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Hi. Anyone have any suggestions for a nice, semi-funky dinner in San Juan? I'm debating between Marmalade and Pikayo and Maramalde is ahead right now. Any other fun places to eat?

We had a very good meal this past weekend at Dragonfly in Old San Juan. Shared some "shrimp tacos" which were amazing flash fried shrimp topped with mango salsa and some roe, had some delightful skirt steak and a few other items that i'm blanking on at the moment.

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I was there a couple of years ago and some friends and I went to Pikayo. The decor was post-modern-feather-boa and the food was quite good. I don't remember what I had (sorry), but I do remember that everyone at the table was pleased with both the food and service, and there was also a nice selection of wine. It was an enjoyable meal.

For a fun and inexpensive meal in Old San Juan, there is a little hole in the wall Venezuelan restaurant that has fantastic arepas and other criollo food. I think it is actually called "Arepas", but it is instantly recognizable because it is painted the colors of the Venezuelan flag. I work in Venezuela, so I have a soft spot for the local food, and this was very good.

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We are back from San Juan and have a couple of recommendations for both food and drink. For Puerto Rican specialties like arroz con pollo and tostones rellenos served with fresh salsa and homemade aioli, go to Café el Punto on Fortaleza Street in Old San Juan. We noticed it in passing, and because it is on Fortaleza where the cruise ship crowds go for a few hours every day, we thought it would be both inauthentic and overpriced. We were surprised by recommendations from our Puerto Rican hosts to be sure to stop in, and we enjoyed our meal here very much.

We also enjoyed Caña, a rum bar in the Hotel el Convento on Cristo Street, also in Old San Juan. The drinks are fantastic and made with local, fresh ingredients, and the bar food was so good we wished we had not already eaten that day. We had bolitos de yuca, crispy little croquettes of cassava with a chipotle aioli, sweet corn fritters that were served with another great sauce that I have forgotten, and a wonderful spinach salad with local dried fruit and a balsamic dressing that I wish I could replicate at home. For drinks, try the caña mojito. It's served with the local mint - yerba buena - and a stick of fresh cane. They also have samplers of sipping rums so you can sample most of what PR has to offer. Caña also looked too touristy to be good, but, again, we trusted a recommendation and had a very nice time.

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I don't really have much else in San Juan proper. We had lunch one day in Manati (about 40 miles west of San Juan) at a little locally-owned place called the Ferrocarril. It's authentic with lots of character. I've only been one other time to a restaurant where you find a space at any of several large tables and choose from three or four menu options that disappear off the board as they run out of what was prepared that particular day. In San Juan, we stayed at a bed and breakfast, so we didn't go out for that meal except the last day at España, but this was heading out to the airport and someone local was driving us so I can't give good directions. This place makes the grilled breakfast sandwiches with the typical bread and also has (I'm told) very good coffee. It was absolutely packed with locals at 9 AM. Also, El Meson, the little place next to the Wendy's on the square on San Francisco street - the one with the fountain - has grilled sandwiches and great fresh juice (I like the parcha) if you need a snack.

A couple of food-related places that we did not get a chance to see were the Bacardi distillery (take the ferry from Pier 2 and then a cab), and the Don Q tasting room across from Pier 2 in San Juan proper. I'm going to try to do those on the next trip, although for serious rum tasting, Caña is the place to go.

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A few food highlights from my recent vacation in Puerto Rico:

El Toro Salao and The Parrot Club (Old San Juan) - We had tapas and sangria at the former, and dinner at the latter, both part of the Oof empire. WARNING: the web site is very musical and doesn't seem to have an off switch.

If it were up to me, I probably would have stayed at Spanish-inspired Toro Salao for a complete meal. I was completely in love with the decor and vibe, so when the croquetas de jamon and sangria I had were both terrific, I felt like "why move?" But my group of five had a wide variety of eating habits (one vegetarian, two others who didn't eat pork, two non-seafood lovers...you get the picture) so they wanted something more traditional than the tapas-heavy menu offered.

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The Parrot Club was nice, but not anything that reached out and grabbed us. After the filling croquetas, I opted to graze on appetizers including corn fritters (bland, disappointing), ropa vieja nachos (meat on the side due to the veg in the group; plantain chips instead of corn; nothing special), empanadillas con chorizo (tasty) and conch fritters (I didn't have any, but they were pretty popular). The vegetarian wasn't thrilled with her $16 platter of whatever. The only other entree ordered was a heavy, but delicious lamb shank.

Ummo (Condado; near Marriott) - I freakin' loved this place, the rare combination of style and substance. It's a scene, but for people of all ages and the restaurant is just as popular with locals as tourists. We were there on a Saturday night and it was a zoo, but Monday night, tables were available with no wait when we walked by.

Ummo is an Argentinean restaurant that emphasizes meat of various varieties. The specialty is the "paredilla", which two of use chose to share for the ridiculously good price of (I think) $42 - total, not per person. We chose not to have the morcilla and sweetbreads (I know, we were scaredy cats) and instead received extra skirt steak (fantastic, flavorful), chorizo (a slight kick, juicy) and short ribs (good, but not as good as the chorizo and skirt steak). The price also included two sides--we chose potatoes au gratin and a [boring] mesclun salad. I'd had a huge arugula salad with sweet peppers and bacon for an appetizer so I left my friend to the mesclun and tried to hog the rich potatoes. :lol:

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Even with drinks, we paid less than $40 per person which we all considered a steal. The vegetarian was muy contenta with her vegetarian dish chock full of interesting items.

