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Jason Perlow x

Puerto Rico Dining

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If you're going to PR and you don't take time to get to Culebra, well you missed the boat, or rather the ferry, though you can fly there now. But the ferry is a lot more fun. Barbarosa's near the airport sure ain't fancy but consistently has some of the best food on the island.


Edward Hamilton

Ministry of Rum.com

The Complete Guide to Rum

When I dream up a better job, I'll take it.

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Culebra is fine, just don't go there to find food. When i was last there, eons ago, the Dinghy Dock served appropriate burgers. The scenery, the beaches are really breathtaking is you like that sort of stuff. :shock:

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When i was last there, eons ago,

I think that pretty well sums it up. But things do change and Barbarosa's is a place where I would eat any time. Barbara was in charge of the kitchen at Seabourne for about ten years after having a place on the old ferry dock but lack of population forced her to close. Now she has her own place again and everything is as fresh or fresher than anyother place on the island.

But when you consider that a fancy place on a small tourist island can't survive in the off season and that on a big weekend the whole population grows to maybe 6,000 people no one can offer the meals you'll find in San Juan or even Luquillo but you won't go hungry on Culebra.


Edward Hamilton

Ministry of Rum.com

The Complete Guide to Rum

When I dream up a better job, I'll take it.

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When i was last there, eons ago,

I think that pretty well sums it up

You know an eon is only 7 hours? :wink:

But seriously Ed, :shock: what's in the menu at Barbarosa? is it local fare? :wub:

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I will be staying at the Ritz in San Juan mid January and would appreciate any suggestions for great restaurants nearby (other than at the Ritz). Spanish, Continental, or any special places would be helpful. The quality of the food is the most important factor. Thanks

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Since my in-laws have both passed away some time ago, we don't get down there that often. Thus I'm not up to date on where to eat, but my advice is generally to eat in places that serve Puerto Rican specialties, avoid most of the hotel restaurants and anyplace that serves continental food. You may want to ignore my advice however as I would avoid any restaurant that described itself as serving continental food and you imply a belief there are great continental restaurants. Actually, continental can also mean the US mainland, in which case it's probably also best avoided.

The one place I'd search out is la Casita Blanca. Calle Tapia 351, Villa Palmeras, in Santurce. (787 726 5501) It had a great variety of low key home cooking of the first order back then and I hope it's still reliable. There were a few young chefs opening interesting restaurants--even in hotels--but I'm sorry I have no recommendations. The one chef I knew seems to have closed his restaurants in San Juan and I'm not sure what he's doing now.

The "national dish" seems to be asopao. Asopao de pollo is about was about as reliable a dish as any I've run across anywhere. The local chickens were very tasty, although these days I won't bet that most restaurants don't use frozen birds from the US.


Robert Buxbaum

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I agree with Bux, try the restaurants which serve Puerto Rican specialties.

When we were there in April we found a place called Casa Dante (the doorman at the Old San Juan hotel was very happy we were going there, it's mostly Puerto Ricans). It is about a ten minute cab ride from the Ritz. They specialize in mofongo (green plantaions cooked with pork rinds) and very fresh seafood. They also have a decent wine list with lots of Spanish reds.

Interestingly, they don't serve arroz con gandules (rice with pigeon peas) at restaurants in PR like they do here in Chicago. I asked some people why and they said it was a holiday dish served only at Christmas.

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Depends what you mean by nearby. I lived in Isla Verde for two years. There are not a lot of great restaurants within walking distance of the Ritz, if that's what you are looking for. There is Metropol across the street which I enjoy for PR/Cuban food. (gallinita rellena is my recommendation). It is good, not great. The restaurant at the Ritz itself is delicious and one of the better upscale restaurants in town. Other than that, if you are willing to travel as far as the Condado or Old San Juan, the usual suspects come into play (Augusto's, Ramiro's, Bella Piazza, Chef Marisoll, Compostela, Picoteo, Pikayo in the new art museum, Ajili Mojili on a good night).

Casita Blanca is still good for downhome per Bux's recommendation (don't hang out in Barrio Obrero at night, however). Of that ilk are El Pescador, El Jibarito, Metropol, Pescaderia Atlantico is not a bad option at the other end of Isla Verde, Casa Dante and Che's are acceptable in that area too.

Go to Plaza del Mercado in Santurce on Friday evening around happy hour for the street party and drink cuba libres or batidas and eat empanadillas and pinchos from the street vendors. Are you going to be there for Festival de San Sebastian? If so, Old San Juan will be the place to go - it is a complete zoo, but is lots of fun all day and all night long during the festival.

The Saturday night scene is at the nearby Hotel El San Juan - it is practically a parade.

