by Michael Miller
Downtown San José‘s exciting restaurant row, known as Paseo Gastronomico La Luz, held it’s 2nd Festival this past Sunday. And by anyone’s standards, it was a smashing success!
From 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., a seven-block section of Calle 33 in the up-and-coming Barrio Escalante, was closed to traffic. The street was taken over by booths and canopies where local restaurants offered some of their dishes, wine distributors sold glasses of their wines or mixed up batches of sangria, and local artisans displayed all kinds of arts and craft items.
One of the big hits of the Festival was beer. In the past few years, Costa Ricans have become enamored with locally brewed craft beers. And Barrio Escalante is one of the epicenters of Costa Rica’s artisanal beer revolution. Everywhere you looked, you could find people selling small-batch wheat beers, pale ales, stouts, pilsners and more.
There were two music stages at the Festival, one at either end of the restaurant row. They featured a variety of acts throughout the day, from young local singer Esteban Monge, to the long-time favorite Manuel Monestel. But to these Gringo ears, the real show-stopper was the renowned blues master John Carey, from New Orleans.
Throughout the day, the street was jammed with tens of thousands of people, mostly middle and upper-middle class Costa Ricans. They moved from booth to booth, sampling the delicious food, visiting the arts and craft booths, enjoying the music . . . and oh yes, sampling the beer and the wine.
One North American we discovered at the Festival was James Edwards, along with his Tica wife, Rebecca. They are restaurant owners from another part of San José. They were enjoying some of the food while they were appraising the Festival with a professional eye. “This street is quickly becoming the ‘go-to place’ for San José residents looking for a great dining-out experience.” Said James. “It may one day develop into an area similar to Beale Street in Memphis or the River Walk in San Antonio.”
The people who were most delighted with the event, were the restaurant owners and the vendors. Tony D’Alaimo of L’Ancora Restaurant told us with his characteristic enthusiasm, “This is a great event. It gets families and friends out of their cars and encourages them to walk up and down our wonderful street.”
Willie, the head waiter at Keidas Lounge, told us that the turnout was terrific. He knew everyone at his restaurant was very pleased.
One of the non-food vendors was Angerie Mora, who owns a company called ArTÉ, which offers many varieties of gourmet teas. She shared a booth with artist Greivin Ureña. They were both kept very busy during the Festival, and were thrilled by the response of the crowd.
The Festival was enough of a success that the restaurant owners are considering having more festivals, perhaps two or three a year. We will keep you posted.
If you are unfamiliar with Paseo Gastronomico de Luz, it is on 33rd Street (Calle 33). There are currently 16 restaurants that make up the “restaurant row,” but that number is sure to grow.
It is in trendy Barrio Escalante, a neighborhood about midway between the center of San José and the San Pedro University district. It is an easy cab ride from the center of San José. To get there from downtown take the broad busy Avenida 2 east, to the building that was formerly a Bagelman outlet. That is Calle 33. The restaurant district begins 2 block north of Avenida 2.
Paseo Gatronomico is just a little outside of Downtown San José, but we still consider it a very vibrant part of what we like to call The Real San José.
Michael Miller is the author of the first and only guide book that focuses on Downtown San José, Costa Rica, titled The Real San José. Paperback copies are available for sale at selected retail outlets in San José. An electronic version of The Real San José is available at Amazon/Kindle. To access it, click here.