From Fine Dining to Food Stands & Authentic Puerto Rican Cuisine
San Juan may not be the dining destination of, say a San Francisco.
But it does have many fine restaurants to keep one’s pallet pleased for the length of their San Juan stay.
Two main areas are filled with choices to fill the stomach. Calle Reciento Sur, the street just two blocks from the cruise ship terminal, has traditional Puerto Rican fare, Italian, Indian and other cuisine.
Two blocks farther up, Calle Forteleza is a diner’s paradise; dozens of small restaurants – many of which turn into lounges and bars by midnight – are side-by-side on both sides of the small one-way street.
The Sheraton has several restaurants, including a casual burger spot.
San Juan Fine Dining
One of the most popular is Dragon Fly, with its Asian-fusion menu. There’s a good vibe in this lively place; to get a table on weekends check with the lovely hostesses for something around 8:30 or 9. Most locals, it must be pointed out, rarely go to dinner before 10.
Sonne is a cool restaurant and lounge with some of the best mojitos in Old Town. Small groups are best advised to sit at the bar and enjoy the live jazz band. It’s a great place for a full meal or just appetizers.
And speaking of entertainment, Barrachina is not only the place where the pina colada was created but it combines a flamenco show on weekends with local food choices.
Local Cuisine & Restaurants
An interesting – and outstanding – local dish to try is mofongo churrasco, chunks of marinated beef or chicken surrounded by mashed fried plantains.
The presentation at the popular Restaurante Recies is outstanding, in a tall coffee-mug-on-steroids container with a large plantain sticking out of one end like a feather in a cap. Wash it down with a tin cup of refreshing sangria ($5.50). It’s $17.95 here for beef; a delicious pollo version is $13.95 at the Brick House.
The settings of these two places could not be more different. Recies is a nice, well-appointed restaurant on Calle Recinto Sur that is ultra-popular for lunch among the cruise shippers.
The Brick House, by contrast, is a somewhat dingy sports bar that also features buffalo wings on the menu; after 10 on weekends, the place becomes a sort of nightclub. While often lively, it’s hardly the setting for an intimate dinner.
San Juan Cheap Eats
Many of the restaurants along these two streets come with prices as steep as the uphill grade. That is to say it’s not an exhausting trek to the top, but it can make the wallet a bit winded. Meals with drinks run in the $40-60 range.
Old Town does have a few less expensive alternatives. Chicago Burger at the Sheraton will fill up anyone for less than $15.
Popular among the cruise ship folks is Senior Frogs; the enchilada plate is big enough to feed two – and we mean two grown men. The grown men will also appreciate the fact this is one of the few places in San Juan with sports on satellite TV.
And, as a sure sign of American influence on Puerto Rico, there’s a McDonald’s and Subway.
For REALLY cheap eats, head to the food stands at the Ralces La Princess fountain. Pizza and empanadas are among the choices, all for about $2. The grilled sandwiches are the call here.
Away from Old San Juan – past Isla Verde. All along the coastal highway (Boca de Cangerios Ave, Highway 187) – is some of the best eating on the island. Small food stands and shacks line the two-lane beach road along Carolina Beach, Los Caballos and Aviones.
For those who literally want a true taste of Puerto Rico, this is the place.
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