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Jason Perlow x

Puerto Rico Dining

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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.

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.

True, but I believe Jason's reference was to San Juan. I don't recall any other hotel in San Juan having a private beach.


Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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We recently spent a few days in San Juan. It was not a particularly happy occasion as we went to be with family and attend the funeral of cousin of Mrs. B who met with an untimely and violent death at the hands or armed robbers. We haven't been back down there for a good many years and our visits have been few since my mother-in-law passed on. As evidenced by my post above, I took a quick look in the forum before we rushed down and we didn't have time to make any reservations before we left, nor did we know what our schedule might be. My comments are on a rather helter skelter choice of restaurants.

I should also note that our trip started on its own disaster. Mrs. B had wanted to check out a new inexpensive small hotel in Old San Juan for use by her clients. It looked good on the web and both the web site and industry online booking service noted, free parking and city view for the rooms. Old San Juan can be a bitch to drive in and out of at certain times of day, but since we weren't going for the beach and a location convenient to bars and restaurants would be nice, staying Old San Juan with a place to park would be just great, so we booked a double at the Hotel Plaza de Armas. We arrived and were told the hotel is free of any parking space or facility and were shown to an air-conditioned room without a single window. We were offered a suite with a window at a much higher price than the one at which we reserved. So there we were in San Juan in February without a room. Mrs. B had already passed up the chance to reserve a decent hotel room at a travel agent's discount in order to check this place out. The only good news was that Mrs. B hadn't ever sent a client to the hotel based on the promises of its web site and that I have the opportunity to warn readers of eGullet.com

To make a long story short, we opted for a room at the Excelsior in Miramar, a place we've used before when we were in an emergency taking care of family business mode as opposed to vacation mode. These kind of trips can wreck hell on a budget. At some point before we made our final hotel reservation and before we were able to contact my brother-in-law who was at a meeting, I was searching Condado for a place where we could get Cuban sandwich or some sort of snack like that as well as keeping an eye out for a cybercafe. Somehow we managed to get on Loiza Street and I spotted La Tasca de Yiyo and recognized the name from an eGullet post and decided to stop and give it a try

The service was very friendly as I've come to expect in places with down home cooking. Here they featured precooked specials of the day. The food was tasty, but not so special. Arroz con pollo was baked chicken with yellow rice on the side rather than the preparation I've come to think of by that name. An avocado salad however, had real taste, as did most of the avocados we had down there. You don't usually find avocados with that much flavor in NYC. Otherwise there's not much for me to say about the place. You used to be able to depend on even better food in local joints all over town or maybe my memories are from a time when I was less discerning about Puerto Rican food. There were different specials every day of the week. Admittedly, Wednesday's list was not the most interesting of menus.

Still, for $5.95 it was all I could expect, but I wouldn't go more than a block or two out of my way for what we had. Maybe Thursday's menu is sufficiently better. It looked more interesting.

The afore mentioned brother-in-law hadn't been to Ajili Mojili but said he'd heard good things and told us there was valet parking and that we didn't need reservations. There was valet parking and it looked as it our information sources were improving. There was also a forty minute wait for a table. Fortunately by now we were checked into a hotel and adjusting to Caribbean time. Two seats at the bar were most welcome after our morning's logistical problems and a long afternoon at the wake. Two strong rum and sodas didn't make the world a more just place, but they helped us cope with it as it is. By the time our table was ready, we were ready for and upscale version of "Puerto Rican food as the Moms of Puerto Rico cooked it," as Sweet Willie described the food. By and large however, that's not what we found on the menu. This didn't seem the same place likely to have an asopao festival, or a chicken or goat fricasse festival as Miguel Gierbolini described either.

Upscale places in Puerto Rico can be just as friendly and unpretentious as at down home places. Unfortunately friendly is not the same as professional. Service was rough. Mains arrived while our appetizer was only half eaten. They were out of the first two wines we ordered. At that point however, the manager arrived to apologize and help us select something in stock. He appeared to know the list and made good suggestions at a reasonable price.