After a few hours in El Yunque, we tried to visit Luquillo's beach, but it was closed due to "contamination." We instead went to Seven Seas (eh) before proceeding to Las Croabas near Fajardo for an evening kayak tour of a bioluminescent bay. We killed time - and stuffed ourselves - at Ocean View Restaurant. The arepas were delicious - mine was filled with a curry-like chicken - as were the empanada-like pastries (pastellidas? I'm drawing a blank) de carne. Arroz con habichuelas didn't look like what I expected, but tasted great. Definitely not a veg dish--delicious pork base.

I liked the tiled outdoor table we dined at so much I snapped a photo. Interestingly, this isn't a cash-only establishment; they take Amex.

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On our last night, we dined at Jam Rum Bar (Condado). It is, apparently, the sister restaurant to the more-established Marmalade. The space is attractive with a South Beach-inspired color scheme, but the drink menu is a broad mish-mash of items including a "low carb pina colada" which arrives looking like a plain, ungarnished martini to a tasty "pan de azucar sangria" to concoctions featuring guava or ginger beer.

Jam charges for bread, which is off-putting, but it does come with three delectable spreads: roasted saffron garlic, whipped parmesan butter and pesto aioli. Overall, our dishes tended to be either greatly oversalted or bland; the chef clearly isn't tasting dishes before they leave the kitchen. My white bean stew with pancetta was almost too salty, but managed to stay in-bounds; the lamb meatball appetizer I ordered as a main course was inedibly salty. Scalloped potatoes with black truffles were underseasoned, but tasted great with a pinch of salt.

To apologize for some of the missteps, the chef sent out a complimentary dessert of chocolate lemongrass. The gesture was sweet; the dessert, a liquid trainwreck. Jam is, in my opinion, trying to do too many things instead of focusing on doing a few things well, but the couple who owns both places is so lovely that you can't help but hope for them to succeed. Jam opened one month ago and is clearly struggling to find an audience.

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In July we were in San Juan for a wedding. The rehearsal dinner was at Dragonfly in Old San Juan. Its an Asian-Latin fusion restaurant and very trendy. But we really enjoyed the food and cocktails. Even for a relatively big crowd (about 50 poeple), the food was hot and fresh when it came out. I dont remember exactly what we had because we didn't order off of a menu, but I can say it was was way better than anything Zengo serves.

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Yesterday...Old San Juan...I was standing on the sun drenched ramparts of El Morro, we had lunch in the courtyard of Hotel El Convento, sangria and cubanos.

Today...Washington, DC...it is 60 degrees colder. snow on the ground. sigh.

Just back from a long weekend in San Juan and highly recommend visiting.

Ocean Park

Our first morning we wandered over to Kasalta's for breakfast, long display case filled with pastries, cakes, cheeses, some deli meats, and small selection of prepared food. Menu with sandwiches and breakfast is in spanish but the counter staff was helpful. excellent coffee.

Pamela's Caribbean Cuisine Fine dining restaurant located at the Numero Uno Guest House fulfilled every beach front restaurant cliche, in a good way. Tables on the beach, ocean just in front of you, cruise ship lights twinkling on the horizon, cresent moon hanging over Old San Juan. Food is modern caribbean - fresh seafood, fruit-chili salsas and garnishes, squeeze bottle sauces, but the chef doesn't pull any punches, when the menu says spicy it is spicy. Calamari app had the barest of batter and perfectly fried, crispy sardines (3 head-on fish) were excellent, cod special with spicy tiger shrimp sauce was ok cod a little dry, and blackened dorado with mango salsa was very good, caramel ice cream for dessert was also good. This place was expensive (dinner for two ran $180 with tax and tip), but the setting was picture perfect...walked back to our hotel via the beach.

http://www.numero1guesthouse.com/index.html

Old San Juan

We arrived in Old San Juan starving...cluster of tables with umbrellas on the sidewalk, looks nice, lets try. We were at Toro Salao, the tapas outpost of the OOF! Restaurant Group. Skirt steak sandwich ($12) with chorizo, manchego and onions downed with a couple beers made good fuel for some sightseeing.

After a couple hours touring, we stumbled across Mirabueno for a glass of sangria (Best. Sangria. Ever)...we instantly fell in love with this place and vowed we would return for dinner. 9:45pm the next night and they were closing shop. The old bartender behind the bar took pity and soon huge plates of serrano ham, manchego cheese, olives, dates, and freshly baked bread drizzled in cheese, olive oil and roasted garlic was spread across the bar. A couple of mojitos later (mint freshly picked from a small mint plant at the bar, limes juiced on the spot) and we were eating A Perfect Meal.

http://www.restaurantemirabueno.com/indexeng.html

Several sources told us that El Jibarito was the real deal for authentic old school PR food. Mofongo! densely mashed up plantains...weirdly addictive. This is a friendly casual family run joint...and at least worth the visit to try traditional local cuisine.

http://www.eljibaritopr.com/

Our last port of call before heading for the airport. Hotel El Convento is the grand hotel of Old San Juan...and a must see for spanish colonial architecture. At the center on the hotel is huge courtyard restaurant and bar area, a perfect spot to shake of the tourist dust and relax over drinks and bite. Lunch of cubano sandwich and a salad of local cheese, grilled onions, avocado and tomatoes with greens.

http://www.elconvento.com/index.cfm

Other Recommendations

Go to Ocean Park Beach. Relax under the palm trees. Buy a couple beers from the roaming cerveza man. The local brew is Medalla Light (yes light) and it is standard crap light beer in a can, but at $2 a can on the beach you quickly develop at taste.

