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Puerto Rico Dining

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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.

Agree with the first statement about the Hilton Beach, but not the second, as have enjoyed swimming/the beaches at the Marriott & El San Juan.

To give more info on places to stay, I really need more info, are you looking for a large mega brand (Marriott, Hilton) type stay, B&B, Beach, etc. etc. etc.

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.


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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Sweet Willie,

Thanks for the reply and the suggestions.

I have since decided that i definately want rice and black beans with dinner (got a craving and it just won't quit!). Also may want to try the local dish mongafolo (or however it's spelled/pronounced)

Will any of the above satisfy that requirement? Also, are any of the above closer to the $25/pp price tag rather than the $50/pp price i keep reading about (i realize not much in the area is 'cheap').

Right now i'm leaning towards Ajili Mojili (which i understand may very well be close to $50/pp) OR Dragonfly (not sure of price), OR Metropol (not sure on price, but i heard 'affordable'). We are a party of 8 (5 adults, 3 children) so i also think Dragonfly may be to small to accomodate us w/o too long of a wait. Also just added La Casita Blanca and Tropical Restaurant to the list as 'cheap' alternatives (but if these 2 cheapies are simply mediocre, please let me know and i won't bother).

Thanks for any add'l info (food comments, prices, etc) you can offer on the above and the added info. Do you also know anything about La Tasca, as that may be a back-up if we get into town too late due to flight delays or anything of the like.

I would prefer to eat with 'locals' than tourists, and food quality/value is more important than atmosphere.

Edited by thereuare (log)
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I don't remember the exact prices at Dragonfly, but it is probably between the 25 and 50 dollar ranges you are talking about.

It is small, but I liked it a lot.

Bill Russell

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Just returned from a stay at the El San Juan. I agree that some of the restaurants aren't the greatest. Didn't like the western one upstairs and only had a margarita at the Mexican one.

We had a good dinner at the Backstreet Hong Kong. And breakfast at La Veranda was good, depending on the chef making the omelets.

We ate at Metropol one evening and thought it was OK.

Wanted to try the small restaurant at the point of the beach, just to the east, but never made it. One of the staff said it had good seafood.

In Old San Juan we had lunch at Amedeus and loved it. Great Pina Colada's too.

Life is too important to be taken seriously.[br]Oscar Wilde

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... are any of the above closer to the $25/pp price tag rather than the $50/pp price i keep reading about .... We are a party of 8 (5 adults, 3 children) .... I would prefer to eat with 'locals' than tourists, and food quality/value is more important than atmosphere.

Given the above, I stand by my suggestion of La Tasca. I can't guarantee they have mongafolo (description please), but they are likely to have local food, if not on the menu you could always ask for it.

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Also may want to try the local dish mongafolo (or however it's spelled/pronounced)

I can't guarantee they have mongafolo (description please)

Terminology check, is it “Mofongo” you are searching for?

If so, Mofongo is mashed Green Plantains w/usually some pork fat and garlic mixed in.

I’ve seen them as a side or “stuffed” w/shrimp, lobster or other items.

AJILI MOJILI (address above) serves Mofongo w/your choice of “stuffings” and is in your $ range easy.

"I did absolutely nothing and it was everything I thought it could be"
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AJILI MOJILI (address above) serves Mofongo w/your choice of “stuffings” and is in your $ range easy.

I had bee reading many reviews where dinner at Ajili Mojili will run about $75-$125/couple... is that high in your opinion? (but i keep hearing such good things about it that we may end up there anyway!!)

I'm also seriously considering La Casita Blanca or Bebo's Cafe if you have any thoughts on either. They both seem like ultra-casual neighborhood places with good local food and cheap. I read a lot of politicians often meet at one of them for lunch (i forget which one), and although lunch is always busy and a wait should be expected, dinner is a bit slower paced and not as crowded. Any idea how far each of them is from the Caribe Hilton?

mongafolo (description please)

Here's a picture of Mofongo along with a recipe. This looks like the basic/plain version, but many restaurants are now mixing in chicken, shrimp, or other seafood. Pic and Recipe

I haven't written off La Tasca, but will likely use it as the 'fallback' if we get into town late or are just too tired to venture away from the hotel. I've done many searches and can't seem to find any add'l info on La Tasca, but the others listed keep appearing again and again with favorable reviews.

Edited by thereuare (log)
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La Casita Blanca has an excellent and well deserved reputation. Sila Marie Calderon (the current governor) and Carlos Ignacio Pesquera (her opponent and current President of the PNP, the main opposing party) met there for lunch prior to the 2000 elections.

It is good. It is in the Villa Palmeras neighborhood which is a bit dicey at night.

Ok. Distances: Bebo's is like 2 miles from the Caribe Hilton. La Casita Blanca: 2.5 -3 miles (perhaps less). Ajili: half a mile. Old San Juan (Dragonfly):1.5 miles.

