Surfing Duo Make Breakfast Waves
PUBLICATION: The Beach Times, Costa Rica, print edition
No shirt, no shoes … no problem.
In fact, if you are indeed wearing sandals, kick them off, toss your surfboard in the pile, and pull up a plastic chair. You won’t find formal dining at Playa Tamarindo’s Breakfast Grinds.
On the contrary, you’ll discover a cache of locals milling over bottomless coffee and digging into stacks of hotcakes at the open-air diner, which sits amid trees and cabinas just off the tourist track.
The restaurant opens at dawn for surfers and fishermen, and the television can be seen or heard playing CNN or the latest sports videos. As familiar faces trickle in, cinnamon coffee abounds and dogs—always welcome—often stretch out under the table.
The owners, who are both longtime Tamarindo residents, say the atmosphere invokes the typical slapdash breakfast joint of North America and they pride themselves on its comfy vibe.
“We’re a greasy spoon,” says co-owner Luke Levitt. “People like the fact that there is no tablecloth.”
“We’re kind of like the IHOP,” adds other owner Scott Kadowaki, referring to the well-known breakfast chain. “We like people to hang out.”
It follows then that dishes are cheap and the owners say, in an increasingly upscale region, they have maintained reasonable prices.
In fact, they say, their menu rivals traditional Costa Rican restaurants or sodas—and because of it they’ve begun drawing a Costa Rican crowd. Kadowaki says locals like to go beyond rice and beans, but often can’t afford it.
“We’re the type of place you don’t have to spend 5000 colones to satisfy yourself,” he says.
Cheap prices however, don’t necessarily mean cheap food. The expatriates buy only top-quality local goods and import sausage from North Carolina, bagels from Boston, and Ghirardelli chocolate from San Francisco.
The menu, written in colored chalk overhead, offers sit-down meals like omelets, spiced potatoes, and fruit bowls, as well as quicker fixes to go. A fast-food style favorite is an English muffin sandwich served with egg and choice of Virginia ham, bacon or sausage.
“I’m not going to lie to you,” laughs Kadowaki. “It’s like a McMuffin.”
Griddle favorites include waffles, French toast, and blueberry, chocolate chip or banana pancakes. All items are served with real maple syrup and combinations like banana-chocolate can be requested, which Kadowaki says is the best.
The owners say their goal is to provide locals and travelers with a slice of what they are missing from back home.
For now about 80 percent of their plates are served to locals, but they stress the vibe is warm and their doors wide open. In fact, they joke, if tourists can find it, they are well encouraged to come in.
“We want to grow, we’re looking for growth,” says Kadowaki. “We don’t want to stagnate.”
“There are two different approaches to business,” says Levitt. “You can go expensive with less volume, or you can go high volume, low price.”
They say they are aiming for the latter and, since opening in November, have served about 60 plates a day. They are purchasing new equipment and in mid-May will begin serving Mexican food in the evenings.
The diner originated last year when Levitt, who gets up around 3-30 each morning to cook for his wife, decided to make practical use of his early bird tendencies. He approached Kadowaki, who has cooked in several restaurants, about going into business together.
Despite being longtime friends (they met seven years ago through the surfing community) the two say they keep a professional work strategy.
“As lax as we are, we do have a pretty serious business approach,” says Kadowaki.
Recently they met with some Belgian designers about the possibility of revamping the restaurant’s interior. They were surprised, however, to hear instructions not to change a thing.
The designers were charmed by the diner’s gravel floor and casual ambiance.
“There’s so much redundancy in this area,” says Kadowaki. “I want us to be unique. I thought I had to beautify to keep it up to scale.
“But people are begging me to keep it how it is.”
This article was originally published in The Beach Times newspaper. Guanacaste, Costa Rica. Photo with permission from Pixabay.