Any Puerto Rican restaurant: Cocina Criolla
The art of Puerto Rican food and cooking is called Cocina Criolla. Any cocina criolla will have all or some of the following foods.
Firstly, lets start with what constitutes a Cocina Criolla.
Sofrito - It is a combination of ingredients used as a seasoning to give a distinctive, characteristic taste to many native dishes.
Arroz con pollo (rice with chicken) - A rice and chicken dish cooked together in a caldero. (Happens to be my mother's specialty and my favorite of all Puerto Rican dishes).
Caldero - (cauldron) is an iron or cast-aluminum kettle with round bottom and straight sides used to cook this and many other dishes.
Plátanos - (plantains) which may be eaten green or ripe and can be fried, baked, boiled or roasted and served either whole or in slices.The leaves of the plantain plant are used to wrap up foods to be boiled or baked such as the delicious pasteles.
Pasteles - A delicious plantain dish (the plantains are boiled, along with other "velduras", mashed, layed on a plantain leaf, filled with either chicken or pork, wrapped and tied up and boiled to a perfect cook. The pasteles are then peeled off the plantain leaf and eaten!! The are usually made for special occasions of holidays as the preparation time is very time consuming.
Rice - Rice is a mainstay of the Puerto Rican diet and it can be prepared in a variety of ways be it "white" served with kidney beans or prepared with gandules (pigeon peas) or garbanzos (chick-peas) or in a variety of other delicious ways...( just try a well-made rice with chicken).
Sopón - Sopon de pollo con arróz (chicken soup with rice), sopón de pescado (fish soup) or sopón de garbanzos con patas de cerdo (chick peas soup with pig's feet).
Sancocho - An amazing number of ingredients, notably local vegetables, plantains and meats go into the sancocho, a type of Caribbean soup which is a true delicacy.
Favorite Dish: The lechón asado- The roasted or barbecued pig is a favorite for Christmas and other occasions, the pig being roasted in an open pit, a process that takes a few hours and is best when the pig's skin is golden and absolutely crisp..The traditional dressing served with the pig is the aji-li-mojili, a sauce combining garlic,sweet seeded chili peppers, flavored further with vinegar, lime juice, salt and olive oil.
Mofongo - It's a platain dish. The plantain is fried in pork lard, mashed, put in to a Mortir and either filled with chicke, shrimp, fish, or any other filling.
Antojitos or snacks - The deep-fried codfish fritter(bacalaítos fritos), pastelillos(deep-fried cheese and meat turn-overs), and alcapurrias, banana croquettes stuffed with beef or pork.
Puerto Rican desserts include the pudding or custard flan and the tembleque. Papaya cubes cooked in sugar and cinnamon must be accompanied by white cheese(queso blanco). Arróz con dulce is made of cooked rice and coconut cream, sugar and cinnamon.
Puerto Ricans are heavy coffee drinkers and Puerto Rican coffee is among the best in the world, islanders like their coffee real strong, some drink it black, others as café-con-leche.
Drinks are also Criolla and here are just a few:
Coquito - A creamy tropical liqueur - cream of cocoanut, condensed milk, Bacardi white rum, cinnamon, ground cloves, nutmeg, vanilla extract
Cuba Libre - Rum and Coke
Pina Colada - White or Light rum, coconut milk, crushed pineapples
Medalla - The Puerto Rican Beer
Rosa's Seafood Restaurant: Authentic Puerto Rican!!!!
The restaurant is by no means a dress up type of place, but the food is excellent! Around the island of Puerto Rico, restaurants that serve authentic Puerto Rican food are designated by a sign reading: Mesones Gastronomicos. Rosa's is the only one on the Northeast side of the island that has received this designation. I recommend the garlic butter shrimp which were HUGE! Also, make sure to order a Pina Colada, the drink originated on the island.
Favorite Dish: I tried two dishes. Garlic butter shrimp as I mentioned before is fresh and the largest shrimp I've ever seen. I tried Creole Conch, which was pretty good. You need to be a fan of conch to appreciate this native dish.
Borinquen Grill and Brewery: Microbrewery in Isla Verde
The beer is okay, it's like most microbreweries. 2 of us got the amber, my other friend got the pale and it was definitely drinkable. Then again, few things aren't:) The food was very good, though and definitely well priced.
