After reading many articles and talking to locals and local chefs, I had some great meals in San Juan. However, after Hurricane Maria, several of the places are no longer open. I do hope to get back and explore some new spots. Here are my recommendations following my five days in the city that are still open include:
If you want French, Trois Cent Onze, not part of the group mentioned above, is well-regarded at 311 Calle Fortaleza.
Café el Punto: Located at 105 Fortaleza, this is a real local’s spot with fresh local ingredients. I enjoyed my first mofongo which is a Puerto Rican specialty featuring mashed plantains. I had one topped with crab and shrimp. They have great pina coladas and other juices plus avocados stuffed with shrimp and seafood. Very casual with good food. They have a large selection of folk art for sale, also. I bought a great painted mask, made from a coconut, for my collection.
Marmalade Restaurant and Wine Bar: Located at 317 Fortaleza Street, this is a wonderful restaurant owned by chef Peter Schintler. Having worked in the U.S., Singapore, France and Spain, Peter brings some wonderful Asian influence to Napa Valley cuisine. The ono poke appetizer was really outstanding as was my mero fish entrée. The white bean soup with truffles and pancetta was to die for and I enjoyed the light chamomile sorbet. The service was great and I enjoyed meeting Peter and his wife. The atmosphere is contemporary and sleek.
Tasca el Pescador: Located across the street from the Mercado at Calle dos Hermanos 178, is this well-known seafood restaurant. You know it is fresh when the menu includes a handwritten list of daily specials. I enjoyed the food and the brightly colored decor. The salmon with guava sauce plus rice and beans was the perfect choice!
My best experience was at Pikayo which is the restaurant of famed chef Wilo Benet. I had a great conversation with Wilo who once worked in Chicago. He has done a lot of television, including Top Chef and Top Chef Masters, and is working on two new shows. It was a perfect evening! Unfortunately it has closed, but he has opened an Eatery & Bar that features many of Pikayo’s specialties. I would love to try it on my next trip.
Noted chef Wilo Benet suggested that next time I try Jose Enrique, also near the Mercado at 176 Calle Duffaut, for local specialties. It was named one of Food & Wines Best Restaurants in North America in 2019
Richie’s Cafe: Located in Rio Grande, near El Yunque National Park, is a good restaurant located in a home in the hills overlooking the ocean. The views from the open terrace are really great and the local specialties well worth the visit. I had a mofongo with mixed seafood and rice with shrimp and pineapple served in a pineapple. The perfect end to my trip before heading to the airport!
On the way to El Yunque National Forest, drive along the ocean and beaches on Route 187 where you will pass through Piňones. Here you will see small food stands selling fresh crabs, octopus and seafood and other fried foods. You can also have a batida or smoothie made of local fruits! I got mine, made of papaya and banana, at Rica’s. Delicious!!!