We expected a riff on traditional PR food, but found nouvelle latino fusion that didn't cut it for us. Food was a bit weird to our taste and bland. Everything needed zip--maybe a touch of ... ajili mojili. I would have liked to ask for some pique, but it seemed insulting as the place tried to pass itself off as a chef driven restaurant. Tuna with sweet puree (prunes?) and mashed tuber was just a mismatch. The churrasco was less wrong, but the yucca fries (frozen?) were half baked and the salsa too sweet. The mofongo appetizer--mofongo cups filled with bacon were much more successful. With some beers--and some pique--they would have been worth the stop at the bar.

We were disappointed. Later conversations with locals indicated the place had changed hands and personality when it moved recently. Maybe the explains the discrepancy between what we expected and what we found. Too bad we got that local view after we ate there.

Pikayo

Casita Blanca and

Tasca El Pescador to follow


Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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Has anyone stayed at the El Convento in Old San Juan -- Mrs. B? We are spending only one night after a week at the Bitter End in the BVI and want to stay in Old San Juan to explore the city. I have a reservation at El Convento but just read some very mixed reviews. Obviously based on Bux' experience the Plaza des Armas is right out. Any other suggestions of where to stay? And Bux, can you give us a sneak peek of your feelings on the other two restaurants you ate at? Are they "thumbs up" or down?

Thanks

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I've not stayed at El Convento, but friends of mine did a few years ago and thought it was superb. I have stayed at the Wyndham Old San Juan (right across from the cruise ship piers) and it was nice as well. You could easily walk from the Wyndham to all the sights in Old SJ- and go eat at La Bombanera. Yummy.

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Pikayo is a beautiful place, located inside the new Museo de Artes de PR, but I wish the restaurant was up to its decor and location. Service was not up to fine dining standard. Appetizers arrived before the wine. The recitation of specials was too long to remember and recited without emphasis. This unplanned and stressful trip was already enough of a budget breaker that we just went ahead and ordered a special without asking the price. That's never a good habit. In this case the special was obscenely priced at more than twice the price of the average main courses. I half expected that and it was one of the reasons I opted not to order the foie gras recommended to us by someone we knew who was also eating there that night. The Caribbean lobster tail might have actually been worth the price if it was perfectly cooked. It wasn't. I would have traded the whole tail for one or two medallions from Blue Hill in NY where a tasting menu runs the same price as the single dish. Huge portions of less than absolutely perfect food are a turn off for us. I'm told this is the best restaurant in San Juan and I've no doubt it is. There's a fair amount of finesse and refinement in the cooking and the recipes, but without a local tradition of haute cuisine in a town where restaurants are driven by tourism that's not gastronomic, this is probably already a better restaurant than the market drives.

[interestingly enough, we had a few conversations with locals on days after our dinner and what I felt was pretty much confirmed. Opinion seems to be that the quality of the cooking has declined as the ambience has gone upscale. The new location in the Museo de Arte is a place to see and be seen and the design and decor get more attention than the food.]

The kitchen can turn out very good food. My sea bass was exceptionally well cooked and the dish itself was well conceived. Our appetizers while nice, just weren't up to the level of cooking we expected. The salmorejo alcapurrias were very nice, but not special and the garlic mayonnaise just seemed commercial--out of a bottle and doctored with garlic. The same sauce appeared on top of the lobster ginger "pegao." "Pegao," the rice that sticks to the pot, was here, a rice cake that was too thick and too dry and which overwhelmed the delicate lobster. I expected a thinner crisp rice disk. Something more like a blini.

I found the wine list a bit curious. The whites were dominated by California chardonnays and I assumed that's what the chef felt went best with his food. I'm unfamiliar with California Chardonnays, haven't liked most of what I've had and never moved on to the better ones. I asked the waiter if I could get some help with the wines and he replied that his favorite wine was one of the two albariños, but that people know chardonnays, so that's what stocked. I didn't know how to process the information that implied this could be a restaurant that could cater to me if it wasn't catering to to its market. I'm a fan of albariño wines. Their discovery has been instrumental in my developing an interest in Spanish wines in general.

