Empanadas are something my husband and I regularly lust after and following a failed attempt at cooking our own, we tried a highly recommended place in San Pedro, Costa Rica just east of San Jose. Donde El Ché is the name of the joint and it’s specialties include empanadas Argentina-style and a chimichurri that will make you want to slap your mama (I’ve been trying to work that in somewhere). But seriously, these are definitely the best empanadas you’ll find north of Argentina. The directions to Donde El Ché is: from the Muños y Nanne, 100 meters East, on the left-hand side by the Jimenez y Tanzi.
The difference between Tico empanadas and Argentinian empanadas are the crusts. Ticos love them some corn and Donde El Ché’s are flour. I definitely prefer the flour and baking them as opposed to frying them. The filling on these guys were amazing. We tried the chicken, spinach and the tomato-garlic flavors with a clear winner. Surprisingly, the tomato garlic empanada had the most unique, intense and delicious flavor of all three. I of course ordered that one and didn’t want to share, but how do you brag about what you’ve got without letting others try it out.
Next course, my husband and I split the Vacío de Horno or something close to that, which means ‘Empty Oven’. And this is by far the best cut of meat I’ve experienced in San Jose. It was cured first similar to corned beef and then baked to perfect tenderness in a delicious savory sauce and accompanied by a baked potato and salad. Our friend ordered the Churripan, which was a slice of marinated pork on a homemade bun with chimichurri sauce to DIE for. The best I could do to tell what was in the chimichurri was olive oil, pimentos, whole black peppercorns, garlic, herbs and some sort of secret magnificence that I couldn’t quite detect.
My husband describes his cheap food experience at Donde El Ché as a fiesta in his mouth and vowed that if we ever opened a restaurant he would never be satisfied unless we could create the exact same feeling of wanting to return somewhere as they did. We’ll be back, you can count on that.