Restaurants & Bars 2

A Find in San Juan (near Condado and Ocean Park)

Rob64 | Mar 8, 200508:16 AM

Bebo's Café
1600 Loiza Street

This is my top pick in San Juan for overall value. It is near enough to walk from Condado/Ocean Park. The place looks new. It is a diner in its own small building and has 40 tables or so. Large windows all around, brightly lit, very clean. The wait staff has Bebo’s logo-ed button down shirts. It is not your typical place serving inexpensive comida criolla, which are frequently run down and much smaller (not a bad thing, I like run down and small). I wouldn’t be surprised if new Bebo’s Cafés started popping up all over San Juan—it has a franchise feel (think Denny’s) to it. The service is not great, but adequate; some of the servers may not know English very well. The place is very popular and there are people here at all times of the day.

We were initially given a menu in English, but it was promptly pulled away and replaced with one in Spanish once they realized I spoke the language. The Spanish menu had an additional list of ten or so specials that the English menu did not have. The specials were generally very well priced. You need to get the menu in Spanish. Always ask about specials, they are sometimes not advertised and are always a good deal.

The main menu had all the usual dishes you would expect to find in a PR diner. On the appetizer list: “alcapurrias”—seasoned ground beef torpedos encased in mashed plantains (sometimes green bananas and taro) and deep fried, “bacalaitos”—flattened out codfish fritters, “papas rellenas”—seasoned ground beef balls encased in mashed potatos and deep fried, “surullitos”—fried corn meal “fingers” (very plain, not noteworthy at all, but usually just a buck, so give them a try). These fried delicacies are usually served with a mayo/ketchup dipping sauce. You can also find all of these being sold out of pushcarts, roadside trucks, and kiosks at the beach. They can make for a quick and inexpensive lunch in a pinch.

On the entrée list: “asopaos”—stews, typically of chicken or fish, “mofongos”—mashed plantains seasoned with garlic and broth with a variety of different meat or seafood toppings. The mofongo is probably the most “Puerto Rican” of dishes and they are very proud of it. It is hard to find in the US and I highly recommend you have it as a main dish with garlic shrimp or as a side dish. A number of other goodies I can’t recall. The entrees ranged from about $6 to $13.

We ordered off the specials list. The “pernil”—roast pork is a very common PR dish and for some reason was listed as a special instead of in the main menu. Seasoned primarily with mojo and at $6 for about ¾ lb of pork and “tostones”—fried green plantain coins, this is an incredible deal. And at dinner time to boot. The slab of pork skin that comes on top will leave you wanting for more. “Amarillos”—Puerto Rican for ripe, sweet plantains were hard here and at other places, leaving me wondering if they like them that way, rather than the tender “maduros” you get at Cuban places. Mofongo was also available as a side for an additional $4 and would be a good choice to go along with the pernil.

We also ordered a “fricase de cabrito”—kid (goat) fricase served with rice which was also very good. Other items on the list included veal fricase (fricase’s are popular here, chicken being the most common, but made with just about every meat), pigs feat with garbanzos, oxtail—there was something here for everyone.

Dessert offerings consisted of flan, guava cups with cheese, cheesecake, “tembleque”—a flan-ish dessert made with coconut milk and other typical items. None of these really looked that great, they are best had elsewhere, but the price is right at $2.

I can’t recommend this place highly enough, you can easily end up eating here every day of your stay in San Juan. The menu is broad and the price is right. I am attaching a link to one of the few mentions of it I was able to find.

Link: http://www.puertorico-herald.org/issu...

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