Puerto rico restaurants: The 24 Best San Juan Restaurants

Puerto Rico’s Local Flavor — AFAR

Marmalade Restaurant and Wine Bar

317 C. de la Fortaleza, San Juan, 00901, Puerto Rico

Chef Peter Schintler’s San Juan restaurant remains one of the capital’s top fine dining destinations after more than a decade in operation. Marmalade, located in Old San Juan, has allowed Schintler to experiment with international flavors and techniques picked up at previous stints in kitchens around the world, including one at New York’s fabled Le Cirque. While beloved by omnivores and travelers who will jet-set for cocktails, vegetarians especially appreciate Schintler’s menu, which includes a spiced cauliflower meze and hand-rolled black truffle pappardelle. Reservations are definitely recommended.

Da Bowls

PR-110R, Aguadilla Pueblo, Aguadilla 00603, Puerto Rico

We found the best spot for the freshest açai bowl on the west coast of Puerto Rico. Da Bowls in Aguadilla beats anything in Rincon or anywhere else on the island. Mix and match your own, or go with their selection. We chose the Reef Bowl, which has a bit of everything—including the health-crazed addition of bee pollen. With a price that fits your budget and enough food to fill your stomach, this is the best place for a quick and healthy snack.

1919 Restaurant

1055 Ashford Ave, San Juan, 00907, Puerto Rico

You don’t need to be a guest at the posh (and historic) Condado Vanderbilt Hotel in order to dine at 1919, but after indulging in chef Juan José Cuevas’s Michelin-starred cuising, either prix fixe or as a chef’s tasting menu, you wouldn’t be blamed for wanting to have a bed nearby. Cuevas is celebrated for taking familiar Puerto Rican ingredients and flavors and presenting them in innovative ways. Offerings change with the seasons and feature as many locally grown and produced ingredients as possible. Look for the cheese course, which features domestic aged cheeses from the island’s own Quesos Vaca Negra. This elegant restaurant calls for dressing up. Reservations are a must.

Kaplash

PR-115, Añasco, 00610, Puerto Rico

Kaplash is located on the curve of Road 115 as you head toward the town of Rincon. The little unassuming orange and blue building boasts a beautiful view of the ocean and—in the opinion of myself and others—the best empanadillas on the whole island. Kaplash was featured in an island-wide food photography book by a local writer who ventured to all the great known local spots. That’s how I decided to try them, and I wasn’t disappointed. They are now the only place I stop for empanadillas (turnovers) and the only place I take family and visiting friends. Try all of them—they specialize in seafood—but I can’t get enough of the pizza one.

Cafe Puerto Rico

208 Calle de O’Donnell, San Juan, 00901, Puerto Rico

A favorite with the locals, especially government workers at lunch, this place is always packed, and with good reason. For $10 or less for an authentic and delicious lunch special (with a drink), this place is a steal. Try the asopao de camarones (shrimp soup with vegetables and saffron rice) with a side of tostones (mashed and fried plantains) and ask for the local hot sauce, pique, a smoking mixture of habañero peppers, black peppercorns, spices, and oil and vinegar. Service is reasonably fast and the waiters are friendly, but certain times of day (12-1pm weekdays, and 6-8pm on weekends) can be impossible for getting a table. Reserve ahead, or be prepared to wait in the plaza nearby.

Heladería Lares

Calle Vilella

The Heladería de Lares, a 45-year-old family business, sells about 50 unusual flavors of ice cream up in the mountains. Salvador Berreto, known to the locals as Yinyo, founded the shop to commemorate the Grito de Lares, a battle for freedom that had taken place exactly one century before. Yinyo started with corn, a flavor at the heart of the Puerto Rican diet and the current bestseller. Other flavors are cod, coquito (the Puerto Rican version of eggnog), and rice and beans. Fortunately, you can taste two flavors before deciding what to buy, and the ice cream is cheap, so you can stock up. Every weekend, people form what locals like to call lines, but are really boisterous blobs extending half a block down from the shop’s entrance. While eating, people skim through newspaper clips about when Denise Quiñones, a girl from Lares, won a Miss Universe pageant, or study photos of the 1945 Fuego de la Candelaria (a fire in Lares). After reading about the history behind Lares’s anthem and running their hands over the guiro (a musical instrument played by scraping its serrated surface), people often wander outside to the Plaza de la Revolucion. Here, on a typical Sunday, artisans sell paintings of the three magi (the Puerto Ricans’ second Santa) and of flamboyanes (the national trees with orange flowers). If you have doubts as to whether it’s worth it, just ask Bill Clinton and his daughter Chelsea. In 2008, Clinton forced $100 into the hands of Yinyo’s son for a mango ice cream.

