Café Milagro in Costa Rica: A perfect reprieve for flavor on par with its famous tropical wildlife neighbor

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I became famished after trekking through the lush tropical forest of Costa Rica’s wildly popular Manuel Antonio National Park.

Seeing dozens upon dozens of white-faced monkeys and two-toed sloths, colorful birds and an assortment of other unfamiliar critters was exhilarating but left me longing for the creature comforts of an unpretentious café with good food.

Café Milagro was one of the first signs I spotted the first night of my arrival after a nearly three-hour car trip  from Costa Rica’s capital of San Jose to my luxury accommodations at the Parador Resort and Spa.

And again I saw it as we headed out for a half-day wilderness excursion with our hotel’s expert naturalist. So it was only natural that I opted for this restaurant among the dizzying array of dining choices in Manuel Antonio.

The café is nestled in tropical foliage along the busy road carrying tourists to and from Costa Rica’s tropical jewel of majestic trees and thick bushes that spill onto the white-sand crescent-shaped beaches.

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Café Milagro is the creation of Colorado-native Adrienne Pellizzari who came to Costa Rica on vacation while in college and decided to stay.

Pellizzari was puzzled when she couldn’t find a decent cup of coffee in a nation famed for its java bean. She soon discovered that the country was exporting all of its best coffee.

Determined to brew a caffeine revolution, she purchased a coffee roaster and learned how to perfect the art of coffee making.

In 1994, Café Milagro was born. And today, tourists and locals alike flock there for one of the best coffees in the world.

I immediately ordered an ice-blended caramel mocha and a café latte. The cold mocha had the perfect balance of robust coffee flavor tempered by the satisfying sweetness of the caramel.

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The café latte arrived with perfect coffee swirls of foam that would make any Starbucks barista envious. With each sip, the latte become even more silky smooth.

After browsing through its impressive gift store with handcrafted items and selections of different blends of coffees reflecting Pellizzari’s respect for Costa Rica’s nuanced flavor profiles, it was time to order lunch.

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Upon the advice of Café Milagro server Sigrid Cubillo, I feasted on fish tacos and chicken wrap with yucca fries.

The four tacos had generous portions of grilled mahimahi on a tart red cabbage slaw with pico de gallo and avocado.

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As a Californian who knows my fish tacos, the dish was delightfully delectable. The fish was grilled with a perfect char yet retained its bright and juicy flavor. The cabbage provided a perfect crunch while the guacamole added to the smooth finish.

When the server suggested the chicken wrap, I was a bit skeptical. That’s because I’ve had more than my fair share of overly dry and under-seasoned wraps. Not so at Café Milagro.

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The chicken morsels were tender and the assorted vegetables gave the dish a delicate freshness. The slices of avocados provided the dish with a bit of richness without the need for the cloying mayo. The fresh flavor was a welcome relief — especially in the humid tropics of Central America.

Cubillo also delivered yucca fries that were nutty in flavor. And when dipped in a cream sauce, they became as addictive as McDonald’s French fries but without the fat and salt.

And never one to turn down a chance of having a sweet ending – especially with the café’s large selection – I tried two.

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The more-than-satisfying coconut cheesecake had bits of coconut flakes and real whipped cream but never overwhelmed the star of any reputable cheesecake – the velvety cheesecake filling on the super flaky crust.

The carrot cake itself wasn’t as special, but the frosting was delightful. It was the perfect amount of sweetness. But the magic was its velvety smooth consistency that made me a bit giddy – reminding me of my first experience seeing a monkey carrying its baby just hours earlier.

I browsed the dinner menu which is transformed into a sophisticated selection of farm-to-table and locally sourced organic products.

The menu changes per the chef’s culinary creativity with the freshest ingredients such as seafood and organic heirloom vegetables from the farmer’s market.

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The café makes great use of both indoor and outdoor space. But especially charming is the patio in the back surrounded by tropical foliage and bright flowers.

It’s the perfect gathering spot for signature cocktails over conversations about your close encounters with Mother Earth’s delightful creatures.

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* * * *  Café Milagro, on the road between Quepos & Manuel Antonio National Park | at the intersection of the road to Hotel Parador, Manuel Antonio National Park 6350, Costa Rica.

Taste per dollar guide:

*          Skip it for your time and money’s sake

* *       Worth trying out

* * *     Must go again and again

* * * *   Splurge for those special occasions because it’s in the tropics of Costa Rica

 

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