Food in San Juan, Puerto Rico
August 19, 2015 7:17 PM   Subscribe

We'll be in San Juan for a few days next month and I'm looking for recommendations for eating out.

One night will be my partner's birthday, so I'd like something nice, but we won't have fancy clothes with us. We're interested in pretty much any kind of food and our budget is moderate, although I'll consider something high-end for the birthday meal. So if you love a place, please recommend it without regard to price! Recommendations for things like coffee and snacks would be welcome too. Thanks in advance!
posted by BibiRose to Food & Drink (16 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Birthday dinner at Jose Enrique in Santurce - amazing, amazing food, zero need for fancy clothes. Breakfasts at Caficultura. The Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico is phenomenal, and their restaurant, Laurel, is really great as well.
posted by amelioration at 7:36 PM on August 19, 2015

Best answer: Oh, and if craft cocktails are your thing, La Factoria just KILLS it.
posted by amelioration at 7:38 PM on August 19, 2015

Best answer: Went to this place called Uvva in Ocean park. Very tasty and beautiful, tucked away in a residential neighborhood right on the water. Dark and peaceful and romantic.
posted by greta simone at 7:49 PM on August 19, 2015

Best answer: El Jibarito in Old San Juan is good for classic Puerto Rican food - not the fancy birthday place, but a good place for traditional food. Apparently it's quite popular but my friends and I stumbled on it and had no trouble getting a table.
posted by lunasol at 8:03 PM on August 19, 2015

Best answer: I went to Verde Mesa twice while I was there, and enjoyed it that much. I intended to visit Cucina Abierta but we had a small kid with us, and it didn't seem like the best plan. Heard very good things though!
posted by 1adam12 at 8:33 PM on August 19, 2015

Best answer: We went here for drinks and it was lovely - fairy lights and a light breeze and a beautiful view of the city from the rooftop bar. We didn't try the food but I think the ambiance makes it worthwhile to try at least for dessert. Very romantic.

Whatever you do, stay away from the Parrot Room. It has good reviews on Yelp but it was like dining in the belly of a cruise ship. Hell on Earth.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 8:59 PM on August 19, 2015

Best answer: My absolute favorite place to eat in San Juan- Rosa de Triana! Little tapas place buried in a basement across from the El Convento hotel. Do not miss it!
posted by Naberius at 9:05 PM on August 19, 2015

Best answer: We loved Dragonfly (link to Yelp because their webpage appears to be down)
posted by hydropsyche at 4:04 AM on August 20, 2015

Best answer: If you are going to try to eat at Jose Enrique you must get there early. They do not accept reservations and it is always packed. You will wait but it is certainly worth it.

Pirilo in Old San Juan has fantastic pizza.

Old Harbor Brewery makes some great beer, but the food is so-so.

I have heard great things about Rosa de Triana but I haven't tried it yet because every time my wife and I decide to eat out we default to El Nuevo Acuario.

Everyone must eat here when they visit Puerto Rico: El Nuevo Acuario. It is, simply put, the best restaurant on the island. I am not exaggerating. Look at its reviews. It only has 5 star reviews and a hundred of them at that. It will be a cab ride from San Juan, but it is right past the airport, so not too far AND TOTALLY WORTH IT. It is not easy to find. Look through the reviews for a map.

Its a run-down, open-air restaurant across the bridge in the strip where all the locals go to the beach. It is the real deal. My wife and I have eaten there at least 30 or 40 times. When we have visitors it is not uncommon that we go to eat there 2, 3 or 5 times during their visit. I have eaten everything on the menu and Leonardo has started inventing new dishes for us. You absolutely must order El Chillo (whole red snapper). And get Emma (Lenny's brother) to make you one of his fresh fruit mojitos.

If you want to try other restaurants don't go here first because you will only return for your next meal.

If you feel like it, MeMail me. We're always up for eating there.
posted by zyxwvut at 6:38 AM on August 20, 2015

Best answer: PS: EL Nuevo Acuario is closed on Tuesdays.
posted by zyxwvut at 6:54 AM on August 20, 2015

Hey zyxwvut - does that offer stand for me? We'll be there the week before Christmas.
posted by COD at 5:22 PM on August 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: La Chola is awesome and pretty inexpensive.
posted by slenderloris at 10:48 AM on August 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you so much, everyone! I have been reading these answers to my partner and he's really excited now!
posted by BibiRose at 11:12 AM on August 21, 2015

Response by poster: Oh my gosh. El Nuevo Acuario was amazing; thank you so much for recommending it! After Leonardo had departed to the kitchen to cook our meal, my partner started making noises about when we would be able to pay a second visit. I pointed out that we hadn't tasted a bite of the food yet, and he responded, "Yeah but when you get to the top of the mountain, you know it." The food is just so, so good. I think it's the attention to detail: a lobster tail is cut into medallions and poached and then reassembled in the shell so it's all cooked evenly, things like that. We had El Chillo, of course, as well as the lobster dish and some ceviche. I went home with leftover plantain fritters and some extra sauce from the lobster, and ate them all the next day. The food is not elaborate or fussy but I was glad we had gotten one sauced dish-- the lobster sauce was rich but bright and citrusy-- and I'll bet all their sauces are phenomenal. We would certainly have gone back but our visit to San Juan was shorter than we expected and that turned out to be our only sit-down restaurant dinner. My only regret is there were only two of us; with more notice I would definitely want to get a group together and try more things.

I really enjoyed the ambiance of the strip where the restaurant is situated. For anyone reading this, I think the best landmark is the big "Bienvenidos a Loiza" sign that will be on your left, a little less than ten miles past the airport on 187. You'll go over a bridge, see that sign and make a very hard left that will take you up into a group of bars and restaurants. El Nuevo Acuario is the one with the brightly painted bar next to the pool hall.

Thanks to everyone for the other suggestions! I know we will use them on the next trip.
posted by BibiRose at 6:23 AM on September 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

Glad you loved it BibiRose!

COD (and anyone else traveling to La Isla del Encanto) we will be here through summer 2016. MeMail me if you want to get together during your visit, or if you have more questions.
posted by zyxwvut at 7:57 AM on November 6, 2015

Zyxwvut wasn't exaggerating about El Nuevo Acuario. The food was fantastic and the Red Snapper may have ruined fish for me. I'm never going to have it like that again.

As an added bonus zyxwvut and his wife met us there last night, making it the first Metafilter meet up in Puerto Rico, as far as I know.
posted by COD at 6:15 PM on December 18, 2015

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