This of course could also be a nightlight spot, but we were only here for lunch, so I can't say how good it is. there were lots of advertisements for live bands and events going on here, so I would give it a try.
Favorite Dish: We only split the appetizers and having been in PR for over a week, I realized I hadn't really had authentic PR food. So, we got the plantains with crab, the coconut shrimp with a pineapple sweet and sour sauce and the beans with rice, which 3 of us divided. With the filling beer, it was certainly enough.
Isamar's Bakery: In the mood for a Hispanic pastry?
This Bakery is a cute little place to stop and have a sweet treat. They have a good selection and a modern ambience. Besides traditional doughnots and pastries they serve a Puerto Rican favorite, quesitos. Their are a few bistro sets to sit at and eat our pastry or just take it to go. The cheese danishes are quite extraordinary!
Favorite Dish: I enjoyed trying the quesitos. Even if you do not like them, for 90 cents each you really cannot go wrong!
Ostra Cosa: Great spot in old San Juan
Ostra Cosa is nestled in the back of a building not far from the Plaza de Armas. As you walk into the hallway decorated with plants and flowers, you will pass the bar on your right and descend the staircase into a back patio dining area. The area is lush with plants and flowers, they have fans going to keep you cool. Waiters will come to you and tell you the specials of the day, and of course offer you the house punch, I recommend trying it, I thought it was delightful. As you peruse the menu you will notice different increments of asterisks next to the title of each dish. These are to indicate the different aphrodisiac levels. The scale is done on 3 levels: 1* being "Oh!" 2** "Wow!" and 3 *** "Ay! Ay! Ay!" There is a guy who comes around to serenade you with a harmonica, we managed to get out of there before he came to our table. I seriously have no idea how harmonica playing could possibly do anything to enhance the aphrodisiac effects of your meal, in fact I imagine it would have the reverse effect. :) (No offense if you are reading this old-man-who-plays-harmonica)
Favorite Dish: I loved the house punch, Limeade with puertorican rum, delicious! My entree was fantastic, I got a crispy cheese/chicken dish. Rated on the aphrodisiac scale as an "Ay! Ay! Ay! Lou got a Pina Colada, and the vegetarian dish, sadly only a 2** "Wow!" ;)Related to:
- Historical Travel
- Romantic Travel and Honeymoons
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Las Vegas: Perfect after a rainforest hike
Las Vegas was recommended to us by the owner of our villa. It was the perfect place to stop for dinner after hiking in El Yunque. We were the first ones there at about 6pm. They were cutting ginger and haliconias to fill these large pots all over the resturant, it was beautiful, I just love tropical flowers. There are two rooms, the front room is a bit brighter with interesting red lighing fixtures, the back room has the same fixtures in green but is a bit dimmer. We sat in the front room. I liked the ambiance better. The service was very fast and friendly, and everything we ate was just delicious. By the time we left, the place was packed!
Favorite Dish: I got a rum punch, the corn fritters for an appitizer, the pork tenderloins and mufungo for my main course, and bread pudding for dessert. Fantastic. Lou got a Pina colada, shared the fritters for appitizer, the Osso bocco special for his main course and papaya for dessert. He wasn't a fan of the papaya, it was candied and heavily spiced, but he thoroughly enjoyed everything else.(including my bread pudding :P)Related to:
- Jungle and Rain Forest
Road Side Food Stands
When driving around Puerto Rico make sure that you stop at the local roadside stands. They sell a delectable variety of fried foods. They are all very tasty and cheap as well. I reccommend stopping at several stands to have little snacks. They all have similar foods but everthings a bit different as it's all homemade.
Favorite Dish: The empanadas, rice and beans, and fried plantains are not to be missed.Related to:
- Road Trip
- Budget Travel
Momoyama: Japanese Steak House
Very nice. Very Benihana-ish/Kobe Steak House like... It has the THEATRICS of a guy that can throw knives, break eggs, be corny but funny and make fried rice for 12 people in one sitting. It's a Hotel Restuarant, (Hotel Intercontinental) and it was in a great location. Walking distance from our 1 bedroom condo.
