Since 1901 the same family, has been making the same ice cream, at the same location in the Central Market. A small counter is surrounded by about a dozen never-empty stools.
There is only one flavor … vanilla.
But when something is perfect you don’t need more.
Here's what I had rated from A+ to F -
VANILLA ICE CREAM: A + … Beyond exceptional, food of the gods
I like what this blog said about the ice cream because it captures it perfectly
“Made with crushed vanilla beans, it teases the tongue with overtones of nutmeg and cinnamon.”
I don’t know how it is made, but the vanilla flavor is pure and beautiful. It is lighter than ice cream, the consistency of melty ice cream or a thick shake with large ice crystals. There is a shave ice quality about it, but it is creamy like ice cream.
I sat down at the counter without knowing anything about the shop and asked what flavors they sold … heh.
The sign reads “Nuestros tradicionales helados”. I assumed the plural implied more than one flavor. It means "Our traditional flavor." … vanilla … which was pure, simple, perfection.
After not really being clear on what was being said, I said “si” to the only type they ever make. They have ice cream cones, but I never saw anyone order it in a cone.
The intense, complex taste combined with the wonderful texture … it made me an instant fan.
GRANIZADO: B - … Very good
They sell a few other items such as cherry granizados (shave ice) which had a cherry gelatin flavor. It was good, but nowhere near the ambrosial ice cream
A lot of people ordered the cherry granizado topped with the ice cream.
There is also the option of adding leche to the granizado. I assume it is condensed milk. Another combination includes both ice cream and leche.
The servers never touch money. They pass a silver metal bowl where to put the cash, someone else rings up the order and the change is returned to the bowl.
This was the common practice at all the shops in the Central Market. I can’t remember if Lola Mora was one of the shops that used clear, plastic disposable gloves to handle the food, but the sanitary standards both here and in every shop in the market were very meticulous.
The ice is shaved to order by hand. It is more of a course ice, rather than smooth and slushy. It takes a while to enjoy this cool confection.
They sell a few other items: cherry gelatin, refrescos de leche (liquados), refrescos de agua (aqua fresca), fresh fruit salad, queque (cake) and barquillos (rolled wafer cookies like Pepperidge Farm pirouettes).
The gelatin and fruit salad could be ordered with ice cream and were served in banana split dishes.
Refresco de leche flavors include: Mora (blackberry), papaya, banana, horchata, cebada (barley?). I think you can have ice cream included in the liquado, making it a shake.
Refresco de agua flavors include: Linaza (linseed?), tamarindo, cas (a type of tart guava), pineapple, blackberry and fruit.
In my opinion, if you have only place to stop in San Jose, Costa Rica, this is it.
I’m reluctant to over praise something because everyone’s taste varies and raised expectations often lead to disappointment … so, your mileage may vary.
For me, that first taste was magic.
From what I’ve read, this was the first ice cream shop in Costa Rica. Generation after generation of Costa Ricans have made La Sorbetera de Loa Mora a regular stop. In all that time, they never changed a thing.
It is humble counter … nothing special about it … except the ice cream.
Restaurant record with more info such as address
Flickr photostream with more pictures (actually no extra photos currently, but I have a photo of the counter somewhere, I think).