By the way: the Ajili Mojili is not in Joffre Street. It is in Ashford Avenue at the old Bennigan's location with a great view of the Condado Lagoon and Miramar.

Another option:

La Tasca de Yiyo accross from Bebo's (more or less) in Loiza Street. Very good Puerto Rican food. Great tres leches dessert. Everything here is pretty good if not excellent specially the daily specials (they have a rotation). Not a touristy place.

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Thank you to everyone that has replied so far and given their thoughts and opinions.

I have narrowed the list down to the following, listed in most likely to attend:

Ajilli Mojilli OR La Casita Blanca

Bebo's Cafe

La Tasca (near the hotel so we'll go as a back-up)

I'm open to comments regarding any of the restaurants listed above, but i guess more importantly the differences between Ajilli Mojillia vs. La Casita Blanca.

I've heard/read excellent things about both of them and need to make a final decision for the group. Ajilli Mojilli appears to be more well known, but what concerns me is that i've heard prices of $25/pp up to $75-$125/couple (hate going to a place having no idea what it will cost me when i walk out). La Casita Blanca almost seems like a 'hole in the wall' type of place with good food, and i like that type of atmosphere and place (laid back, solid food, great price... leavings stuffed and feeling like you got a great deal).

Those are my current thoughts. I'm hoping the board can help me a little further in making a final decision.

Thanks again to all.

Edited by thereuare (log)
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I try to avoid restaurant hotels whenever possible, especially if there is local fare to be had (which isn't typically local to me).

Buffet Brunch is an exception to that rule, which i hear the Caribe Hilton has a great one on Sundays, but i don't see the need i stuffing myself before the cruise so we'll probably just stop off at a local bakery or something similar.

I'll bypass the triple miles for the $65 rate i got :smile:

Edited by thereuare (log)
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  • 3 weeks later...

As a follow-up, we ended up going to La Casita Blanca which was exactly what i was looking for. Here's a review i wrote, along with some pics:

Got in a taxi van at the hotel and when the bellman asked where we were going, we replied “La Casita Blanca” and he smiled, looked at us with a look of disbelief, and asked “How’d you hear about that place?!?” I told him the internet and he commented that it truly is a world wide web. He said the food was great there and we would enjoy our meals… I knew at this point we were in for something great. The entire menu (11 items) was shown to us on a blackboard, and after my dad ordered a lasagna-type dish the waiter, while still standing there with the blackboard, began to erase it from the menu… he got the last one! The place was quite ‘eclectic’ and had a real home feeling, which includes a tree growing out of the floor and thru the porch. Before ordering we were brought fried conch, and although I dislike non-shellfish, these tasted just like potato chips and were great. This was followed by garlic bread, which was even better. I had the shrimp Creole and it was pretty good, the rice and beans on the side were great, and the monfongo was a little dry for my taste (but it’s an acquired taste I’m told). I tasted my dad’s lasagna-type dish which was (IMO) the best dish of the evening; my wife’s “steak with onions” was also tasted which was very good but the texture/color of the steak didn’t look as brown as it should be (maybe just my pre-conceived perception that one couldn’t get a good steak on the island of Puerto Rico).

When I returned from the bathroom a man at a nearby table stopped me and said, “Forgive me for being forward, but I know how I got here… but how do you know about this place?” I once again told him of my internet friends and egullet. He was from the Bronx but vacations twice a year in Puerto Rico and was there that nite with some locals. We had some rice pudding for dessert, which was also excellent (and I’m not a dessert person). A complimentary shot of a sambuca-like liquor is also served, but I think this put me over the top and I actually got a little sick from it (in conjunction with the over-eating). Price was extremely reasonable… 5 main dishes and 2 sides was $68, including a 15% tip included in the bill since we were a large party, but we left a bit more. This restaurant was exactly what I was looking for and gave us a great experience of eating ‘local, home cooking, fare’. Highly recommended, but be forewarned that it is an outdoor seating atmosphere and there is no air conditioning.

This is what the place looks like:


My meal:


Near hotel, man shucking oysters on the street:


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  • 2 weeks later...
I try to avoid restaurant hotels whenever possible, especially if there is local fare to be had (which isn't typically local to me).

I'll bypass the triple miles for the $65 rate i got  :smile:

fully agree, points be damned in those two situations, they are not worth missing out or spending the much extra $ to get (unless your company is paying the bill).

"I did absolutely nothing and it was everything I thought it could be"
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  • 2 weeks later...

Just on the beaches point. The El San Juan is on Isla Verde beach and is not in Condado. The Isla Verde beach is perfectly fine, I lived on it for two years and swam there several times a week. The beach at Ocean Park, just down from Condado, is also an excellent beach. The beach where the Ritz is also fine, as are the beaches in Pinones.

