Long favored by budget-challenged 20-somethings digging into massive burritos, the hut-like Irazu is always overflowing with a multicultural clientele drawn by the down-home Costa Rican fare. Dinners of thin-sliced steaks, pork chops, and breaded tilapia come with an embarrassment of sides like fried plantains and pickled beet and carrot salads; more adventurous eaters can sample tinted squid or chicharron (chunks of deep-fried pork rinds). The exotic soursop and mamey fruit shakes are a must, and the avena, made with oatmeal, is an unlikely favorite.
Tip: For vegetarians, there are plenty of meatless options (chile rellenos, vegetarian burritos), and the shakes can be made with soy milk.
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Congratulations to Mei Lin, winner of Top Chef Season 12.