Take a tour trip ($50 half day) or drive to El Yunque Rain Forest , approx. 45 minutes outside of San Juan. Hike the La Mina waterfall trial...takes about 90 minutes.

Go to Nuyorican for some late night salsa dancing and live music...this place is awesome! Shabby chic, wooden tables and plastic lawn chairs...but the 11 piece band (3 guys on horns, 3 guys on precussion, 3 guys call and response signing, keyboard, bass guitar) was smoking hot.

http://www.nuyoricancafepr.com/

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Wow...I could've used Tweaked's fantastic suggestions a few days ago. We were supposed to fly home from St Vincent on Sunday but our flights were cancelled due to bad weather. We spent Sunday night in San Juan and ventured out to Old San Juan that night for drinks and dinner.

We ended up at Mojito's (located Calle Recinto Sur 323). Forget the name or the fact that it's on the main strip. This place served up large portions of traditional Puerto Rican food at relatively low prices. All four of us went for various takes on mofongo - a dish made of mashed plantains that have been stuffed with meat/fish/veg of your choice. I had the mofongo stuffed with shredded aged beef and it was wonderful. The beef was likely a chuck roast that had been braised over a long time and shredded. The seasoning was somewhat indistinct and muted but the beef was moist and strong tasting (in a good way). The plantains had been coarsely mashed and mixed with onions, garlic and seasoning. Certainly, the flavours could have been a little sharper and there seemed to be an emphasis on quantity, but it was a steal at about $12. It had a real "home cooking" kind of flair to it. The place was packed on a Sunday night, mostly by what appeared to be local families.

The service at Mojito's was outstanding and friendly. After some of the dining debacles on St Vincent, this place was a real treat

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Leaving Thursday... Anyone have any new suggestions??? Thanks.

This is a strange question, but someone at work recommended the recommendations made by Andrew Zimmern when he traveled here last, and that made me wonder if anyone who has seen it agrees?

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This is a strange question, but someone at work recommended the recommendations made by Andrew Zimmern when he traveled here last, and that made me wonder if anyone who has seen it agrees?

We only ate around Old San Juan, but I would definitely second La Bombonera. Maybe for breakfast, as the butter bread+egg+cheese combo is a thing best worked off during the rest of the day. Also, looking back upthread, the rum bar Cana is no longer at El Convento and was replaced with a pizza place. $@%&. Otherwise, if you don't already have lodgings I would really recommend El Convento- there's an evening gratis wine and cheese reception. Enough free wine and manchego on the balcony can make the fruit bats buzzing you seem almost friendly and welcoming.

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Breakfast at La Bombonera is great...get a cafe con leche if you go...its made with a big, beautiful, antique cafe con leche maker (there must be a name for it, but alas, I don't know it). I had dinner at The Parrot Club, right in Old San Juan...I enjoyed it...live music, hoppin' bar atmosphere...I don't remember the food, but I remember the mojitos were really, really good :)

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if you are looking for the kind of place you can stumble into, la fonda del jibarito seemed to be a fairly reliable place to discover how they cook things locally. we went to a couple of fancier restaurants in old san juan, but this was my favorite. about as casual as they come, and lots of character in the dining room and on the menu. 280 calle sol is the address, on a residential backstreet with plenty of roving cats.

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My wife and I will be in San Juan for two nights in a few weeks. Can anyone recommend some places in town for some real local flavor. And what do we do on friday during the day after I get my base tan finished up? I have heardthe rum tour is stooopid now.

In Old San Juan earlier this year, we dined pretty well at Raices for lunch.... get the mofango... mashed plantains topped with your choice of meat. In Isla Verde, I've liked Metropol. Very casual... tasty bistec. I was pleasantly surprised by how good Koco in the El San Juan was. They're owned by the same folks (OOF) that own Parrot Club and Dragonfly in old San Juan. "modern latin" cuisine.

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In Old San Juan earlier this year, we dined pretty well at Raices for lunch.... get the mofango... mashed plantains topped with your choice of meat. In Isla Verde, I've liked Metropol. Very casual... tasty bistec. I was pleasantly surprised by how good Koco in the El San Juan was. They're owned by the same folks (OOF) that own Parrot Club and Dragonfly in old San Juan. "modern latin" cuisine.

Thanks for the pointers. I am not used to traveling and being at a complete loss as to where to eat. I think a mix of 'Modern Latin" and "old Latin " should be perfect

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My wife and I will be in San Juan for two nights in a few weeks. Can anyone recommend some places in town for some real local flavor. And what do we do on friday during the day after I get my base tan finished up? I have heardthe rum tour is stooopid now.

i just came back from a quick trip and really enjoyed my trip to pinones (we ate at mar de plata, but i'm assuming most of the places there are equally good. though mar did have unbelievable pina coladas).

