Ventured down to 3rd and Girard last night to try out El Viejo San Juan. Went pretty late- around 10-- but they were still open and happy for customers. The place is very big, two floors, would be a great place for a large group or party.
Our waitress was apparently a family friend, very very kind and attentive, told us everything she really loved to eat there, hovered a lot, that was a big aspect of the meal really. (Aside from her and us, there were 2 guys at the bar, and the rest of the place was empty.)
Anyways, on her suggestion, we shared one tapas dish-- the shrimp 'ceviche' with yuca. This was delicious, but was definitely not ceviche-- and was served warm. Really good though.
I had the caldo santo, a large soup filled with fish and root vegetables, in a coconut broth. Both my friend and I greatly preferred this to her dish, the mofongo, which, while it had a big chunk of lobster in it, was otherwise very dry and had hard bits of something unidentifiable in it.. ??
For dessert, we had the flan, and the tres leches. The flan was good. The tres leches was glazed and looked like an American bday cake--and tasted like it too- good at first, but overall, way too sweet. We couldn't finish it.
Other than that, I have to say that the sauce that accompanied the boring white bread was outstanding-- some variation on a salsa, with lots of cilantro and garlic..and the wine list is pretty weak (other than a nice Albarino at $40), but they apparently have good sangria by the pitcher ($25 each). Oh, and they have interesting local art on the walls, for sale.
All in all, we spent about $65, and thought that this place is off to a promising start. Aren't too many places serving this kind of food in Philly, especially those large enough to bring in crowds. Next time I'd make a meal out of the 10 or so tapas dishes offered.