Estela

PR-115, Rincon, Rincón 00677, Puerto Rico

Locally sourced lamb, beef, fish, fruits, and vegetables make Estela a popular farm-to-table choice for visitors to the surfer-and-expat hub of Rincón, a town on Puerto Rico’s northwest coast. But it’s the inspiration from far-flung places that puts the delicious finishing touches on dishes such as wahoo in a ponzu sauce served over basmati rice, and sautéed veggie or tuna sashimi paired with sesame seeds, soy sauce, dragon fruit, ginger, scallions, radishes, and pumpkin seeds.

Estela reopened in January 2018, after having been closed several months for storm repairs.

Guavate

Guavate, a section of Cayey better known as the Ruta del Lechon (“Pork Highway”), bursts into a rush of food-infused ecstasy every Friday and Saturday. People from all parts of the island come to watch someone roast a whole pig over the open fire before chopping it with a machete. Side dishes abound. I recommend sorrullos (corn sticks), bacalaitos (cod fritters), alcapurrias (fritters made of plantain dough and stuffed with meat), and rice with different types of beans. The blood sausage is not for me, but my father and boyfriend devour it every chance they get. Here in the mountains, shacks of all sizes let you pick your poison—beer, piña colada, or mojito (made from lime, mint leaves, rum, and sugar)—and drink to the beat of salsa and reggateon music. This creates the euphoric atmosphere for which Puerto Ricans are so famous. The cherry on top of the piña colada: Guavate lets you absorb the laughter, music, and food for a reasonable price. If you want the pig, but not the rambunctiousness, take your food to El Yunque National Forest and eat it by a waterfall (see my “Swimming Under a Hidden Waterfall” highlight). To find it, get on Luis A. Ferre Expressway, take the exit toward PR-184, and follow the signs for Guavate. You’ll start seeing pork soon after you take PR-184, but wait about fifteen minutes (until you’re around km 27) before you stop to get all the real action.

Playa Marias

Aguadilla-Isabela-San Sebastián, PR, Puerto Rico

Want to try your hand at wrangling fresh octopus for a “pulpo” salad while in Puerto Rico? Just hop on out to Maria’s Beach on a day with no swell, snorkel about, and check out the crags and crevices for glass bottles—perfect hiding places for the delicious treat you seek. Use the end of your Hawaiian sling to encourage the octopus to grab on. Be quick, as they are smart and mischievous! When you snag one, clean it with fresh water, chop the tentacles into small manageable pieces, and simmer for a while until tender. Ask anyone around town for the other fresh ingredients—like cilantro, tomato, cucumber—and combine for a fresh and delicious seafood salad.

Lote 23

1552 PR-25, San Juan, 00909, Puerto Rico

A recent addition to the Puerto Rican capital’s culinary scene are food hall–style spots where diners can choose among multiple kiosks, or stalls, each featuring a distinct kind of cuisine. Lote 23 is one such spot, located in the working-class neighborhood of Santurce. More than a dozen food entrepreneurs have fare on offer here, from pizza and tacos to bao and burgers. If you just need something to cool yourself off in the tropical heat, there are popsicles and cocktails, too. The alfresco eating area has plenty of picnic tables where you can sit and enjoy whatever you’ve ordered.

Williche

Cabo Rojo, 00623, Puerto Rico

Take it from a local: If you’re looking to bond with the locals and enjoy some simple fare with lots of taste, drive down to Williche. The family-owned sandwich shop in a street corner in Cabo Rojo is just a block from the town square and a fifteen-minute drive from a couple of beaches. Williche, a small building with pictures of old Cabo Rojo and slogans proclaiming a love for Puerto Rico, serves you cafeteria-style. It offers juices, different kinds of sandwiches, and milkshakes that are just the right amount of dense. My mom and grandparents started taking me there when I was a kid and I’ve been enjoying their bocadillos ever since. You would expect little (seeing as how they’re basically bread, ham, cheese, onions, tomatoes, and ketchup), but that makes their immense flavor all the more satisfying. I’ve been living outside of P.R. for more than six years, but every time I come home, I ask my family to stroll down with me by the dominoes-playing older men and to Williche. It’s almost always packed, but I and everyone else know the woman behind the counter (the founder’s daughter). It means we can talk and laugh with her, and get to know anyone else who happens to wander in. Forget Olive Garden. When you’re in Williche, you’re family.