However, all of my friends, gringos and puertorriquenos alike, who lived in Condado would invariably avoid the beaches there and walk down to Ocean Park instead. One of the main reasons is the overflow sewer effluent pipe that occasionally spews out nasty brown goop about 500 yards down from the Marriott Beach in front of the Condado Del Mar Condo - seen it do so myself on more than one occasion. The Marriott beach itself is OK, I suppose, but bookending it are two notoriously nasty beaches - seen the syringes myself, too - that no one ever really goes to, especially at night. Not sure wha the new development at the site of the former La Concha and Hotel Condado will do in terms of beaches.

Shugga, you didn't miss anything by not dining at the Empresa's outdoor patio at the point at the far eastern end of Isla Verde, it's nothing special for food at all. Decent place to chill with a beer though.

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There's this pastry shop in Old San Juan (whose name escapes me right now) that I remember as being very good. When she was in better health, my grandmother used to go there all the time to pick up breads and desserts. It's got a fairly established reputation, so if you ask any of the locals they should be able to point you in the right direction. :smile:

Also, if you head to Old San Juan or Luquillo Beach (the beach I remember most from my childhood visits), make sure you pick up the coco helados, or coconut ices, that the vendors sell out of carts. A little piece of heaven, for sure!

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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 2 weeks later...

Re: Marriott. Probably too late but anyhow: Condado area is nice to walk even late at night. The beach at the Marriott is, I think, not the most desirable and there is supposed to be a strong current there. Week-end nights are hopping in the hotel lobby with lots of locals going out for a night out. Martino's in the Diamond Palace has a very (or had) a pretty good Caesar Salad.

Edited by Miguel Gierbolini (log)
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Thanks Michael. Just got back and read your note.

In case anyone else checks this out for info., here's a rundown of my 5 day stay in PR:

Mariott was lovely. Beach was super - waves were light and wonderful. The beach area is small, but not crowded and the attendants practically run you down with chairs if you stand still for two seconds to pick your spot [i mean that in a good way - they're very attentive].

Pool area is great. At first I thought it was wierd that it's only 4 feet deep at it's deepest point, but it really wasn't a bad thing. The water slide is a blast.

Ate at both the Cafe [lovely salads] and the Tuscany restaurant [high-ish prices, but good food].

Had my birthday dinner at Ajili Mojili which was WONDERFUL. The staff was great - the waiter recommended things to everyone and it turned out fabulous. The atmosphere is lovely, and the view of the bay was grand. Food was delicious.

We also ate at Ropa Vieja which was right down the street. A bit more eclectic - I think it's Carribean and South American cuisine. Although the service was terrible, we weren't in a rush and the food was great. Be sure to order the chocolate creme brulee if you go - it's a dream!

The other nice restaurant we sampled was Urdin, right in the same are. It has more of a trendy local cuisine. Wonderful decor, good service, and great food as well.

The only disappointment was Il Bombannero [not sure that's the exact name], the diner style restaurant in Old San Juan. The food was bland and the deserts were limited, but the waiter was nice and I did enjoy my merringue desert.

I'd go back to this island in a second! :cool:

Edited by ral (log)
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Yes, Ropa Vieja is a new restaurant which may or may not explain the bad service. Never been. La Bombonera in my own quite humble opinion is supremely overrated.

I am glad you got to go to Ajili Mojili. I think they had an asopao festival when you were here. Now they have a fricasse festivale. Chicken, Veal Goat, etc.

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I'd go back to this island in a second! :cool:

I think PR is the most under appreciated island in the Caribbean.

Also if anyone is going to PR, make sure to get out of San Juan. I love San Juan, but you'll miss out on a special different side to PR if all you see is San Juan.

"I did absolutely nothing and it was everything I thought it could be"
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  • 4 weeks later...
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.

Several hotels have their own beaches in PR, like both the Hyatt Dorado and Hyatt Cerromar on the north shore, from which I've just returned.

The Pina Colada was created at the Hotel El San Juan, and there is a placque at the grand, chadeliered bar there that notes that historic fact.

Two other terrific restaurants on the island:

AquaViva, a few doors down on Calle Forteleza from Parrot Club (and owned by the same group), hip, groovy, vibe, with exceptional modern twists on some PR classics, with a kitchen dinette look in aqua and white and some spectacular neon jellyfish lamps dangling from the ceiling (aguaviva=jellyfish).

Metropol, in Isla Verde, across from the Hotel El San Juan, with genteel waiters, classic PR home cooking and nice patio ambience.

I will post greater detail about our dining shortly.

Edited by Rich Pawlak (log)

Rich Pawlak


Reporter, The Trentonian

Feature Writer, INSIDE Magazine
Food Writer At Large


"In Cerveza et Pizza Veritas"

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