beers) in Paradise
There’s magic in the waves at Playa Guiones in Nosara, Costa Rica.
Heads of surfers dot the white caps as they cordially jockey for position, eager to ride the next “big one” back in to shore. The bikini or board-shorted athletes range from aging ex-pats scraping by on Social Security to trust fund kids taking an extended collegiate siesta.
But the local wave riders are the ones who make heads turn. They’re the ones with insider knowledge, born to tame their ocean and carve reputations while happily reciting the national catch phrase “Pura Vida.”
Victor Garita is one of those Costa Rica natives. His hometown isn’t the sleepy coastal village of Nosara but the bustling metropolis of San Jose. After pursuing an education in culinary arts that included a stint at a two-star Michelin restaurant in Barcelona, he found his way to the beach, discovered surfing and forged his own restaurant concept at the succinctly named Burgers and Beers.
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Small dives that serve craft beer and hamburgers can be found in every major American city. However, in Costa Rica the craft beer movement is still in its infancy. Despite being a culture that supports global cuisine options, it is nearly impossible to find a decent hamburger, much less one infused with artistry and quality ingredients. Victor saw an opportunity to be on the front end of the craft beer expansion and provide an atmosphere and product that Nosara’s tourists and transplanted residents would appreciate. Burgers and Beers was born.
Similar to the sport of surfing, there’s a unique motion and flow to Burgers and Beers. In front is the walk-up bar with a half dozen taps, all devoted to local, small-batch Costa Rican brews. The bar is open to the street and the lush jungle beyond. The food counter and kitchen are in the way back, behind a handful of simple tables grouped in neat rows. There’s a self-serve water station. Action sports videos play on a loop, reminding you that only a few steps away is one of the premier surf breaks in the country.
The menu is simple, elegantly drawn on a blackboard, and doesn’t change frequently. There are a handful of burger options, including a Portobello-based sandwich for the area’s large concentration of vegetarians. “The French,” a menu standout, features béarnaise sauce, bacon, arugula and a giant Angus patty placed on a bed of house-made chips. Each burger is plated on a cross-section of a sapling with a menacingly large steak knife holding the sandwich in place.
In contrast to the food menu, the beers do rotate out with regularity, based on seasonal production calendars and availability. Burgers and Beers specializes in local beverages like Hoppy Ideas Craft Brewing Co’s American-style pale ale Hoppy Monday Soup. It features a bright tropical aroma and a sweet finish that is an easy craft beer gateway for the Imperial-loving locals. La Selva’s IPA Castaña is malt forward and thirst quenching, a perfect way to end the day after riding your board.
The availability of thick, artisan burgers and full flavored craft beer is a relatively new concept in Costa Rica. Victor Garita’s Burgers and Beers fills that niche perfectly while still providing the aesthetic, culture and spirited traditions of traditional Costa Rica. And what could be more Pura Vida than that?