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I can recommend the Metropol as well -- fantastic food local and Cuban food. Ask any of the locals that work in the Ritz and they can point you to some others. Enjoy your stay!! :cool:

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I don't recommend the Metropol. I have not been to the Isla Verde branch in years but I have visited the Roosevelt Avenue branch many times recently and it has turned into a blander, boring and poorly cooked version of its old self. There is one dish that is usually pretty good there-Pollo a la Viñales (smoked half chicken).

La Casita Blanca I do endorse. Or tell a cab driver to take you to El Guateque on the Cupey road for some of the best Mofongo in San Juan.

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Just spent the last five days at the Ritz and I would say that there really aren't a lot of dining options in the immediate vicinity. In the Isla Verde area we had lunch at the Metropol and dinner at Yamato, a japanese place in the Wyndham. The Metropol may not be as good as the posts intimate but it is at least a decent, popular place to have a meal. I can't speak about the Cuban authenticity but the food was fine, not great but definitely fine and the place was packed with what seemed like locals, including a lot of hotel employees.

Yamato, the japanese place we ate at was similarly acceptable, not fine dining, but the sushi was good. I should note that on the weekend, and I need to stress the weekend in this time of year, the Wyndham on friday night was packed with people dressed to party and looking for a good time. The difference between the Wyndham and the Ritz and inter-continental, both in Isla Verde, is huge. The Wyndham was packed while the other places were not very crowded or interesting.

A note on dining in general. On saturday night we went to the Condado area, it was totally dead. We stopped in a place I think called Urdin, extremely nice staff, but empty at 8pm. We had a reservation at Ramiro's across the street and the meal there was nice but it had an old stuffy vibe. Again the food was good, I had halibut which was very good and my girlfriend had a steak which was thick and cooked nicely but it was far from a happening place.

I would definitely suggest someone staying in the Isla Verde area to spend the 16$ on a cab and head into Old San Juan. The area is relatively small, but there are several places that are happpening. We had a 'reservation' on friday night at dragonfly, a place owned by the same group who owns the Parrot Club and I think another place called Agua Viva. The reason I put quotations around reservation is that they take from you an estimated arrival time and they put you on a waiting list, when we showed they told us it would be an hour wait.

We wandered across the street to the Parrot Club for a drink and looking at the menu were a little confused by the press the place has got, we didnt eat there so really cant speak about the food but the menu didn't blow us away. I should say that in general we weren't into the heavy local fare, preferring a lighter, more modern interpertation which is present in a some of the old San Juan places. We stoppped in Agua Viva and thought it was a great place. It had an ocean theme and had some great ceviches. Having spent some time travelling throughout latin america I find it hard to spend 12$ on ceviche, but compared to Chicama in Ny this place is a steal. We had a tuna and salmon ceviche as well as a spicy, I think tomato based, white fish ceviche. Anyway, after about 45 minutes we headed back to dragonfly and got in immediately. The dishes are tapas style, just a list of items, no distinction between appetizer and entree. The waiter told us three dishes would be more than enough so that's what we ordered. The food was mediocre at best. We had a mongolian beef dish, the beef so tough I would hesitate to serve it to my dog. I liked the spicy calamari but my girlfirend could barely tolerate the heat. Lastly, the tuna in spicy peppercorn sauce had an intolerably sweet sauce, though the fish itself was good.

On Monday night we went back to Old San Juan, dead compared to Friday night, and had dinner at Amadeus. In my opinion the highlight of the trip. We had beef dumplings, ceviche and two fish dishes,all excellent. We drank by far the best margaritas we had on the trip, refreshing compared to the watered down version we had elsewhere.

To summarize, Isla Verde doesn't offer much, Condado equally little. For my money I'd head to Old San Juan at least a few times. We didn't get to the more obscure places recommended on this site.

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The "Wyndham" you refer to in Isla Verde is the Hotel El San Juan. I think it was recently acquired by the Wyndham chain. I was a bit confused after the initial skimming of your post because there is another Wyndham in Old San Juan. But you are correct: the happening place in Isla Verde is the El San Juan. In Condado, there is some action at the Marriott and at least until recently, at Stone Crab Alley. But generally speaking all of these places are much more active during the high season, say February.

Nice post leonr.

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Hi.. I'm getting ready to go to PR for four nights. I am currently set to stay at the Marriot Stellaris in San Juan. Is this an ok hotel? I may want to travel out of San Juan, but I'm not sure where to go. I have been looking at Rincon/Isabela, but can't really tell where I should stay. Basically, I want to stay in a nice, clean room with an ocean view from my room. Preferably with a deck. I am a bodyboarder, so will be bringing my board. I have been looking and it doesn't look like there are any waves in Rincon in the summer. Do you have any suggestions on surf? Any suggestions on where to stay, surf and eat would be good. Also like to go out and have a few drinks and maybe listen to some music. I have heard that Isle Verde is where all the bars and clubs are. Please Help!

