Get Inspired

A Secret Chef Haven In Costa Rica

A Secret Chef Haven In Costa Rica

My name is Jon Hochstat. I am a native New Yorker. My life’s journey has taken me to four countries outside of the United States (France, South Africa, Guatemala and Costa Rica) to live, work, travel, learn other languages, cultures & foods. In August 2011 I left NYC for Costa Rica. I spent 21 months putting together a world-class restaurant in Escazú. The restaurant is named 8ctavo and can be found atop the new Sheraton San Jose (in Escazú). Since May 2013 I have been living at the beach in Playa Jacó, sourcing out the best in local foods for a new unnamed project I am working on. I also have been quietly helping chefs in high stress jobs unplug, relax & recharge. Below are some of my favorite places to eat and the ones I usually tell my friends to check out when they are in town.

As Jaco is basically one long main street that runs north to south, my description of my favorite places follows that same route. Be aware that Costa Rica does not use formal street addresses. Everything is judged as distance from a landmark (ex: 500 meters west of the church)

Panaderia Artesanal Jaco

Panaderia Artesanal – Owned and run by an an Argentian/French couple (Leandro & Alice). They are open daily from 6:30 am to 6:00 pm selling homemade breads, cookies & pastries as well as serving sandwiches. My 2 favorite sandwiches are bagel w/ cream cheese, bacon & a fried egg (not on menu) for breakfast and their Bindy (bacon, chicken, cheese on a homemade baguette).

Isaga – Located between Avenida Pastor Diaz & the beach. Isaga is the only “Soda” (mom & pop restaurants serving traditional foods) with a full liquor license. The go to dishes here are Casados (salad, rice, beans, protein, vegetable), arroz (rice) with your choice of shrimp, pork, or the Isaga special mixed rice.

Arroz con camarones at Isaga:


Side Street Sandwich Bar & Bistro


Located 2 doors down from Isaga (towards beach), Side Street is owned by the same folks who own Graffiti. Their menu is mostly sandwiches, salads, appetizers & burgers.

They have their own herb garden on site, brew their own beer(s) and bake their own breads. My favorite sandwiches of theirs are either their Mahi or Tuna sandwiches. The fish is always super fresh and the bread is always homemade.

Graffiti – Located in the Pacific Center shopping plaza Graffiti has been serving ‘Ghetto Gourmet” food since 2010 and is widely considered the best restaurant in Jaco. During high season reservations are a must. The must tries for first time visitors are: Tuna Tartare Tower, Five Spice Tuna, Coffee Crusted Filet Mignon & their fish tacos. Their chef for the 2014/2015 came from The Surf Lodge in Montauk NY.

Graffiti's exterior:


The bar at Graffiti:


Heading south from there, you will find the only bridge in Jaco. Once you have crossed the bridge, take the first right turn you can (Bohio Street btw).

There you will find a true hidden gem of Jaco, chinita pacific Cocina Con Amor, pictured below.


Chinita serves homemade omelets served w/ Guanacaste style Gallo Pinto for breakfast (about $5) and her lunch specials always feature different kinds of homemade pasta (to order). Chinita lived in Italy for a few years. Lunch with a beverage will run you about $6, same price as a casado in a Soda but a million times better.

As Jaco is a small town, I don’t want to give away all my secrets. If anyone wants to contact me directly you can find me at:

Email: [email protected]



Feel free to reach out, I’d by happy to share more of my favorites as requested.

See you all in Jaco at some point. Pura Vida.

David Meza
3 August 2018
4 min read

Planning your next big trip?

Where would you like to go? START NOW WITH JOURNY Top destinations: Japan, Italy, Spain, Greece, Portugal, Miami, etc.

Be a traveler, not a tourist

Get the best of insider travel tips delivered to your inbox every week.

Online Experiences Banner


Journy Online

Live, interactive video experiences hosted by world-class experts.

Learn More

Journy goes virtual!

Sign up for online experiences led by experts in the travel & hospitality industry.

Learn More

What Journy customers are saying

Zach & Samantha

I found Journy after already getting an itinerary from a typical travel agency. Simply put, Journy’s recommendations blew theirs out of the water. Every concierge we worked with really listened to what we wanted as travelers and led us to the off-the-beaten-path sights we were looking for. Plus, the process is super smooth and easy!