There was a strange, at least to me, $2 charge per person for water, but you did get all the Fiji water you could drink and a 15% service charge added to bill, with space for additional tip clearly marked as "extra tip."

I can't remember what I thought of La Casita Blanca the first time I was taken there. I'm sure I wasn't impressed by the disposable cups for beer and water or the unmatched vinyl tablecloths. The menu of unfamiliar stews and Puerto Rican home cooking couldn't have been all that enticing either. Over the years, I've learned to love and respect the home cooking--and restaurant meals in Puerto Rico haven't hurt my appreciation for Borinquen home cooking either--and lunch at La Casita Blanca has become one of the more rewarding parts of a trip to San Juan.

We go for Lunch as we're told dinner is the same food, reheated, although most of it is stewed or braised and may be okay hours later, if they're not sold out of the dish I want. This is a really popular local place and best visited with a native. The dishes of the day are all listed in Spanish on a blackboard and if you're not both fluent in Spanish and acquainted with the local cuisine, many of the dishes may be a mystery.

It's a very down home place. They've expanded, San Juan has become more urban and chickens are no longer running around in the neighborhood, but there seems to have been no deterioration in quality or service, nor have the prices gone upscale. Three of us ate for $55--complimentary bacalito fritos, three main courses, five beers, two coffees and 20% tip.

We arrived at about two o'clock and the place was packed. The gate was locked and they wouldn't let us in because they said they couldn't handle any more customers. We offered to wait at the bar, but there was no longer a bar, so we stood outside. Our determination was appreciated and a waiter returned with three fruit drinks with rum on the house to "alleviate our wait."

Our choices were representative of the menu--Patitas de cerdo con garbanzos, Fricasse de cabrito and Salmorejo de jueyes (pig's feet with chickpeas, goat stew and a stew of land crab meat) and came with a choice of rice and beans or tostones. The fiery house "pique," is usually for sale by the bottle. Unfortunately didn't have any for sale at the time.

This is not what I'd really call a destination restaurant, but I don't know if one can eat better food in town, and certainly not better at twice the price. It's just good home made typical food or maybe traditional food. I wonder if it's as typical today as it used to be.

We skipped dinner after that lunch and had some wine and snacks with friends in the evening. One of them, who's in NY a lot and who knows his food, suggested we try Tasca El Pescador for lunch the next day before we left the island. This was part of a three part recommendation in response to our tales of the meals we'd had and our inquiry as to where we could get some good morcilla to take home. Across the street from the Plaza Del Mercado (just off the Calle Canal exit from the Espresso Baldorioty de Castro) and catty corner to El Pescador was a butcher shop where we might get some home made morcilla. The market itself was a colorful covered tropical fruit and produce market and for good measure, there was a good fish restaurant run by an-bullfighter from Spain.

We started with really good appetizers--buñuelos de bacalao, ensalada de carucho (conch) and avocado--were enough to whet our appetite for more food, or should I say my appetite. It was a very early lunch and appetizers were enough for Mrs. B. The recommendation was for the fresh fish and the waiter said the salmonettes were local and fresh. Regrettably, I forgot that fish are generally way overcooked in simple places and that was the case here. I'd return, but maybe to try the arroz con calamares or zarzuela de mariscos as well as explore more of the appetizers.

There's a menu on the table and a handwritten sheet, with today's dishes and prices, is presented. I noticed mofongo and arañitas on other tables, but not on the menu, so it pays to ask about those standards.

Prices were reasonable. This is a down home place, but upscale from La Casita Blanca. $12 for the fried fish with tostones or rice and beans and a forgettable salad. The appetizers were five to seven dollars. There was a small but nice selection of wines, all Spanish and equally divided between red and white--five albarinos, including one in half bottle size--at good prices.

Flan de queso was sticky and too sweet. I'd skip desserts next time. All in all it seems a find. A look at the market and the block of bars around were reminders of a earlier time in San Juan. We bought some "pique" from a vendor in the market. We just couldn't pass up the reused rum bottles, some with the original labels still on. I made sure to screw the tops on tightly before asking the lady to pack the bottles in a plastic bag for the plane.


Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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Has anyone stayed at the El Convento in Old San Juan -- Mrs. B?  We are spending only one night after a week at the Bitter End in the BVI and want to stay in Old San Juan to explore the city.  I have a reservation at El Convento but just read some very mixed reviews. 

A couple of years ago we visited El Convento, did not stay there. Just a month ago I sent a client there and they loved it. They liked the accommodations, the location They also mentioned that the staff was very friendly and helpful and that the hotel included several unexpected ammenities in the room, like bottled water at no charge. Don't know the date of the bad or mixed reviews you read but since the hotel was taken over to be represented by Small Luxury Hotels they need to comply with stringent qualifications. I am sure you will love it.


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Howdy all,

Just learned that the folks at Bacardi are sending me on a junket to San Juan to taste some of their aged rums. :biggrin: I've got 4 days & 3 nights (1/17-20) in the San Juan area. Where should I eat?

I'm after genuine Puertoriqueno cuisine, but that can be fancy or simple street food. Authenticity is the key - no McIsland food.

Thanks for your input.


Peace,

kmf

www.KurtFriese.com

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I've never felt more authentic than eating at the food shacks at Luquillo Beach about 45 minutes or an hour east of San Juan near the entrance to El Yunque.

Considerably less rustic, but a favorite I've been to four times in two visits to San Juan is the Parrot Club in Old San Juan.


Bill Russell

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Thanks Bilrus, I'll look into those.

I just found out I'm staying at the Intercontinental at 5961 Isla Verde Avenue. What's that close to?


Peace,

kmf

www.KurtFriese.com

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The Intercontinental is on a stretch of beach with a few big hotels.. the El San Juan is next door. Definitely check out the lobby bar and casino...gorgeous, "old world" feel. Dining options are the Palm and Mortons or Ruth Chris. I'd skip those unless you're craving a steak. I think the food in the big hotels is generally mediocre..but there is a bar at the top of the ESJ that makes a great guacamole..spectacular view.

Mi Casita is in a small shopping center nearby..easy walk..basically across th estreet from your hotel..reasonable and good local food. It came recommended by our cab driver. There's also a little bar/restaurant up the beach..take a left from your hotel..looking at the water..few doors from the Water Club..(another great roof bar)a "local beer after the beach" type of place, but surprisingly good food.

Metropole is often mentioned for good Cuban/ PR food...but locals recommended Mi Casita over it.

Old San Juan is a 10-15 min cab ride..but well worth a trip. Try to take some time and wander around. El Morro is worth a look. We ate in a good restaurant in Hotel El Convento..heard good things about both Parrot Club and Dragonfly..but we never got to them..next trip.


Edited by 9lives (log)

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definitely check out old san juan

dishes to try:

mofongo (mashed green plantain) with your choice of meats carrucho (conch) is a good local, but chicken, beef, pork are common.

alcapurrias - puerto rican empanadas - are an excellent street food - also many fillings are available.

have fun


"I like to keep a bottle of stimulant handy in case I see a snake, which I also keep handy." -W.C. Fields

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Old San Juan is a 10-15 min cab ride..but well worth a trip. Try to take some time and wander around. El Morro is worth a look. We ate in a good restaurant in Hotel El Convento..heard good things about both Parrot Club and Dragonfly..but we never got to them..next trip.

Drangonfly is fun and is probably the best "fusion" place I've tried anywhere. It is "Carrib-asian" but it works there. It is almost directly across the street from Parrot Club (with teh same owners) on Calle Fortaleza.

I ate at El Picoteo in the El Convento - don't know if that is the one you're referring to. I don't think it is their main restaurant, but is a pretty nice tapas bar in the courtyard of very cool old hotel near the cathedral in old San Juan.


Bill Russell

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Well, here’s a summary of the places that my wife and I visited in San Juan this past weekend. I’ll try to keep it short. I'll fail.