Thanks

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Best hotel in San Juan is the Caribe Hilton because it has a private beach -- and I believe the only one which does. I can't stress enough how important that is. Supposedly it is also where the Pina Colada was invented, because they list it on all their literature -- irregardless it has one fo the nicest hotel bars I have ever seen and their Pina Colada is outstanding. The property recently underwent a 60 million dollar renovation -- it was a wonderful hotel when we went several years ago, I can only imagine it now.

The Marriott properties are nice though.


Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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I stayed at the Caribe Hilton last year and it was very nice. The thing to remember about the beaches (at least in San Juan and at the resorts) is that the beaches have artifical reefs that keep the waves to a minimum. I know down the coast this is not as much the case, but you won't find much surfing in San Juan proper.

The two restaurants I really liked in Old San Juan were The Parrot Club, which is casual Carribean and Dragonfly which is a strange but good fusion of Carribean and Asian. They are both right across the street from each other on Fortaleza. Also the Tapas place in the Hotel De Convento was prety good, but a little expensive.

Luqillo Beach, about 45 minutes from San Juan near the rainforest is a popular public beach where you should try some of the local fried food served from the row of stands behind the beach.


Bill Russell

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I disagree with Jason about a private beach being an important thing, and the Hilton's beach is fine, but there's really not much to it. However, the Marriott's beach is worse, I wouldn't swim there or anywhere else in Condado.

Head down to Ocean Park or Isla Verde (the beach I lived on for two years) for San Juan beaches - neither is private both are good. There are natural reefs offshore that prevent much surf in San Juan beaches. For surf in and around San Juan, Pinones is your best bet, east of Isla Verde and around the bend, all kinds of food shacks abound and it is a real locals area with all that that entails.

Puerto Rico is not a great surf island in general. For real surf, Rincon is generally the best on the island and Isabela's not bad but can be tough to access given the rocky shoreline. Summer is not the best season though, you're right about that.

The only places I've stayed out there are the Horned Dorset near Rincon and a friend's house in Isabela. Horned Dorset is a Relais and Chateaux and is pretty pricey and upscale. I know there are several parador type places in Rincon, but can't think of any to recommend. Pick up a Que Pasa magazine at the airport or ask the tourist desk for a paradors brochure. Paradors run the gamut from dingy to pretty nice though.

Lots of other threads in here on San juan food and nightlife - check 'em out.

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If I was going to stay in a San Juan hotel, I would stay at the El San Juan.

I don't have that much of problem with the Marriott but El San Juan is better.

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Just won the Caribe Hilton on Priceline for $65/nite... now i need to find a restaurant for dinner!

We'll be arriving at the hotel about 7pm the nite before our cruise so i'd like to have a comfortable, relaxing, restaurant with good food that we can relax after our flight and start our vaction on the right note. Nothing terribly expensive as we'll have a long week ahead of us, but more important than price is good food and a relaxing atmosphere. We will be 5 adults and 3 children (ages 10-14)

I just started looking and La Tasca has some good mentions on this board (with their Shrimp Asopao being highly regarded), so any comments (reviews, cost, atmosphere, etc) about this place in particular OR other recommendations would be appreciated.

Thanks in advance.


Edited by thereuare (log)

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The place right down the street from the Hilton was very casual, and it had great asopao too. Was that La Tasca? I don't remember.

I'd definitely stay very local, maybe even eat at the Hilton itself and suck up some Pina Coladas.


Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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Read about La Tasca in THIS THREAD from Rachel... is this the same place you're refering to as 'down the road'?

If so, are you equally as enthusiastic (and could you comment on price/atmosphere)? I've heard that there's not too much in the area that is walkable, and i don't think we're ready for very long cab rides after the flights.

Definately having a Pina Colada that nite!


Edited by thereuare (log)

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I ate at the Italian restaurant in the Caribe Hilton last year. It was OK, but I like Caribbean cooking so much that I regretted eating Italian while in Puerto Rico. I don't remember what the other restaurants at the hotel were like.


Bill Russell

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Nothing is cheap in that area. But at least with La Tasca you can easily walk from your hotel, and it was definitely less expensive than the hotel restaurants, which were ridiculously overpriced. You pass it on your right as you turn right into the hotel drive (so it'll be on your left when you walk - cross the street by the car rental outlet and turn left and it should be on your left a few doors up). It is actually the hotel restaurant for a small hotel, but has an entrance from the street. I'm sure it will accomodate your large group. I remember they had a lot of fish & seafood on display in the front, so even if someone isn't that into going local, I'm sure they can get some simply cooked fish. Since you are only there one night and you don't arrive until 7 PM, I think it's your best bet. If for some reason that restaurant doesn't work out, I remember we also went to a big Cuban place in town that was also very good. I think the cabby recommended it. But best not to go exploring with that many people.

