In Costa Rica, Sodas are not carbonated sugary or diet drinks. Rather they are cheaper restaurants that feature both local flavors and “fast foods” (i.e. hamburgers and fries and other tourist aimed food).
I particularly love eating at sodas, primarily because of their cheaper prices, but also because of how they vary from region to region. My favorite thing to eat is “casados” which literally means marriage and is used in this reference as a marriage of food. For anywhere from $3.00 to $5.00 you can feast on a plate of rice, beans, salad, a veggie of some sort (varies by region, soda and day), your choice of meat or vegetarian (chicken, beef or fish) and often times a few slices of sweet fried plantains for dessert. All of this deliciousness is served on a single plate and is very satisfying! Whether you are on a budget or not, I would highly recommend a stop in a soda or two!!
One interesting note on this topic: pollo is chicken, carne is beef. While carne literally translates to meat, they mean it to mean beef. It’s quite humorous sometimes because vegetarian friends of mine have stated to waiters that they don’t eat meat (i.e. carne) and are happily told that they also serve fish or chicken if they don’t eat carne! So if you are vegetarian, be sure to specifically say “vegetarian” and skip the statement that you “don’t eat meat” or you too will be offered other meat varieties that aren’t beef.
When dining out anywhere in Costa Rica, unless you are dining out at very high-end places, do not expect your wait staff to wait on you hand and foot as they do in the states. They will come by to get your order, deliver your food, and when you ask for it, deliver the bill (la cuenta). They will not come by to see how your food is or whether you need a refill for your water and they definitely will never ask you if you are ready for the bill. Don’t take this personally- it’s just the way the culture is. If you want or need something during your meal, simply get the attention of someone working and they will come to you. And when the time comes for the bill, once you get the eye of your server a simple mimic of writing a scribble in the air also suffices as asking for the bill.