Boating in La Parguera

La Parguera, Lajas 00667, Puerto Rico

The most serene day trip is to this small town on the southwest coast of Puerto Rico, just an hour south of the popular surf destination of Rincon. Hourly boat rentals are available for you to skip around to all the local ocean mangroves that surround the area. Johnny’s Boats is your best bet, located in the center of Parguera marina. Ask for Naji to help set you up with your own outboard motor boat; he’ll greet you with a smile! Each boat fits around five people comfortably. Add a cooler and sandwiches and you’re looking at a beautiful excursion. The Caribbean Ocean never looked so blue.

April 20, 2021 03:43 PM

Franco Brazo Gitano

255-257 Calle Méndez Vigo

The customary dessert of Puerto Rico, the brazo gitano (gypsy arm), can be found at Franco’s in Mayaguez. This place has been around for generations, preparing the rolls for local markets and grocers and also for their own store. The cake is rolled into a log shape and then pumped with a filling. This one is a zanahoria (carrot) cake with a cream cheese filling. You can find many types of rolls, with all sorts of fillings. The traditional ones contain fruit jams. When in Mayaguez, be sure to stop here for this delicious roll.

El Dorado

Cll Sierra, Playita, Salinas 00751, Puerto Rico

El Dorado is a favorite in Salinas. The seafood is fresh and plentiful, and the menu boosts some unique twists on classic Puerto Rican dishes. This restaurant is located along the Ruta Gastronomica which has many restaurants each with their own special “mojo” sauce used to create delicious fish specials. Not into fish? That’s okay, there is plenty more on the menu! If you want to try Puerto Rico‘s take on seafood, then this is a perfect place to experience it!

Caficultura

San Francisco, San Juan, 00901, Puerto Rico

Anywhere breakfast is served all day usually scores in my book. At Caficultura in Old San Juan, the food is “farm to table” and is as delicious as the creative menu sounds. In addition to the mostly healthy options, the highlight is the maple syrup made with rum, and coconut milk–dipped french toast topped with coconut shavings. The atmosphere was pretty cool—large black chandeliers hang from large wooden beams, and the picture windows face Plaza Colón outside. Definitely a cool local place to stop into and grab a coffee or brunch while sightseeing throughout Old San Juan’s historic district.

April 20, 2021 04:03 PM

José Enrique

176 Calle Duffaut

Chef José Enrique has become something of a darling in Puerto Rico’s culinary circles, particularly as he has achieved acclaim (most notably as a James Beard “Best Chef of the South” semifinalist) and lots of media coverage off the island. He’s been experimenting with many opportunities lately, including heading up hotel restaurants, but his cornerstone, the eponymous José Enrique, remains—and continues to be wildly popular among Puerto Ricans and visitors alike. The small restaurant, located inside a rehabilitated house rezoned as a commercial space, fills up quickly, so expect a wait for your chance to try one of the “contemporary Caribbean” dishes from a regularly changing menu. If you need entertainment while you’re waiting, head across the street to the Plaza del Mercado, where live music and dancing are often thumping on weekend nights.

Best Puerto Rican Restaurant 1999 | Casa Salsa | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Miami

