With a diverse history of original Taino Indian inhabitants to Spanish colonization with African slaves and the ultimate acquisition by the United States, Puerto Rico is a veritable melting pot of cultures. Being a “stopping point” for many travelers on the way to or from somewhere, some have stayed, providing even more diversity not only in population, but of foods and flavors.
Most foodies agree that Puerto Rico is a fantastic place to treat your tastebuds to gastronomic delights and here are 9 of my favorite ways!
Zest and Mist
Treated to a personal cooking lesson at the rooftop perched Mist, Chef showed us how to make his recipes for some Puerto Rican classics, like Bacalaitos fritos, Pasteles, Arroz con gandules, Potatas and Pork Pernil.
If these are making your mouth water, be sure to check back for the recipes so you can make these yourself! – coming soon…
A blend of traditional age old family recipes and innovative experimentation, Chef Raul’s dishes were by far the best I had experienced during my stay.
A light hearted and focused man, he relishes in being able to create and act upon new ideas and techniques freely. The passion in which he speaks of his art comes through in a tantalizing layer of flavors and smells that will surely be a hub for your fondest memories of Puerto Rico.
Make sure you ask to try his Coquito – it’s the best on the island!
Spoon Food Tours
Founded by Paulina and Gustavo from their love of food and Puerto Rico, Spoon Food Tours offers the kind of gastronomic adventure that would excite the true traveler at heart, not your average tourist. Infused with rich history and cultural mini lessons, you can choose from walking, driving or customized culinary and drinking tours.
A minimum of just 2 people gets the experience started and don’t be afraid to ask questions or make personalization requests – it’s your tour! Knowledgable, friendly and accommodating, these two will bend over backwards to make sure your day is one to remember and will even make recommendations based on your desire of additional spots to check out on your own.
Paulina and Gustavo’s passion for good eats is contagious and if you only have one free day to explore San Juan, I highly recommend you spend it with them!
La Placita de Santurce
By day, it’s a local fresh farmer’s market – a haven for fresh fruits, vegetables, spices and many of the endemic ingredients of Puerto Rican food that give the local food it’s vibrant flavors.
Located at Stop 19 Ponce De Leon Ave, in Santurce, the market is also surrounded by renowned restaurants.
By night, La Placita is a local favorite hotspot for nightlife and has been described as “Mardi Gras meets New Year’s Eve somewhere in Rio de Janeiro”, with live music, street dancing and of course, drinking.
Unassuming and simple, you’ll find Orozco’s serving authentic Puerto Rican fare at reasonable prices next to a souvenir shop on the busy street of Avenida Ashford in Condado. Service is friendly and a handful of tables outside allow you to enjoy the sunshine and people watch while you wait for your meal.
My must try favorites from here would be the Shrimp Mofongo, yellow rice and peas and red sangria. Don’t forget to ask for the house made hot sauce, it’s not too spicy and has a wonderful garlic flavor.
Located at 1126 Avenida Ashford.
Red Coral Lounge
Immediately upon entering the San Juan Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino, you are greeted with a chic modern bar and lounge area with accompanying dance floor and stage.
Guests staying at the hotel are treated to a live band or DJ along with the convenience of already being at arguably the best and most favored nightlife in Condado. Paired with an impressive menu that can hardly be called “bar food”, currently featuring an extensive array of sushi, it’s no wonder locals and tourists alike can be found here any night of the week.
If you get a hankering for Chinese while on the island, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find there is an authentic Chinese restaurant in the heart of Condado, serving delicious family style meals called Golden Chopsticks. Bring your appetite to this newly opened restaurant and be prepared to share as you feast on asian delicacies like a king.
Two absolute must try dishes are Cantonese style Ginger and Scallion Lobster, picked fresh from the aquarium and the Maggie Sauce Jumbo Shrimp.
Located at 1018 Avenida Ashford.
There is a family owned and operated restaurant tucked away in the quaint mountain town of Orocovis, where it is Christmas year round. Decorated with just the right amount of whimsy and nostalgia, El Navideno will put a smile on even the Grinchiest of Scrooges.
The large restaurant boasts a banquet/events area under the main dining area along with several charming holiday themed rooms available for rent up top.
Townsfolk stop by throughout the day to enjoy the band that plays on the patio, while a talented artisan whittles a special 3 faced wise man statue from wood in just under an hour.
The Churrasco here is perfectly spiced and literally melts in your mouth. They serve the traditional holiday drink Coquito in two ways – in a martini glass rimmed with funfetti or as a flaming shot, which is unique to the restaurant.
Located at #3 Pedro Arroyo Street.
With an impressive wine cellar, this Spanish Restaurant will please those looking for a higher end dining experience with flavorful latin options in Condado.
Tucked just off to the side of the same building as Golden Chopsticks, Yantar provides an amazing view of the lagoon with a largely surf and turf style menu.
I recommend skipping the main course and ordering a few different tapas instead. There is a lot to choose from and you’ll enjoy a savory sampling of dishes. Save room from dessert because they have some interesting creations.
Located at 1018 Avenida Ashford.
Chinchorreo Bus Tour
The Puerto Ricans have mastered the art of making an entire day out of eating and drinking in merriment with family and friends with the Chinchorreo Bus. At first glance it may look like solely a tourist thing to do, but it’s actually a popular activity for locals during the holiday season, as well as any other festive time of the year (which basically means all year round, right?)
In essence a party bus complete with neon lights and a driver that doubles as the DJ, you choose your route and forget about designating a driver so you can concentrate on good times instead. Stopping at several locations, the object of this endeavor is to grab an appetizer plus a signature drink and then hop back on the bus to move on to the next location.
My stay, activities and meals were hosted by San Juan Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino. Opinions remain my own.