As everyone's said, la bombonera is quite good, nice atmosphere, and we had a good meal at cafe de sam in old town.

in isla verde, there's a little place which i think is called mi casita which was really, surprisingly, good. (it's located in a strip mall on the main hotel street there, about 2 blocks from the el san juan hotel. the strip mall is next to the church's chicken and has a subway shop in it)

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Has anyone been to Puerto Rico lately?

I just booked tickets this weekend to go in late February for four days. I usually spend a lot more time planning a trip, but this was kind of spur of the moment, so I feel a bit behind the eight ball. Hotel recommendations would be nice, but I am really looking for restaurant recommendations. We are going to Pikayo one night (this is a gift from our friends), but we are wide open the rest of the time. Any help is much appreciated.

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Just got back from our trip to Puerto Rico. I could go on for hours about our trip - the good (Old San Juan is great for history buffs) and the bad (it would be nice if the police dealt with traffic issues as opposed to hitting on women non-stop) - but I will stick to the food.

Breakfast at La Bombonera was good, but not worth going out of your way for. The mallorca with bacon and cheese was definitely a different dish and good to try once in your life, but like everything in Puerto Rico, it was way too sweet to have on a regular, or semi-regular basis.

Pikayo was our top choice for dinner and it didn't disappoint. Actually, let me rephrase that, what we ordered and ate didn't disappoint us, but I was slightly disappointed with the entree portion of the menu. I can't remember the specifics, but it read something like this - Maine Lobster, Atlantic Salmon, Alaskan Halibut, Colorado Rack of Lamb, etc. Being in Puerto Rico, at the top restaurant on the island, I expected more than what I would normally see on a standard restaurant menu in Anytown, USA. Granted, my guess is that the execution of these dishes would have been better than most, but it was still sad to see. In the end, it didn't matter to us, we ordered all small plates and desserts, and were very happy with what we had. Service was good and attentive, but lacked much personality. We didn't drink, but the wine list was varied and well valued. It was pricey, but the value was fair, they just didn't have many lower priced options.

The next night we went to Marmalade. Was it good? Yes. Would I recommened anyone to go there or would I go again? No. They seemed to have a bit more creativity than Pikayo, at least from an entree perspective, but the execution wasn't great. Two appetizers, two entress and two desserts all missed the mark in one way or another. Again, we didn't drink, but the wine list was extremely overpriced ($118 for a 2009 The Prisoner). Service was hot and cold, great at some points and absent at others. The funny thing is that we were talking to some locals the next day and chatted about Marmalade. They said that we did a bad job ordering and if we ordered better, we would have liked it more. Seriously!? If a restaurant is great, it is great, ordering well as opposed to poorly means that the restaurant just isn't good enough.

The final night we went to Budatai and, in the end, it was the best place we visited. Maybe we wanted a break from Puerto Rican food, but the Asian-Puerto Rican fusion was solid across the board, no disappointments at all. We were going to go all small plates, but we ended up with some fried rice and sushi to balance it out. Portions were huge and very well valued except for the sushi, which was outrageously expensive compared to the rest of the menu. Service was great and the place was hoppin' on a Monday night, seemed to be a strong mix of locals and tourists. I don't remember looking at the wine list, so I can't comment on that (not drinking is booooooring).

Our bills, before tax and tip, were $107, $113 and $114 each night, kind of crazy how that worked out. So, while not drinking sucks, it sure saves a hell of a lot of money.

Also, everywhere I went, not just these restaurants, I looked at the cocktail lists and was completely uninspired. Even at the nicest places, I felt that you could easily get a margarita, sangria, mojito, etc., but there was nothing on any menu that made me think, "Hey, I may break my New Year's resolution just for this one drink."

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jandres375 - not sure this may be helpful, as I was looking for restaurants w/out being in those areas nor family friendly, however, going next week and our list includes:

Budatai

Luquillo Food Stands

Kasalta

Metropol

El Jibarito

San Juan Cafe

Jose Enrique

La Casita Blanca

Los Pinos

Panaderia Espana

Santurce Market

Mallorquina

Quatro Sombras

Bar Gitmo

Caveat: All this is based off friend/online recommendations, so no idea of quality/etc. but hope that helps. Would appreciate if you post any other places you have researched - my usual online sources seem sparse in this locale!

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I have been remiss in reporting back but had some pretty nice meals while on spring break.

Jose Enrique - best meal of trip. great local cuisine. everything is written on a white board which they translate for you. go early - no reservations and it gets crowded. Get the mignon a caballo, churrasco or fried whole red snapper.

Casa Lola - great looking place and food was very good but service was kind of cold. Very good rissotto

Buddatai - create night eating on the outside roof deck. shared a bunch of small plates which were all very good. lost the receipt so I don't recall what we had.

El Jefe Burger Shack - one of the kiosks in Luquillo. stopped here for lunch after hike in rainforest. great burgers but very slow service

Buns - great burgers and shakes (pricey) across the street from Marriott Stellaris.

El Picoteo - great spot for afternoon cocktails and snacks after touring Old San Juan. Sat outside in courtyard and had some sangria, hummus and ceviche. Would return and try full dinner menu.

Aguaviva - great ceviche in Old San Juan. Get the ceviche tasting - 6 large portions of ceviche.

Jam Rum Bar Bistro - very good rum cockstails with homemade juices. Very good red snapper and churrasco. Tuna was just ok. Excellent service.