If you’re Puerto Rican you know better than to venture out to a restaurant to eat comida criolla. Nobody makes better arroz con gandules than your abuela, nobody’s alcapurrias are quite as tasty as mami‘s, and mofongo — well forget it — you just can’t get good mofongo off the island. Until now. This past December Puerto Rican singing-sensation-superstar Ricky Martin joined the owners of Ajili Mójili, one of San Juan’s most noted restaurants, and opened Casa Salsa here in South Beach. Everything at Casa Salsa, from the interior design (corrugated metal, cane, wood, and straw with a SoBe twist) to the live plena music, the art work, and, of course, the food, will take you back to the sweet, lulling rhythms of la isla del encanto. Although everything we sampled was delicious, including the items that seemed to be more SoBe Rican than anything, for a true gustatory excursion through Puerto Rico we recommend sticking with the traditional dishes: surullos, alcapurrias, asopao, arañitas, and arroz con gandules. The dish Casa Salsa does best is mofongo: plantains mashed with oil and garlic and filled with your choice of chicken, lobster, or beef, and topped with a delicious tomato-based salsa, all served in a typical wooden pilón. ¡Ay que rico! Lunch daily from noon until 4:00 p.m. Dinner Monday through Thursday from 6:00 p.m. until midnight, Friday through Sunday until 2:00 a.m. Reservations are strongly recommended for Friday and Saturday nights: You probably won’t get a table without one.

We just want to dine overlooking the water. Is that so wrong? Apparently. Miami may be practically surrounded by h3O, but very few restaurants boast waterfront dining. Enter the Fish, positioned on the south bank of the Miami River. Originally a fruit-packing plant, then a gas station, next a fish-sandwich joint started by local personality T.O. Sykes, Big Fish Mayaimi now offers top-line, Barcelona-style seafood dishes (including rosemary-fragrant mushroom paella) at decent prices. The décor, fashioned by eclectic artist Antoni Miralda, has ranged from a huge stiletto with a detachable heel (it doubled as a gondola) to a sculpture of livestock perched atop one another. But if the view of the corrugated metal restaurant ever bores (highly doubtful, given Miralda’s imagination), there’s always the barge-stuffed river to entertain you. Nature buffs love the place for its glimpse of preurban Miami. Boaters like it because the dockage space is ample enough for yachts and rowboats alike. And locals like it because the spot is so tucked away, tourists can’t find it — unless they take the water taxi from Bayside.

Being surrounded by water in South Florida, we’d expect a plethora of excellent seafood restaurants. There are a number of places that call themselves fish houses, but far too many are overpriced, greasy, or just plain boring. Fishbone Grille is none of the above. Both the original downtown location, which recently underwent a long-needed facelift, and the newer Coral Gables eatery, offer nearly identical menus created by talented chef David Bracha. He is clearly inspired by the cuisines of the Caribbean and Asia, but ventures into French, Italian, and South American pantries to pull out an eclectic array of dishes. Standouts include a lively rendition of cioppino loaded with clams, mussels, scallops, squid, shrimp and tender chunks of whitefish roasted in a tomato broth; Thai steamed mussels; wild mushroom-crusted sea bass over garlic and chive mashed potatoes; delicately pan-roasted crabcakes with a smoky almond tartar sauce; teriyaki salmon with Asian vegetables and lobster; and crabmeat ravioli with a creamy pink tomato sauce. Chalkboard specials are always recommendable as are a selection of raw oysters. In addition to reasonably priced superior seafood (dinner entrées hover between $8 and $18) both locations offer nonfishy pizzas, sandwiches, and pastas, plus a varied and inexpensive choice of wines by the bottle or the glass.

The numbers flash with astonishing speed, and you’ve got ten boards to cover. The smoke in the room, as thick as alligators in the nearby canals, is getting in your eyes, making it difficult to see, and the hour drags on. You’re simply too worn out to concentrate. What’s a dedicated bingo player to do? Take a refueling break, of course, at Café Hammock. The fine-dining restaurant, located on a raised dais in the middle of the gaming facility, offers local specialties like stone crabs, sautéed alligator medallions, and frog legs, not to mention chicken, veal, and freshwater fish dishes for those who’ve been lucky. Those left out of the winner’s circle can check out the more reasonably priced burgers and Buffalo wings. And though the piano player in the corner may eventually go home, the waiters stay on and the menu stays put: Café Hammock serves 24-7, including breakfast nightly from 2:00 a.m. till 10:30 a.m. for the serious casino addict. Video Lotto with your omelet, anyone?

