We tried to eat as local and authentic as we could during our week in Puerto Rico. Some culinary highlights:
Los Pinos Cafe, San Juan. Our very first night in Puerto Rico, we stayed at a Courtyard in downtown San Juan. It was just blocks from a small, unassuming cafe called Los Pinos. There we had our first taste of mofongo, the signature dish of San Juan. It’s basically cooked, mashed plantain, made into a bowl and stuffed with meat. We chose chicken with a garlic-based sauce, and it was pretty good!
Wendy’s, everywhere. Only twice in an entire week did we eat “stateside” food, and both times it was at Wendy’s. There are plenty of familiar fast food chains in Puerto Rico, but it seemed that the Wendy’s were all over the place! And nice ones, too – much nicer than we’ve seen where we live. There’s even a Wendy’s Puerto Rico locator app for the iPhone. I found that very amusing.
RB Restaurant, Courtyard by Marriott, Aguadilla. We were so pleased with this in-house dining option during our stay in Aguadilla. We ate everything from fresh seafood to delicious soups and salads to hearty breakfasts in this restaurant. It was consistently delicious, with great service, and as many local flavors as possible (this was where I first tried tostones, or fried plantains).
Ricomini Bakery, Mayaguez. A teacher at my son’s school was raised in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, and enthusiastically suggested we make a trip to Ricomini Bakery. We had lunch there one afternoon, and it was fantastic. It’s just a local panaderia, selling sandwiches, pastries, and some dry goods (like the Ricomini Brazo Gitano Guava & Cheese jelly rolls…yummm!). People came and went and seemed to know each other well, and my husband and I were clearly the only “tourists” in the place. We love eating at places like that!
Tommy’s Place & Calizo, both in Las Croabas/Fajardo. During the final days of our trip, we stayed at El Conquistador Resort in Fajardo, Puerto Rico. The food at the resort itself was insanely expensive, so we opted when we could to eat off-site. Just outside the resort is a little fishing village called Las Croabas. One night we ate at an open air “restaurant” (and I use that term VERY loosely – hence the quotations) called Tommy’s Place. Tommy’s specializes in fresh seafood, and that’s what most of us ordered. One friend had lobster, one had red snapper (where they brought the WHOLE snapper – head, eyes, the whole thing), and I tried grouper for the first time. It was all delicious, fresh, and very cheap. The next day we found a place called Calizo for lunch. It had a nicer restaurant portion that wasn’t open yet, but they also had a road-side cooking stand and patio area where we were able to grab some local “fast food.” Again, we all ordered seafood, and it was wonderful.
Some final thoughts about eating in Puerto Rico:
- you’ll find some form of plantains on EVERY menu, at nearly every meal. they eat a LOT of plantains!
- you’ll also see a bottle or cup of sauce presented at EVERY meal called “mayoketchup.” it’s basically fry sauce – mayonnaise + ketchup – but different restaurants doctor it up with hints of lemon, garlic, guava juice, you name it. it’s absolutely everywhere. they eat it with fries, fried plantains, fried seafood, on rice, on eggs, everything.
- if you are eating at a very local place, prepare to wait…and wait…and wait for your food. we found that most places were in no hurry to get us our food, and that although they were friendly, customer service was not a huge concern.
- we also tried and enjoyed the signature dish “arroz con gandules” – or rice and pigeon peas, often mixed with other ingredients like chorizo. we also ate a lot of rice & beans. but we never did try lechón – the suckling roast pig sold in stands all along the roads.
- and I *finally* tried my very first arepa. I am now in love with them and have already bought all the ingredients to make my own at home!