Mona's - average Mexican if your are in a pinch and need something quick for the kids.

Danny's International - pizza place that was packed on Good Friday as nothing else was open. Don't go here.

Rao's - very friendly owner and great service. Above average italian food.

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We were mostly tethered around our hotel due to the sheeting torrents of rain (typical of May, they said - be warned!), but that wasn't much of a problem because it's basically ringed by the OOF restaurants. I was sad not to get out to Budatai (lots of local recommendations) and Jose Enrique, but we had very nice meals at Dragonfly Too, Toro Salao, and Aguaviva. Highlights included the excellent and large portion of fish chicharrones and duck nachos at Dragonfly Too (it's the exact same menu at the other Dragonfly around the corner; the mains we had - the beef noodles and Korean BBQ - were far less noteworthy, but the sushi looked interesting), the roast pork and sea bass entrees at Toro Salao (our flatbread was rather cool and wan but the mains we saw/had were very good), and, of all things, the churrasco steak with yuca frites at Aguaviva (the ceviches were fine but didn't taste super fresh and the cod fritters were made correctly but I didn't care for them), which was perfect. So, overall, some hits and misses but we were generally pleased. And the walk can't be beat from the Sheraton in Old San Juan!

I tried to get into Marmalade one night, but, either because I didn't have the right shoes or they really did have 3/4 of the restaurant reserved (and they don't serve food at the bar), couldn't get seated. I was really interested in the menu but both the reception and the decor - ultramodern, cool, and white - left me cold.

We also had a decent meal at the Istanbul restaurant on the same street (one block up from the hotel), if you're in the mood for something different. We had lamb gyros and the eggplant spread and both were fine. I also had a quick bite at Mojito's one day, and which seemed to be decent and authentic Puerto Rican fare.

We had a bunch of random lunches of Puerto Rican food around the city, mostly food-stall type establishments, and I had my share of plantain-based meals. If you like plantains - sweet, green, fried, mashed, etc., this is the cuisine for you! I got a lot of local recommendations for and really wanted to try El Jibarito mentioned above, but ran out of time.

It may seem obvious but I had a wonderful time exploring the San Juan National Historic Site. Both castillos are interesting and very scenic and they are similar, but have different features such as the tunnels of San Cristobal, so are both highly recommended for anyone interested in military history and architectural photography. Local coworkers also recommended walking the Paseo del Morro trail and the Paseo de la Princessa for pretty views. Old San Juan is super small and accessible for walking, but there's also a fairly reliable free trolley that runs all around the major tourist sites.

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I've decided that I don't really like Dragonfly that much. Everything is prepared and presented well, but the sauces and glazes are consistently too sweet for my taste (I think I've tasted more half the things on the menu now, excluding the sushi). Still, it's pretty, has great service, and fun drinks and the rest of my group loved it enough to go twice this week (they loved the calamari). They thought Aguaviva was only OK, except for the churrasco, which is apparently still wonderful.

Turns out Marmalade (click on the music icon to turn it off!) is quite excellent if you get in - the cool and modern interior coupled with great food and attentive service becomes tropically beautiful (think Big Deal Miami). It's all in the perspective! We had 5-course tastings and the highlights were the beet salad , tagliatelle, and white bean soup (all were simple, lovely, and delicious), sea bass, and bread pudding. We also tried the tenderloin, snapper, foie gras, iberico, and creme brulee, all of which were very good. The kicker is I think I could have ordered a whole other meal and been just as happy, as there were lots of things on the menu I wanted to try. The portions were well-scaled and I thought the prices very reasonable considering the quality of the ingredients (especially considering how much needs to be imported) and preparations.

I love the iced mochas (very dark, very sweet, made with Ghiradelli's syrup mixed into milky espresso) at Cafe Cola'o, down and across the street from the Sheraton in Old San Juan, and I hear that the coffees are quite good. Last time I grabbed some beans for my in-laws, who really liked it.

If you don't feel like doing the whole breakfast buffet thing at the hotel, down the block there is the tiny Cafe Ochoa where you can grab a quick breakfast (or anytime) sandwich (they'll make egg sandwiches all day!) or simple plate of PR food, including some fried items to go. The coffee (tiny cups of the dark stuff - I am so coffee ignorant, I just know what I like) is also good there. They guys are very friendly and I love my real egg breakfast paninis (not what they call them, but they toast it on the grill under a weight for the last step and it is awesome). I can get my drink at Cola'o and sandwich in hand (I always take to go) in half an hour.

The Paseo de la Princesa to the Paseo del Morro is a beautiful walk along the edges (walls) of Old San Juan. Note that the Paseo del Morro doesn't really have any shade or facilities along it, so may be better to do in the morning or evening. Also, if you like butterflies as art and don't mind mounted insects, you must go here.

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After a couple of leisurely hours hanging out with the locals at La Placita de Santurce, listening to live music and enjoying a cold Medalla Light (or two), I had a very enjoyable meal at Jose Enrique. It was the place to be on a Friday night, it seemed, with a wait of at least an hour for a table and a packed bar. Well worth it, though, for the fresh and modern approach to the local cuisine.  Minutas - fried baby red snapper, with lime and chili sauce - were lightly breaded, fried, flaky, and fresh. I followed with the  Chillo collirubia deshuesado - deboned whole yellowtail snapper, with sweet potato, and papaya-avocado salsa.  Again, lightly fried, so fresh, and with delicious bright flavors on the side/in the salsa. I appreciated the time the waiter took to explain all of the items on the whiteboard menu. Jose Enrique is a 2013 Food and Wine Best New Chef, which seems a well-deserved honor.

