You have to look closely to this otherwise normal "deli & subs" location in Maplewood, NJ. The first hint of the wonders inside is the easy to miss although very large "Costa Rican" that is written in the window. Inside, a few photos of Costa Rican food are interspersed with photos of nachos, subs, French fries, and pupusas.
While we were there, I saw people come in for a gyro, nachos, and peirogis. Needless to say, the lovely proprietor was ecstatic when I started asking her what kind of food we could eat from her country, a place that each mention of caused her to put her hand on her heart, while a look of pain and longing spread across her face.
It's emblazoned across the front.
If you are traveling through Central America, you can find a decent variety of tastes between countries, even though all the cuisines are centered around rice and beans. In the United States, if not a lot of New York, food like this is often just mistaken for Mexican, even though it is very different. Costa Rica and Nicaragua are probably the least interesting of any of these small countries, with mild tastes and not much unusual, but still good enough to seek out and quite an oddity in the New York City dining scene.
The Costa Rican finds on the menu are in a section called "casados" or "married." I decided to just talk it out with her and ask for a couple plates of her choosing. The chicken plate ($7.50, below) is a stewed leg and pretty good. When rice and beans are as good as this, you really don't need such a delicious meat, as it is very comforting no matter what. The plates are served with a fried sweet plantain as well, and makes for quite a large portion. This kind of arrangement took me immediately back to travels as it is served almost identically to what you would get in a no-frills diner.
We also got to try the steak ($8.50, below) which is smaller pieces shredded, but unfortunately ends up a bit dry and lacks kick. Luckily the juices soak up well with that aforementioned portion of rice and beans. I would probably swap it for the pork chop next time, a dish she asked me about after the meal and recommended. They also make a whole fish plate that looks pretty tasty.
We also ordered a small portion of chicharron (below), but I would definitely ask next time when it was made, as these pieces seemed to be very old. On a fresh day, you should definitely swipe them up.