Before I go too far, I'd like to thank the eGullet community for all the tips and reviews on restaurants in San Juan. I read them all and jammed them into one document before we left so that I would have something to go on. So thanks to everyone who contributed. Miguel Gierbolini and Damien’s recommendations from the Restaurant Recommendations in Puerto Rico? thread were particularly helpful and accurate. Also, much thanks to Oscar who was studying in the Convento hotel and recommended some places to visit.

We left on Thursday afternoon, arrived in San Juan, picked up a rental car, and drove to the Old San Juan area. Guidebooks be damned - we were going to drive down the cobbly narrow streets of OSJ and pray for parking. We found a parking space within three blocks of the hotel (El Convento). Since it was already 3 p.m., and my wife is pregnant, and I don't have a death wish, we grabbed a snack in the hotel.

El Picoteo is the tapas bar in El Convento. I had read good opinions of it on eGullet and elsewhere. So we decided to give it a shot (thus disobeying the first law of travel eating - never eat in the hotel). We ordered three dishes - the grilled calamari, the meatballs in almond sauce, and some empanada-style dish that was filled with lobster. And a mojito for me.

The only thing I would (and did) order again would be the mojito - It was excellent (but for $7.50, it damn well better be). As for the food - The lobster epanada was OK; But really, were talking about a HotPocket here. More precisely, four $2.50 HotPockets. The grilled calamari was also OK - it seemed fresh and included plenty of garlic and spices. Nothing special. The meatballs, however, were special because the sauce was rancid. Why is it that some people aren't able to taste rancid nuts? I mean, it is the most awful taste to exit a kitchen. It was pretty clear that some of whatever almonds were used to make the sauce were past their prime. The hotel was nice, but we would be eating elsewhere for the remainder of our vacation. No more unsatisfying $50 snacks.

That evening we found our way to Baru, which is about four blocks from the hotel, or a little longer if you follow our guidebook map (Note to LonelyPlanet: You’ve got Baru on the wrong block. By like 3 streets.) This is another tapas place that was mentioned highly by some other eGullet reviewers. We enjoyed the food here. We ordered some plantain chips that came with a bean salsa that was slightly sweet ($10). This was followed by a beef carpaccio that was excellent ($16). And to finish off we had shrimp skewers with a yucca mofongo ($23). Meanwhile I continued to drink mojitos ($7), which were about the same as at the hotel – Awesome.

The next morning we made our way to the local bakery/diner that seems to be universally recommended – La Bombonera (even though it was in the LonelyPlanet guidebook). I didn’t find the mallorca pastries to be too compelling (not that they were bad – just not Krispy Kreme good or anything) - but the coffee was excellent, the fruit salad fresh, and atmosphere was pleasant. I would definitely return - and we did. Three days in a row. So here’s my advice if you go:

Walk in the door, look to your right, and pick a pastry. They will all be somewhat smaller than what you would expect from a European bakery. My favorite was the sugar donut - chewy and delicious. Tell the nice woman who gets your pastries that you would like them for here. Try out your Spanish if you want (para aqui, I think). She'll put them on a plate and you can walk in and take a table. When the waiter comes, order coffee and expect that it will come with milk. Maybe order a mallorca if you’re into that kind of thing. When the coffee arrives, try to put some sugar in your coffee. Keep shaking. Keep shaking. No, no – bang the bottom. Hmmm… Give up and unscrew the lid and use your spoon.

We had several dishes during the three visits - our favorites were the fruit salad, the fresh squeezed orange juice, and the breakfast sandwiches. My bacon, egg and cheese on the last day was especially delicious. The best description I can give on the sandwiches is that they are like a crust-out Panini. The fries that came with the sandwich were the best I’d had in months. Maybe ever. Perfect diner fries. Heinz on the table to boot. Large breakfast for two cost about $15 and is worth every penny. This is superior roadfood – on a really narrow road.