La Bombonera closed last year, though there is work under way in the space and word that they are going to reopen.  I went to Cafeteria Mallorca, opened by the original owners of La Bombonera, to try a mallorca, and agree with the sentiment expressed above. Definitely worth trying, and a nice combo crunchy, salty, and sweet, but not something I'd like on the regular.  I sat at the counter, the food was served up fast, as was my cafe con leche, and I was on my way for more sightseeing.

Like many others, I enjoyed a meal El Jibarito.  The creole (criollo) chicken stew was a nice change from the fried foods, and had some heat from yellow (banana?) peppers. A great local spot to try a lot of the traditional local dishes. The mixed mofongo was also very good.

I went to Kasalta for afternoon coffee and a pastry on my first day in San Juan and a Spanish tortilla and papaya smoothie for breakfast on my last day. The selection is overwhelming, but it's a nice place to stop for a snack or a full meal.

Local spots near where I stayed (between Ocean Park and Isla Verde) that were decent included:

Levi's - inexpensive and open 24 hours. The mofongo with shrimp in garlic sauce was good. Be sure to look for the daily 'specials' menu - prices are several dollars cheaper than for the same items on the regular menu.

Inca Chicken - standard (good) Peruvian chicken place. A pleasant, clean dining room and small bar, and quick carryout.  Green rice and tostones were good.

Ferrari Gourmet - Argentinian food, including their specialty Pamperi Pizza (topped with Argentinian chorizo and chimichurri), along with many other pizzas, steaks, and pastas. The pizza was good, but heavy with lots of meat and cheese.

I biked out to Pinones and earned a few frituras from Kiosko El Boricua - supposed to be the best of them all, and definitely the one the locals were flocking to on a Sunday afternoon. The line was long, but that just gave more time to watch the ladies making the alcapurrias - forming the dough in almond leaves, before filling them with ground beef, chicken, crab, or other fillings.  Although I ordered one crab and one ground beef alcapurria, I would up with two beef - but they were very good.  I wanted to try a pionono, but just didn't have room - they're a 'sandwich' of meat filling, wrapped in sweet plaintain, and...deep fried (of course). A fresh coco frio, fished out of an icy water bath and opened with a machete in front of me, hit the spot after a long, hot ride.

(For a more local stay/experience, I highly recommend El Coqui Del Mar, a 6-room guest house, with kitchens in every room, just steps from the beach. They're also on airbnb.)

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Just got back from a business-ish trip to San Juan.  All in all, I can't say I'd recommend heading to PR for the culinary scene, but there are some good things to be had.

Firstly: Jose Enrique. Hands down our favorite meal of the trip.  I could go into detail about what we had, but the menu changes daiily based on what's fresh and available.  Suffice it to say that if they have the "carne ahumado," available, get it.  Imagine a smoked carnitas.  Muy sabroso.  The skirt steak with chimichurri was enormous and perfectly cooked.

El Jibarito is the only joint I would recommend in Old San Juan.  No frills, but pretty decent.  I'd stay away from the "Christmas Plate" which was a sampler...the only really good part of that one was the tamale.  I would heartily recommend the camarones al ajillo served with a mixed mofongo.

We also ate at Cafe Puerto Rico (skip it, and eat twice at El Jibarito), and Aguaviva.

Aguaviva aspires to be a "nice" seafood restaurant, but just doesn't have the culinary chops.  The ceviches were nice, and you could probably have a great evening just enjoying that and a glass or two of wine.  The mains were no bueno, and the most expensive of our trip.  A grouper filet was served with a really heavy cream sauce with bits of chorizo and limp asparagus...edible, but certainly not great.  My wife's fried snapper and mofongo was dry, dry, and dry.

If I had it all to do over again, we would really confine ourselves to Jose Enrique, El Jibarito, and whatever little local joints are nearby to where you are staying for sandwiches and fried things.

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We had a bried stop in San Juan last Saturday night and wisely choose Jose Enrique.  The wait to get a table was huge and the hostness couldnt manage the crowd and waitlist.  Almost to the point of leaving after 2 hour wait we finally were seated.  Boy was the food good.  We had a tomatto and bacon risotto that was heavenly, house made sausage and many other items I cant quite remember.  Very tasty and all good.

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I just read through the thread and I wondered if anyone had any updates since most of the reviews are at least 2 years old.

I'm going to be in San Juan for the first time in mid-October with a group of five other women (and, most importantly from the eating in restaurants perspective, without my toddler!). I'm not sure how much say I'll have over where we eat (I already know one meal is spoken for -- a birthday dinner at La Madre, which I don't see mentioned in the thread). I'm hoping we won't eat every meal all together and I'll be able to herd smaller groups in certain directions, but I'm not sure how this will play out and don't want to be a food dictator at every mealtime. I know one other person very well and the others only a little bit or not at all. I'm also hoping I may be able to have a meal or two on my own, but I don't want to be or seem anti-social. (The others aren't necessarily willing to go to great lengths for great food.)