Please report back and let me know if this place (especially the asopao) is as good as my memories.

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Just a side note... What frequently happens with these large group situations is that the foodie of the group has done a bunch of research, but then no one listens to them. The group complains they're tired, "let's just go to the hotel restaurant" says a particularly grumpy and hungry adult, "I want a hamburger" whines the youngest child. Be strong. Insist. Threaten to go there by yourself if they all want to not experience the local flavor. Drag them.

Of course your group may be of the rarer variety. The "Fabulous! thereuare has done all this research for us. Let's all go to where the good people at eGullet are sending us. They won't steer us wrong!" variety is a protected species.

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Great price for a great property in San Juan.

Being a foodie and having been all over Puerto Rico, I thought I would post my notes on dining.

In Old San Juan:

Chef Marisoll, 202 Calle de Cristo. Contemporary. I had a curried chicken w/papaya and cilantro YUM!

Amadeus, Calle San Sebastian 106. Caribbean, but w/a gourmet twist.

Just next door to Amadeus is El Patio de Sam.

A busy, but fun place for drinks. I would not recommend the food. It is across from the Church de San Jose where there are usually some festive happenings, which are fun to take in after dinner (at Amadeus!).

One of our favorite restaurants is newcomer The Parrott Club at 363 Fortaleza. Very, very, very good PR and Caribbean food. Also live music at night. Very lively atmoshpere.

Brunch:

IMO, hands down it is the sunday brunch at the Caribe Hilton. What a spread!

In Condado Area:

Los Faisanes, Avenida Magdelena 1108. International. Being lovers of great pheasant (Faisanes) dishes, Los Faisanes always has at least two on the menu. Never disappoints.

Ramiro's, Avenida Magdelena 1106. International/Spanish. While the service is great, we've never been bowled over by the food at Ramiro's. Although most others we've talked to have. Just a personal opinion I guess.

Chayote, Avenida Miramar 603 (Olimpo Hotel).

Puerto Rican/Seafood. Always very good!!!

Compostela, Avenida Codado 106. Spanish. We like Compostela over Ramiro's anyday!!!

Urdin, Avenida Magdelena 1105. Seafood/PR.

Had a divine dish of Halibut w/a chutney of raisins and bananas over it.

AJILI MOJILI, Calle Joffre 6. If you want to try Puerto Rican food as the Moms of Puerto Rico cooked it, try this restaurant!!!! WE ALWAYS EAT HERE, EVERY TIME IN PR!!!! Very fun and good value. Anything w/the Ajili Mojili sauce (a very garlicky chili salsa) is awesome.

In Isla Verde:

While we have stayed at the El San Juan, we have never really enjoyed the food or thought it was a good value, seeing the tremendous other restaurants in San Juan. So I can't recommend anything here......EXCEPT!!! goto the open air rooftop bar at the ESJ, get a magarita and have guacamole made tableside.

Very yummy and great views.

In El Yunque/Luquillo Beach:

I highly recommend driving to El Yunque Park. It is the only rainforest in the US park service. Great hiking. Afterwards wash yourself off in the ocean at Luquillo Beach, just don't go on weekends when it will be packed!!!! The good eats are the various bungalows along the beach (not in the beach park, but down from the beach area) you'll see when driving twoards the beach park. The various grilled meats and empanadas go great w/the cold Medalla beer.

In Ponce:

The only restaurant we've eaten is La Hacienda/La Cava de la Hacienda which is located in the Ponce Hilton. Good International cuisine, but pricy. a better bet is to drive 20 minutes West to the following:

In Guanica:

One of our favorite places to stay (and eat) on the south side of the Island is the Copamarina Beach Resort whose Ballena's restaurant is very good. Service is slow here, but the food is well worth it.

In Rincon:

Rincon is 8 miles north of Mayaguez on the West side of PR. The Horned Dorset Primavera Hotel. This is THE best hotel in PR for couples (no kids under 12 allowed). It also has one of the most beautiful and delicious dining rooms in all of PR. Well worth the drive and $$.

La Paguera:

La Paguera is located on the SW side of PR.

If you should find yourself there on a dark night. Make sure to do two things.

Eat at the Parador Villa Parguerra, which serves seafood in a traditional PR manner. the fresh fish is ALWAYS pleasing.

After dinner, find the local boats that take you to Phosphorescent Bay. Once there, the tiny bioluminescent organisms in the water light up when disturbed by the swimmers. A very amazing sight and real fun being on the water at night.


"I did absolutely nothing and it was everything I thought it could be"

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