Speaking of roadfood, the next day we drove over to Pinones. This is an area of beachside snack shacks and fritter huts just east of San Juan. We passed most of the shacks and eventually tried to turn around and go back. That's when I jammed the rental Suzuki into the beach sand and promptly got stuck. A big thank you to the six construction workers who stopped to help push us out. I was getting tired of digging and starting to really miss my Subaru Baja. Welcome to Puerto Rico indeed.

We finally got back to the shacks and just walked around, pointed at stuff, and ate it. I think we had a crab epanada (which at $1.50, was 2x the size and taste of the lobster ones from the hotel). We also had a bacalaito (bah-kah-la-E-to? I think), which looks like a potato chip on steroids but is really a codfish fritter. It is not at all similar to a clam fritter like you would get in Rhode Island – It is big and flat. But it was delicious. We also got some virgin Pina Colada drinks that were great. It seemed like we were eating Puerto Rican county fair food; It was delicious, perfect to hold us over until dinner, and cost about $12 total – And that’s with $5 of cold virgin Pina Colada goodness.

For dinner, I wanted to try traditional Puerto Rican food. My first choice was La Casita Blanca, but we were advised that we could get similar quality at half the price at El Jibarito in Old San Juan. I have mixed feelings about El Jibarito. On the one hand, I got an entire fried red snapper for $16. It was fresh and delicious. My wife and I cleaned those bones bare. On the other hand, this was partly because my wife grouper was not so fresh and delicious. The opposite occurred with respect to our side dishes – her rice was delicious, while my mofongo was dry and inedible. I should have ordered the tostones (sp?). I must say that this was not a good introduction to mofongo. To top it off, as I was finishing my meal, the waiter was offering some kind of special house hot sauce to the other tables of tourists (cruisers, no less!) before their entrées even arrived. I sure could have used that with my fish… It’s not that I wouldn’t go back to El Jibarito, but I'd try to hit La Casita Blanca first. And I’ve never even been there.

One of the things that I most wanted to experience in Puerto Rico was to visit a lechonera. This is a restaurant where they serve roast pork off of a spit. Living in North Carolina (and knowing my way around a pork shoulder or two), I was naturally curious. I can't say exactly what the usual preparation is - Although I've heard things like 'marinated in sour orange juice and garlic'. We had heard that the Guyavate region was well known for its many lechoneras. We were also advised to drive a little past the ones that you see right when you get off the highway.

So we got off the highway (52?) and headed east. There were some lechoneras immediately on the right, and they sure looked good enough to me - But we kept driving, staying on the most windy-hilly-roller-coaster of a road I think I've ever been on. There were times that I thought the cheap Suziki rental car would not be equal to the task. I highly recommend this road if you have some kids along for the ride. They'll love it.

Once we got to mile (km?) marker 29 (about 5 minutes off the highway), there on the right was Mueller's Lechonera. No, not kidding. A German name for pork in the lush Puerto Rican hills. Open-air place with tables outside and the guest of honor visibly roasting out front. The pig was smaller than what we in NC are used to (I'm guessing - There was pretty much only a head and some shoulder left on the spit). For $13.25, my wife and I got rice, 2 fried plantain things, a pound of pork and a nice view.

The pork came with skin that was actually thin enough to eat - And fabulous. Some of the pieces of pork had more zing (salt and pepper, seemed like), while others had a great charcoal flavor from the spit. The serving of rice was as large as a paper plate can handle - It was very good, as was the plantain type food item. There was what I believe was some pique near the counter which went well with the pork. It's a little windy of you sit outside, so take care that your plate doesn't blow into your lap - I speak from experience. The only thing I regret is not tipping the kid who brought our food (Do you tip if you order at the counter? I don't in the US, but maybe I should have given him a buck...).

There are those of us whose most vivid memory of high school Spanish was the 'D+' we got in it. Luckily for us, here (and on the rest of the island, with the exception of Pinones), this was not an issue - English was understood and spoken. We were there around 3 on a Saturday, and we pretty much had the place to ourselves. If HollyEats ever makes it to Puerto Rico, no doubt La Bombonera, Muellers and Pinones would be required stops.

