The Runaway Grill at Marina Pez Vela in Quepos, Costa Rica is a place to eat before you die. The restaurant combines tradition, place and Pura Vida with great food.
Traditions are one of fishing’s greatest charms. The quest to catch fish and enjoy adventure leads groups of like-minded people to congregate in some of the most beautiful places in the world.
Perhaps no place better exemplifies this fishing wanderlust than Costa Rica. A tropical wonderland, Costa Rica is inhabited by some of the friendliest, most welcoming people in the world.
It is little wonder that Ticos coined the phrase “Pura Vida” to describe what goes on their corner of paradise.
Over the past three decades, the world has taken note of the abundance of gamefish in Costa Rica and the charmed lives of its residents. The result has been large scale migration —from short-term tourists to longer term ex-pats (and everything in between).
Villages that were once anonymous fishing towns are now internationally known destinations. Costa Rica’s international transplants have integrated with the warm Tico hospitality.
The result is a regional charm all of its own.
Great fishing not only led people to visit Costa Rica, but to invest in building infrastructure. One place that ties together tradition and investment is the Marina Pez Vela in Quepos.
The Context of Place
The Runaway Grill is a wonderfully appointed restaurant located in the Marina Pez Vela. With a view overlooking the marina (and its fleet of sportfishing boats), just thinking about the place makes you happy.
Were the Runaway to be located somewhere in the States, it’s offerings might be described as something of a fishing-infused, modern take on the sports bar. When considering the effect of time and place, however, the Runaway embodies much more.
Quepos is a wonderfully charming village in the central region of Costa Rica’s Pacific coast. The area is a magnet for sailfish, blue marlin and yellowfin tuna– and for the people who love to catch them.
For most of the area’s history, it was a quaint fishing village. Like much of Costa Rica, Quepos’ relative obscurity as an international destination began to change in the 1980s.
Evolution Through Fishing
Word of gamefish aggregations in its waters began to spread in the 1980s. What started with a few of sportfishing’s most intrepid pioneers—the likes of Captains Bubba Carter, John Lagrone, Skip Smith and others—soon turned into steady sportfishing pilgrimage.
Early pioneers loaded their boats with barrels of fuel and everything else needed for self-sufficiency and headed south. These captains produced a pile of world records and catch rates never heard before.
Through time, more boats and more great fishing led to more visitors and more great fishing.
Through time, visitors brought with them investment in the infrastructure necessary to support fishing and tourism. Most notably, marinas, hotels and restaurants.
The Runaway Grill
One of the early American transplants to Costa Rica (Marsha Bennett), opened a restaurant in Quepos. For years, the Gran Escape served as something of an anchor in the burgeoning fishing scene around Quepos.
A great place to talk fishing over burgers and beer, the Gran Escape was a watering hole for many pioneers. After all, every fishing village needs such a place…
After decades in town, the Marina Pez Vela brought the restaurant—and its legacy— onto its premises. From pictures from the early days to the hats hanging from the ceiling, the Runaway Grill (as the restaurant is now known) links Costa Rica’s present with the many legends whose adventurous spirit laid its groundwork.
Inclusion is an important part of what makes the restaurant so special. Not only is the Runaway Grill connected to its history, it is intimately linked to the fishing community.
The place is a melting pot of traditions, cultures and food in a way that is uniquely Costa Rican. The place is a clubhouse for people who love fishing and Pura Vida—regardless of socio-economic background or origin.
For ex-pats who have lived in Costa Rica for a long time, the place serves comfort food. For the locals of Quepos, it is a place to enjoy a night out.
Everyone is welcome.
From its menu, to its pricing and the diversity of its clientele, the Runaway Grill is committed to inclusivity. Eating here makes you part of something.
It is an invitation to not only experience Costa Rica but to immerse yourself in the culture of fishing. From owners of seven million-dollar yachts to visiting captains to local fishermen and their families…. todo el mundo está invitado.
When the Runaway Grill relocated to the Marina Pez Vela it updated its menu to add a touch of sophistication. Tuna Poke Nachos illustrate the metaphor.
Tuna Poke Nachos are where Asian influence meets fresh Costa Rican yellowfin tuna. It’s where poke meets nachos…
Everybody is welcome.
- Fresh Costa Rican Yellowfin Tuna. Cut into cubes. Bloodline removed.
- Carrots—cut into slivers
- Jalapenos– raw, sliced
- Cucumber—cut into cubes
- Wasabi Mayo
- Eel Sauce
- Sesame Seeds
- Poppy Seeds
- Green Onions—diced
- Won ton chips (You can make them yourself by frying or baking won tons or egg roll wrappers)
- Mix cubes of tuna with eel sauce, sesame and poppy seeds, and avocado chunks.
- Layer mixture into won ton chips.
- Garnish with carrots, cucumber chunks, and green onion.
- Wasabi mayo and sriracha can be drizzled onto the nachos or kept to the side.
Though this recipe will provide you a reasonable facsimile of the Runaway’s nachos , you should really plan a visit to the restaurant for yourself.
The experience, ambience and tradition of the place can be replicated—at your house or anywhere else.