Anyway, we're staying in Isla Verde and won't have a car. We'll be there for four full days. I know about Jose Enrique and would like to try it even if I have to go solo, and I saw El Jibarito mentioned several times above (and recently). Does anyone have any recent insights?

Thanks in advance!

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I posted a plea for help in the San Juan thread and thought I'd try again here since I haven't had any responses and my trip is imminent:

I just read through the thread and I wondered if anyone had any updates since most of the reviews are at least 2 years old.

I'm going to be in San Juan for the first time in mid-October with a group of five other women (and, most importantly from the eating in restaurants perspective, without my toddler!). I'm not sure how much say I'll have over where we eat (I already know one meal is spoken for -- a birthday dinner at La Madre, which I don't see mentioned in the thread). I'm hoping we won't eat every meal all together and I'll be able to herd smaller groups in certain directions, but I'm not sure how this will play out and don't want to be a food dictator at every mealtime. I know one other person very well and the others only a little bit or not at all. I'm also hoping I may be able to have a meal or two on my own, but I don't want to be or seem anti-social. (The others aren't necessarily willing to go to great lengths for great food.)

Anyway, we're staying in Isla Verde and won't have a car. We'll be there for four full days. I know about Jose Enrique and would like to try it even if I have to go solo, and I saw El Jibarito mentioned several times above (and recently). Does anyone have any recent insights?

Thanks in advance!

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I don't have much to tell you, but I don't want to leave you hanging.  Jose Enrique is a must.  We went with our toddler, and spent our hour wait dancing along to the block party in the streets surrounding the restaurant.  This was a weekend night, so I can't tell you what it's like during the week.  El Jibarito was fine.  Nothing great, but friendly people and good enough food to be worth the 20 minute wait.  Loud enough that we didn't stress about toddler, who was warmly welcomed.  Skip the "fancy" looking restaurants in the area that cater to tourists.  Our experience was that they were overpriced and no bueno.

Funnily enough, we'll be back in San Juan next weekend, with the toddler, and now a 3 month old in tow.  We are definitely hitting JE again, and likely El Jibarito.  I'll respond again if we get word of any other good spots before we get there.

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I was in San Juan from October 14-19 (so long ago now; I wish I'd gotten around to this report sooner!). I didn't make it to Jose Enrique (*sob*) -- it was too hard to corral five other people who wanted to eat in the Italian restaurant in our resort because it looked cute, and as it turns out it would have been weird if I had struck out on my own.

Anyway, as noted above, we went to La Madre in Old San Juan per the birthday girl's request for her birthday dinner. The service was great (a very competent and friendly waiter), and they made cocktails with very fresh, delicious juices. The food, however, was just OK. We started with three appetizers: cheese fondue with house made corn chips (I mean, I love cheese, so I enjoyed this, but it was really just a bowl of melted cheese that got more and more rubbery as it cooled; the corn chips were good and our waiter happily brought a second basket when we finished the first), duck quesadillas (these sounded so good, but they really weren't; the duck was flavorless and mushy), and at this late date I can't remember the third one. For my entrée I had pork ribs marinated in beer, chili, and chocolate served with fried yucca and chipotle mayo (I'm translating from the menu online and I'm not sure if "marinated" is really the right word "“ they may have been marinated in beer, but they had a chili chocolate sauce). The fried yucca was amazing (crisp on the outside and soft on the inside), but the chili chocolate sauce was gloppy and sickeningly sweet. We also split a bunch of desserts and none of them were memorable; in fact, they all seemed remarkably similar to each other.

We also went to El Jibarito thanks to recommendations from this board (thanks!). I'm no connoisseur of Puerto Rican food (I didn't even really know what mofongo was until this trip), but I really enjoyed it. Especially after the sterility of our resort, I really liked the atmosphere and the fact that the clientele appeared to be a mix of locals and tourists. We started out with beef and chicken empanadas. I don't remember them that well at this point, but I know we all scarfed them down. For my entrée I had pork in a plantain sauce with mixed mofongo. I really enjoyed all of this. The pork was very tender, the sauce was delicately flavorful and not overly sweet, and the mofongo was tasty and minimally greasy. We didn't have to wait for a table for a party of six around 7pm on a Saturday night in October.

Since I was the one who'd steered us to El Jibarito, my dining companions asked what "that foodie website" recommended from the menu, so I brought up this thread on my phone, and while I was reviewing it I realized that our resort was right across the street from Mi Casita, so I went there for breakfast on my last day. I loved my banana pancakes, which was a huge portion and contained just the right amount of slightly caramelized bananas. I have now had my husband replicate this for me several times since I've been back.

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I highly recommend going to PR soon. They can use your money but I will say I was pleasantly surprised at how much was up and running as the island's infrastructure in tourist areas is fully functional. However when you talk to the people you get a sense of the personal toll the hurricane took on them and their livelihoods. As for food, I traveled with little kids so we didn't try any of the nicer, foodie places like Marmalade, 1919, or Jose Enrique but we did have some good and not so good food.  I highly recommend Lote 23, a hip plan outdoor food court with about 8-10 different places to get a wide variety of foods (puerto rican pork, mexican, asian, italian, brick oven pizza, croquetas, and drinks). The best at Lote 23 was Red Hen's fried chicken cooked to order - so delicious - and Senor Paleta for fruit or creamy ice pops - I got the nutella twice. Also good was the croquetas, and pina coladas. Friends really liked the italian pasta place and the brick oven pizza seemed popular. It is a fun space outdoors with lots of shade coverings and music in the evenings (also a stage which wasn't used when we were there but I bet it is a happening happy hour and weekend spot). It is in Santurce which is a bit off the beaten tourist path but a 5-10 minute Uber drive from the hotels in Condado/Isla Verde and probably 15-20 from old San Juan - worth the trip for sample lots of stuff. 