The last place we tried was The Parrot Club in OSJ - We needed just a snack to sleep on after the porkfest of that afternoon. We had heard some yea's and nay's from fellow tourists, but the crabcake was recommended. So of course we ordered it. And didn't really care for it. I'll admit that it had plenty of crab in it, but there was really nothing compelling about the texture or flavor. The bacalaitos (sp? - with cool crab salad) were a much more refined version than the ones we had in Pinones. Smaller flat fritters that matched well with the crab salad - They were spectacular and disappeared quickly. Drinks were good, although the mojito was probably the least spectacular I had during our visit. We overtipped after being undercharged by 1 drink.

And that’s about it. Our rental was banged by someone overnight (via fist, not vehicle – Unless someone made it onto the sidewalk). Maybe we took someone’s spot? We figured sure we were going to regret not taking the insurance. When my wife showed the small dent to the guy at Budget, he looked at it and sort of shrugged. The words he used were ‘Here’s your receipt’ – But his expression was just the same as the guys who pushed us out of the sand – Welcome to Puerto Rico. We’ll be back.

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My husband and I will be coming to San Juan, PR from November 3 to November 6. This will overlap with my husband's birthday. I would love to take him out for a special dinner. It should be something authentic to PR with a decent atmosphere. I am flexible on price but don't want to break the bank (not more than $200 including drinks). Is there anything special people could recommend?

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I recommend Chayote as a great place to celebrate your husband's birthday. It has a nice atmosphere on Fridays especially but is not too raucous. It has been around for a few years so it si not a sceney place, but it is a firm favourite with locals. I think you could do it for about $200.00 with wine. The Chef uses a lot of local ingredients. It is high end modern Puerto Rican food. That is how I could best describe it. If you are not too bothered about a focus on local ingredients, other great choices for a birthday splurdge would be: Agustus...expensive

Il Perigino....Italian, expensive

Compostela, Spanish, great wine selection, expensive. If you want a bit more ambience, Dragon Fly is very popular, it is Latin/Asian fusion. It is always busy and you cannot make reservations so you can expect a wait. Baru is another happening place, especially at the weekend. The owners are Columbian and the food is kind of modern south American, they make great mojitos.

That is all I can think of for now. I'll post again, when my pregnant brain, starts to function again. Also explains the spelling errors.

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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:

Well it's been a good four years since anyone has popped anything in this thread so this will give it a huge bump! ;-)

Seriously, we will soon be leaving for our third year on Culebra and things sure have changed when it comes to food there even in that short time.

Food is one of the things we always look forward to on Culebra (the fact that we share a house with the executive chef of Maine's Cape Arundel Inn, notwithstanding)

A small store near the airport makes great Cubanos, El Batey has one of the best burgers anywhere (or maybe it just tastes great with the Heineken after a day at the beach).

Now, just atop the hill near the ferry terminal is Juanita Bananas, a delicious high-end restaurant that plays on the island flavors and other cuisines. It would easily be a contender and successful in any city.

For lunchtime fare Try El Eden deli, it has very good sandwiches, salads and the like. Or just try the foodstands at Flamenco Beach--a beach that will knock your socks off with its beauty.

And yes, the aforementioned Barbara Rosa's is still in business, though now at a different location.

Granted, Culebra is what many would consider a "downscale" island experience (which is why we like it so much), but as long as you don't expect white linen (or terribly prompt service) there is plenty of good food to be found.

I'll report on my eatings there during my upcoming stay.


"Democracy is that system of government under which the people…pick out a Coolidge to be head of the State. It is as if a hungry man, set before a banquet prepared by master cooks and covering a table an acre in area, should turn his back upon the feast and stay his stomach by catching and eating flies." H. L. Mencken

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I recommed Pikayo in the El San Juan, I believe that is the name. Had a wonderful feat there in a cool and sexy looking space with great cocktails, Plus if you haven't had a drink in the lobby of the El San Juan, you need to before you die. It is the most fabulous place on earth.

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I always make a point to visit El Jibarito, on Calle de Sol in Old San Juan. Especially when I need that bean (w/ sofrito) and rice fix. Mainly traditional Puerto Rican food with a twist. Very local and inexpensive.