The road to peace in the Middle East is a little rocky these days, so travel could be rough. Good thing there’s Pita Hut to give us our fill of Levantine fare until the dove returns. The Israeli-owned restaurant makes no distinctions between nationalities, unless it is to identify which specialty comes from where. Like the Greek eggplant salad, fried eggplant tossed with red pepper and garlic. Or the Turkish salad, a combination of tomatoes, onions, celery, parsley, and hot peppers. Then there’s the ful medamas (fava beans), which are Lebanese in origin, the couscous with chicken and vegetables (a Moroccan favorite), and, of course, the Israeli pickles (including marinated turnips). In fact the only fighting you’re likely to see here is over who gets the last crumb of baklava or Bavarian cream for dessert.

In 1982 two Florida International University students in their early twenties, Patrick Gleber and Kevin Rusk, helped transform Miami’s oldest bar, Tobacco Road, from a decrepit, crime-ridden dive into one of the most popular food and music venues in the county. Then came Fishbone Grille, continuing a tradition of excellent food at a moderate price. So in 1997, when Rusk announced he was going to start a brew pub in Coral Gables, it seemed a recipe for success. That is until city officials intervened. Rusk found himself embroiled in bureaucratic red tape, a pawn in a sewer dispute between the county and the city. He nearly drained his life savings as brewery equipment sat in a warehouse gathering dust for nine months. Instead of abandoning ship, Rusk persevered and on April 1, the Titanic Brewing Company opened. With six delicious specialty beers, a menu full of tasty dishes, and a pleasant low-key atmosphere, Titanic is everything we have come to enjoy and expect from Kevin Rusk.

We’ve had some innovative Floribbean and Pacific Rim concepts recently, but not many can hold on to their uniqueness over time. Not so Blue Sea, a tiny Asian seafood bar in the Delano that features communal seating and adventurous food you just don’t see elsewhere — not even on the menus of other sushi bars guilty of taking liberties with tradition. Like an appetizer of green tea noodles, crisped salmon skin, raw quail egg and spicy mayo; a maki roll of barbecued eel, mango, coconut, crabmeat and black sesame seeds; prosciutto and daikon sashimi; and an egg crèpe spiraled around shrimp, crab, Boursin cheese, Belgian endive, radicchio, and asparagus. All are fresh, deftly prepared, and delicious, with six dipping sauces to mix and match, including ponzu and peanut.

All the pleasures of dining at chef-owner Jonathan Eismann’s Pacific Time, PT Next Door’s sister restaurant (literally a neighbor), and none of the pain. Specifically the pain of trying to get a reservation, the pain of waiting for that reservation while pushing and shoving for a glass of wine at the bar, the pain of shouting your order at the waiter over the din, the pain of having your chair knocked about by other patrons trying to squeeze through the trendy Pacific Time dining room. In fact the only pain that remains when you dine Next Door in the belly of the Sterling Building is the one that hits you at decision time: Should you order the grilled Ho Chi Minh City «killer» pork chops with black bean vinaigrette or the grilled «jade» lamb chops with sushi rice «frites»? The tamarind barbecued Atlantic salmon or the wok-sautéed yellowfin tuna with sushi bar flavors? Or perhaps go completely vegetarian, starting with the steamed fresh soy beans or the vegetable dumplings in miso broth? No matter. Whatever you ask for, it shall be delivered, painlessly.

Don’t be fooled by the Fifties-diner look: This place is as Cuban as it comes. In fact once the waitress slams down a crowded plate of blanket-size bistec empanizado with papitas fritas hanging over the edges of the oval-shaped dish, visions of North America will quickly fade. The specialty of the house is steak a la plancha and the black beans remain faithful to a recipe that originated in Güines, in the province of Havana. The food itself is larger than life. Try the chicken-fried steak with sautéed onions piled on top, or the mountains of ropa vieja and white rice. If there’s room, a side order of tamales, yuca, or giant tostones are worth reserving a spot in your stomach.

If Central America became unified, Managua might be its center, Yambo its expatriate capital. The authentic food, particularly the grilled meat, is excellent and startlingly cheap. Best of all, though restaurant service ends at 3:00 a.m., Yambo is open 24 hours. At 2:00 a.m. the place is often packed with families, teenagers, and novios. Nicaraguan President Arnoldo Alemán drops in for a bite when in town as does legendary contra commander Eden Pastora. If you stumble into Yambo for the first time at the end of a late night, don’t let the décor startle you. Every inch of the walls is covered with faux Central Americana, like knockoff wooden masks of Indian princes, national emblems from the region, flintlock rifles, wooden calves, and brightly painted landscapes.

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