Favorite Dish: I had grilled shrimp. Can't screw that up too much, ya?
RUTH'S CHRIS STEAK HOUSE: Steak and Ambiance
I should start off by saying we went to Outback at the Embassy Suites first. I don't eat much red meat; steaks even less, but I could tell Mr Bigg wanted it and I'm flexible if not easy. So I figured the red meat was good protein... Him not really knowing the difference between the family oriented themed restaurant OUTBACK and the pricier/sophisticated Ruth's Chris -- well, it was funny to see his reaction. We got to Outback, and within 15 minutes, we were OUT OF OUTBACK... I told him Ruth's Chris is RELIABLE, CONSISTANT, if not PRICEY. Ruth's Chris it was. NICE ambiance, subdued sophistication... and great service. Food is always fresh, well prepared and presented. Can't go wrong with RUTH'S CHRIS STEAK HOUSE whereever you are. VERY consistant...
Favorite Dish: I had the porterhouse, since Prime Rib is mostly what I enjoy meat-wise. Mr Bigg had Lamb chops which were REALLY good . We split a Shrimp appetizer and had a nice Cab wine.
Restaurant El Alambique: Beach Cafe...
It wasn't too bad. First day i had a green salad and something forgetable. Second day I had the local P.R. Specialty.. Mofongos. It seemed pretty cool, but I was in such a hurry I couldn't really enjoy it. Service wasn't great. It's not a Fancy Beach Side Bar and Cafe. (Nor should it be! It's a proper Tres Casual Beach Bar!) Mr Bigg always ordered food that was better than what I ordered! His Octopus Salads were really good!
Favorite Dish: Pina Colada's rocked. And you can get them in plastic and walk across the beach and give them to a sunbathing Hexe! Well, at least my FAVORITE BEACH BOY Mr Bigg would do this for me. I could dig the life of Princess Hexe! ; )
Roasted Pig: Delicious Piggie
All sorts of Pork can be found in Puerto Rico. They love it! Pork, plantains, and rice are probably the 3 major food groups! Anyway, driving around you can find folks selling roast pork on the sides of the road. It is delicious! I recommend trying it, street food can be a concern for some people. But I can promise you won't be sorry!
**Ps. It is cheap too. A piece of roast pork and rice will cost you only about $5!**Related to:
- Budget Travel
- Food and Dining
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Cafe at El Yunque Information Center: Delicious Smoothies
Before heading off to hike the rainforest, we stopped into the Information Center to see the exhibits, grab a map and a quick bite to eat. The center itself is really beautifullly designed. It's a very modern building, open to the air with orchids and waterfalls "inside". At the upstairs cafe, we each got a smoothie, Lou got a banana, I got a guava. We also had a vegetarian platter and quesadillas. The food was Ok, but the smoothies were really fantastic.
Favorite Dish: Smoothies!Related to:
- Hiking and Walking
- Jungle and Rain Forest
My best gastronomic experience was not in restaurants, but eating food sold in the streets! The local street vendors that sold "pinchos" definitely should not be missed. It's a gastronomic delight, less fuss, no pretense, and good food not only for the stomach, but the soul! Driving all around the island of Puerto Rico will allow you to try the many different food/fruit treats sold by local street vendors. You will also find food stalls close to beach areas (e.g., around Luquillo Beach, etc.) Cheers!
Favorite Dish: Definitely "pinchos" or meat (either chicken or pork) skewered in sticks.Related to:
- Budget Travel
- National/State Park
- Jungle and Rain Forest
Ropa Vieja: Traditional Puerto Rican cuisine
This was recommended to us by a co-worker of mine. We wanted a traditional Puerto Rican cuisine and we got exactly what we were hoping for. This place had amazing food! Everything about this place was traditional. The people, the music, the food, the drinks… Definitely a must place to go eat.
Paradise Seafood Restaurant: Seafood on the beach!
This was a "nice" local restaurant in Playa Punta Santiago. We choose it solely because it was on the tourist map given to us in San Juan. Everything was very good tasting! A little expensive for the ambience...makes one kind of think they are just allowed to charge high because they are on the map! Regardless...the food was good...just not super memorable!Related to:
- Road Trip
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