By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
By and large, Tico bars – the ones that fall under the cantina label – don't have much going for them. Everyone tends to be a bit cranky. They are generally packed to the overflowing point with testosterone, and the bathrooms are better left unmentioned. However, the beer's cheap and generally, that makes up for the rest of the downfalls.
The cantina motif seems to be what Harry Hart, owner of Bar y Restaurante Antiguo Poás is striving for, but with Gringo-friendly food and prices as well as a lot better facilities. The kitchen serves American hot dogs for a dollar or 500 colons and American breakfast all day long. There is also normal bar food served on tables with tablecloths and place mats. But for the Ticos, Hart has provided a bocas menu as well. The beer's cheap, Tuesdays it also goes for a dollar or 500 colons, and the modern bathroom doesn't even remotely resemble the standard issue cantina variety.
“We have Tico prices with Gringo service,” Hart said.
The result is a mixture of styles that draws an international crowd. Hart has decorated the interior with international flags, and a favorite customer, a merchant seaman from Norway, donated a large Norwegian flag that hangs over one of the tables.
“He liked the place so much, he moved right down on the corner,” Hart said.
Poás has been open since April 5 and now that all the permits and paperwork are out of the way, Hart said that things are running smoothly. He speaks little Spanish but has surrounded himself with enough trustworthy friends that opening the bar, gaining the necessary permits and paying the necessary taxes and such wasn't too difficult. He's been coming to Costa Rica for 20 years.
A.M. Costa Rica/Jesse Froehling
Harry Hart, left, and his Bar Poás staff
The native of Rockford, Ill., worked on a military base at Andross Island in the Bahamas for 19 years. During that gig, he would save up his money and time off and come to Costa Rica on vacation. Eventually he decided he liked it here so much that he would make the move. He found the building at a good time when the former owner was trying to get rid of it, he said. And now that things are running smoothly, he is happy with the result. His only plans are tentative ones to open a hostel above the bar, but that operation is only in the planning stages.
One of Bar Poás' biggest draws is its ease on the wallet. Beers are normally 600 colons but Hart has a slew of promotions. Everyday specials include two shots of rum, tequila or scotch for 1,000 colons. Tuesday night, a glass of wine goes for 1,000 colons, Wednesday, big beers are 600 colons and Thursday is karaoke night, though Hart's thinking of doing away with it.
It's loud and it drives away the gringos,” he said.