Restaurants & Bars

Puerto Rico Report: San Juan, Rio Grande, El Yunque, Luquillo

Carpetbagger | Apr 17, 201706:56 AM    

Just back from Puerto Rico and had some pretty good food (some recs on CH helped).
We flew into San Juan on a Sunday & used Hilton points to stay at Hampton Inn in Isla Verde (getting tired of those breakfasts, though). Since we were going budget on lodging, we splurged on a fancy meal Sunday night. Based on a recommendation here, we chose Marmalade. Nice ambiance, friendly and efficient service, and very good food. This is a great choice if you or a companion are vegetarian, as there are lots of good choices, locally sourced. We chose the 4 course tasting menu with wine pairings. I had a paella for the 1st course that was presented very creatively. The rice, chicken, and chorizo were formed into "sushi rolls" with the outside rice pan fried to create a crust that held them together and provided a pleasing texture contrast. Two different sauces were dribbled on top of each roll to simulate a raw egg. Very tasty and I appreciated the sense of humor. I also had the foie gras, then the lamb tagine. I remember my daughter (10 YO) had popcorn shrimp (with actual popcorn, more humor), white bean soup with truffle oil, and Red Snapper with clams. Esposa had Yellowtail Poke, Jamon Iberico, and Sea Bass. My overall impression was great small plates, enjoyed the entrees but not blown away. Enjoyed the wine pairings which were mix of Spanish, Chilean and Argentinian choices. Our waiter was very knowledgeable about each wine in the pairings. The chef circulated the room and we had a nice conversation about Chef's Table on Netflix, Baltimore crabcakes, and living in PR. Pretty expensive but I would recommend.

We then headed out to our condo in Rio Grande and had dinner at the Kioskos in Luquillo. We went to Las Parillas, based on our condo owner's rec. We ate here the last time we were in PR. For those who don't know, the kioskas are food stands arranged in a row, the ones just outside the entrance to Luquillo beach being the best known. Some are very simple with a few stools and specialize in local seafood, arepas (filled pancakes), mofongo (mashed plantains), etc. Others, like Las Parillas, have morphed into full sit-down restaurants. The food is good at Las Parillas, but I find the prices are on the high side for the atmosphere (Condado prices with plastic tables and seats). There is an ocean view, however. If you are staying in the area, systematically trying the other kiosks would probably yield better value. There is a pizza place (Revolution Pizza) that we didn't get a chance to try but I suspect is really good based on a conversation I had with one of the co-owners. He was first mate on our snorkeling expedition out of Fajardo, and we had an improbably entertaining conversation about the NYC punk rock scene, good pizza (we wondered what Joey Ramone's favorite pizza place was), and playing ice hockey. I wanted to stop on the way back to Rio Grande from Fajardo but since it was Easter weekend, there was a traffic jam just to get into the kioska area, never mind finding a parking spot. So we skipped it and headed home to eat leftovers.

The other good experiences we had were the kiosko in El Yunque rainforest on 190. I think the name was Bosquero Encantado (if you're driving up the mountain it is the 1st place on your left, driving down, the 2nd on your right). This is a hole-in-the-wall, not exactly clean spot, perched precariously on the side of the mountain. However, it appears to be run by a nice family, the daughter is bi-lingual and patiently explains what everything is, and the food is really good and cheap (despite their prime location within a National Park). We had pinchos, which are pork or chicken skewers with yellow rice and beans; a carne tostone which was like a hamburger wrapped in fried plantains; and coco frio, which is a whole coconut with the top hacked off with a machete and a straw stuck inside so you can drink the coconut water inside. Back at the airport on our last day we followed another CH rec and ate at Casa Avila in Terminal B. Great food especially for the airport. We had various tapas dishes including a lentil soup with chorizo and blood sausage, sliced baguette with chopped tomato with manchego and jamon iberico on top, and grilled octopus and potatoes with garlic aioli. Thumbs up!

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