Carlito’s is a new, Latin fusion restaurant in Bahia Ballena, which specializes in Mexican dishes but also has Costa Rican, Cuban, and American influence. The owner is an experienced restaurant and catering chef who has worked in the industry for over 20 years in both the United States and Costa Rica. The restaurant’s ambiance is quaint: as one Tripadvisor reviewer wrote, the lovely, outdoor dining experience makes you “feel like you are in your own backyard.” The coziness is certainly part of the experience at Carlito’s; however, this is no backyard barbecue. Imagine you have a quaint, enclosed backyard. There is an ambient glow from hanging strings of lights and lit mason jars, which sit atop natural, stained-wood tables on a spacious, covered patio. Small glass vases with fresh flowers adorn as simple centerpieces. The bar is on the patio, but several families and couples are scattered among the tables. Top ballads from the 80s and 90s play softly in the background. Palm trees and a starry, night sky surround the yard. Welcome to Carlito’s.
- Cuisine: Latin Fusion, Mexican
- Hours of operation: Tuesday-Sunday, 4-10pm
- Price range: $$ (plates are between USD $8-12)
- Serves: Appies, dinner, drinks
- Recommended for: Singles, couples, families, and groups
- Address: 10 meters south of Bodhi Surf + Yoga (that’s us!) in Bahia Ballena
- Phone: (506) 8408-2761
- Online: Check out Carlito’s website or Facebook page for updates
- Important notes:
- Casual attire
- Some parking inside, rest on street
- By reservation or walk-in
Something for everyone
Both times that I have eaten at Carlito’s have been with large, eclectic parties of 8-10 people which have included vegans, vegetarians, and omnivores. The chef has easily accommodated everyone’s dietary restrictions, offering vegan alternatives to almost every dish on the menu. Despite the large numbers, our drink orders are quickly attended to, and food orders are taken promptly and delivered within 25 minutes.
The food and drink presentation has been simple and beautiful, fitting with the atmosphere. There are several, fresh juices to choose from, such as the tamarind juice (which I have 2-3 glasses of every time I go) as well as creative cocktails, such as the pineapple-jalapeño margarita. The margarita has a kick, but is a tasty sweet-spicy balance. There is also a full bar, which, aside from their many creative cocktails, also serves sangria, wine, and bottled beer (not on-tap, yet, but the owner assures us it’s coming).
Last time I went, several of us ordered taco salads. The fried tortilla bowls were handmade, each with a unique shape. Mine was vegetarian, with generous layers of black beans, lettuce, tomato, cheese, and topped with (truly) perfectly sautéed veggies. The carnivore’s option had a pile of roasted chicken on top. Other dishes on the menu were beef enchiladas, quesadilla with creamy cumin sauce, chicken tortilla soup, or tacos with the choice of fish, pork, or chicken and papaya chutney. Everyone in our party was pleased with their meal, satisfied by the taste, the portions, and the reasonable pricing. The owner and waitstaff were friendly, visiting each table a few times throughout the evening.
Bodhi Surf + Yoga’s new neighbor!
Despite having opened in March 2016, Carlito’s has been doing private catering at Bodhi since November 2015 — a weekly treat for guests and staff alike! While we greatly enjoyed having Carlito’s come to us, since the restaurant is practically across the road from Bodhi, we will continue to take our Sessions and Flex guests there for the week’s big night out! We’re also positive that this restaurant will be very popular amongst travelers and community residents alike; who can resist Mexican food?
So, Carlito’s: on behalf of all of us at Bodhi Surf + Yoga, we welcome you to the neighborhood — you’ll certainly be seeing a lot of us!
Written by Sam Rose