In Old San Juan, we had mixed experiences. The good was Waffle-Era for great sweet and savory waffles and lots of tea options. We loved the special breakfast one with yogurt, honey, granola and fruit and the smoked salmon, poached egg, and machego cheese ones. You can also get half waffles to try more types. For the kids they will basically cover a waffle in ice cream, chocolate, maple syrup - a huge variety of options. Also good up near the biggest fort, El Morro, we had a good lunch at Patio de Sam where we really enjoyed the chicken trifongo. (regular mofongo but instead of only mashed green plaintains, also sweet plantains and cassava). We found that when we ate the dishes elsewhere with only green plantains (regular mofongo or tostones) they were a bit dry and bland and so getting the other mixed mash added more flavor. The spot looks like all of the tourist dives, but it is air-conditioned with a light filled skylight dining area in the back. The other dishes we had here were decent.  Good fruit and dessert smoothies at Frappes on San Cristo Ave. Less enjoyable but still fun was piraguas which are sold from carts every few blocks - basically snowcones with your choice of syrupy but the guys work hard shaving the ice from huge blocks to order. Ajo de Pais is another tourist place recommended by a cab drive but the food was so so and I wouldn't recommend it- we had not great chicken mofongo, mahi stuffed tostones, but we did like the steak arepa. We also went for a real tourist experience with so so food to Tapas Triana near the cruise ship docks for a music and dance performance of lots of spanish guitar and a bit of salsa and flamenco dancing. It was fun especially for my girls who dance but food and drinks are meh. 

In Liquillo beach where they have about 50 restaurants next to the beach, we had a great dish of coconut rice mixed with fish and good drink at Terruno, #20, I think. Food took a long time as is common in PR but really good food. Our tour guide always goes here and says the waits are very long on weekends. 

Also there is a very nice Ben Jerry's scoop shop in Condado that we frequented many times since it was next to our hotel. 

 

 

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Went to Puerto Rico for Spring break.

Stayed at Hotel El Convento in old San Juan.  The rooms are very nice.  There are two doors, the second door seals in air conditioning and keeps out the sound, except when there's a wedding party.  No door can keep out the bass.  At all times, you have access to free tea, coffee and fruits.  At 6, they bring out free wine and cheese.  Parking is valet, $20 a day.  You have access to La Concha and Marriott's pools/beach.  The pool at the hotel is really a big tub, may 20 x 10.  There's also a hot tub.  We didn't eat on the premises.  The location in Old San Juan is very convenient for sight-seeing.

On our first day (Wednesday), we ate at Verde Mesa and La Lanterna.  Not sure how to describe the food at Verde Mesa - it seems Moroccan influenced, lots of stews served with rice.   We had a beef stew, a chicken stew and an eggplant stew.  All were pretty good.  La Lanterna was actually great.  It's only 2 blocks from Hotel El Convento, and we ate in the beautiful green-leafed courtyard.  We had (i) stuffed zucchini with veal and Parmesan cheese, (ii) spaghetti alle vongole, (iii) guinea hen ravioli, and (iv) veal chop.   This is authentic Italian food in San Juan.  It was so good we went back on Saturday but they couldn't accommodate us without a reservation.

On Thursday we went to La Concha to use their 4 pools and beach.  The resort facilities are great - but the $25 valet parking charge is pretty stiff.  We had lunch at Serafina, I think it's supposed to be the best restaurant at La Concha.  It sucked.  Clams in wine sauce turned out to be overcooked in butter (sent back).  The meatballs were rock hard.  The $8 foccacia was pizza crust (sent back).  The linguine alle vongole was also way too buttery.  The only good dish was chicken Milanese - pounded wafer thin, breaded and fried but it was good.  

Thursday night dinner was at Santaella.  To me it was just mediocre fusion food.  E.g., tuna pinxtos was really tuna poke with a toothpick. 

Friday we drove out to Fajardo.  We ate at El Bohio and Ocean View, both sucked.  I suspect all the restaurants there pretty much suck.  We were there for a tour of the lighthouse and surrounds during the day and the bioluminescent bay in the evening (by kayak).  We went with Puerto Rico Bio Bay Tours.  So the best time to go is when it's really sunny out and really dark at night (so think Summer with new moon).  Unfortunately, late April is not the best time.  I highly recommend this outfit as they focus on safety and education.  You will  likely get wet so a change of clothes is highly recommended.  

Saturday we went to the market near Santaella and ate at San Juan Smokehouse.  Their pork ribs were tender but rubbed with too much sugar.  The pulled pork on the nachos was pretty tasty.  We also had burnt end, wings, cole slaw, mac 'n cheese, and corn bread.  It's not great but probably the best option around the market around lunch time.

I wanted to drive to Lechon valley/alley/mountain/gap (at Guavate) but it was an hour away and I didn’t quite find the time.

 

 

 

 

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