San Juan is big on tapas and authentic down home Puerto Rican food known as comida criolla . This vibrant spicy cuisine is a blend of flavors from Africa, Spain, and the Taino Indians who were native to South America and the Caribbean.
As with Creole cooking in Louisiana which has a foundation of celery, green bell peppers, and onions (known as the Holy Trinity), comida criolla has a base called sofrito which is made from tomatoes, garlic, onions, peppers, and cilantro.
Another irreplaceable element in Puerto Rican cuisine is a spice concoction known as adobo. It’s used as a seasoning for meat, fish, and poultry, and generally contains spices of turmeric, oregano, onion and garlic powders, plus salt and pepper.
When it’s time to eat, consider trying the national dish of Puerto Rico, arroz con gandules (rice, pigeon peas, and ham) or try an alcapurrias (hamburger filled fried fritter with banana).
Located in Condado, Ropa Vieja is a popular restaurant choice for both Caribbean and Cuban cuisine; recommended highly are the mofongo with ropa vieja (pulled pork with plantain) and the arroz con pollo (chicken and rice). Mojito’s Restaurant in Old San Juan is well known for their delicious freshly made mojitos plus their black bean soup, shrimp mofongo, and fried plantains.
If you’d like to try some free salsa dancing lessons along with great Latin cuisine, then The Latin Roots in Old San Juan is the place for you. Their selection of authentic Puerto Rican cuisine includes roast pork, rice with pigeon peas, sausage and rice, boiled green bananas, and black Puerto Rican sausage (blood sausage).
Native Puerto Rican Chef Wilo Benet serves up international and conventional Latin cuisine as his restaurant, Pikayo, located in Condado. Open for the dinner seating only, favorites at Pikayo include the truffle cheese empanadillas with mojito truffle butter, campari tomato salad, and the crispy red snapper. If you’ve still got room for dessert, try the scrumptious chocolate soufflé but remember to pre-order when you order dinner as it takes a few minutes to prepare.
And speaking of dessert, La Bombanera in Old San Juan is a popular choice for pastries like their mallorcas (open faced croissants with butter and powdered sugar) or flan. Accompanied by a rich dark Puerto Rican coffee, you’ll be sure to make a return visit before leaving the island.
Flickr.com Photo Credit: Mufungo Relleno – with Crab Meat Filling by Thejas