If you go for lunch, try around noon, to beat the 1:00 lunch rush.

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I guess I don't have a specific recommendation but we vacationed at the Hyatt there before it got turned into time shares, the one next to the Doral with the river pool. Puerto Rico gave us the best everything we ever ate kid you not. Umm, it was a slow night in one of the hotel restaurants and I got the Mother of All Lobster Tails. It literally melted in my mouth like buttah. Of course I understand that is how lobster is supposed to be but good luck finding it.

But I think you will find the commonest food to be stellar. We did anyway.

Hope your trip is fabulous!

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Another bump: I'll be in Puerto Rico in the middle of June. I've never been before. I'll be at a conference in San Juan for a few days but would like to spend some time in other parts of the island. I'd be grateful for any recommendations of places, restaurants, markets, and experiences not to be missed. Thanks in advance!

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Thank you, nibbs. I'll be going to Puerto Rico in June, and your post really feels like advice from a friend. I'll probably have fewer mojitos, though.

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First,

Let me start by saying that all the recommendations given already are great...so I will not repeat them. Also, I come from a family of eaters, foodies so we have tried way too many restaurants in our little island. Casita Blanca is and has always been known as THE place to eat traditional Puerto Rican fare. Make sure you have a Mayorca at La Mallorquina. In San Juan, I am also a big advocate of Dragon Fly. i love their sushi with tostones, platains...the concept of fusion Puerto Rican/Asian just really appeals to me.

There are plenty of good argentinian places around. Chimichurri comes to mind and on my last trip my mother took me to TIERRA DEL FUEGO RESTAURANTE ARGENTINO

Plaza Las Américas Hato ReyTeléfono: 787-294-7018. This place was surprisingly good, given that it is located in the mall, and had this specific dish where you order a number of fine meat cuts that come on the grill for you to try out. The cuts were, as I said, surpisingly tasty and well seasoned.

If, however, you are looking for off the beaten path in other parts of the island, here are some places that come to mind:

La Casa del Guanime, I believe in Arecibo....delicious native indigenous food. The guanimes con bacalao will take you back to colonial times...not that I ever lived in them but the kind of food is very combination of african and indigenous traditions.

In Yauco, you should try the Chuletas Cancan...Guardaraya is a particularly good restaurant for this.

In Fajardo, by the Conquistador, El Ancla has very good seafood...at least it did years ago. I also know that one of the better Mexican places in the island is here...Lolita's but I have never been to it. My brother makes the treck over there whenever he can (I love Auroritas in San Juan for Mexican though)

On my last visit to PR I also went to Jajome Terrace in Cayey...gorgeous view and very very good food. I can't remember what I had for the life of me but it was delicious and different. I remember, however, that they had a sophisticated twist on traditional puerto rican fare. They had amazing chuletas can can.... http://www.jajometerrace.com/ The route in Cayey, La Ruta tends to have really goos lechoneras, specialized in "lechon a la vara" pork cooked at an open fire before your eyes. Oh yum yum. My family and I went to the very first one, El Mojito...a bit weary because well...we just dont like jumping to conclusions and the first one seemed a bit rush but boy were we happy when we tried their food and their mojito (not the alcoholic drink). When I go back to visit my family again I will definitely lad at el Mojito again. Carr 184 Km 32.9 Bo Beatriz Cayey, PR 00736 (787) 738-8888

I know I have been to some fabolous places in Ponce and Mayaguez, two other major cities that might be easy to get to...but I cannot remember off the top of my head many. I know there is anothe El Ancla in Ponce that i really really enjoyed. The seafood there is well worth it. My family is from Ponce and they would have a heart attack if they read this.

This is long enough...I hope this gives you some off the beaten path options to try out on your trip!

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sus-

Thank you so much for your reply, and sorry it took me so long to say so; sometimes I don't seem to get notified of replies even when I've checked off that option. I am off for Puerto Rico tomorrow, with your reply printed out. It all sounds wonderful; I'll report back.

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