Founded in 1521 by Spanish colonists, San Juan is the capital of Puerto Rico and has the largest population. Since it is an island, you will find numerous beaches. These playas are popular all year long, with the average daily temperature being 81 degrees. So, don’t forget to pack your swimsuit and sunscreen when heading to the island on holiday. Surely, you must be wondering what the best places to eat in San Juan are in such a tropical paradise.
The food in San Juan is special, with dishes that will make you want to stay forever. The national dish of Puerto Rico is arroz con gandules made with a mix of pork, pigeon peas, and rice. And don’t forget to try mofongo, which is a dish made from mashed plantains. Drop off your shopping bags and backpacks at a San Juan luggage storage spot and go eat.
As the most important meal of the day, the Puerto Rico capital is on hand to serve a smorgasbord of delights. Some of the best places to eat in San Juan offer freshly baked bread, fresh fruit, and hot-off-the-griddle eggs.
Order the egg sandwich with Italian ham and provolone on sourdough, a ham sandwich with cheddar and tomatoes, or turkey and pepper jack on sourdough. For pastry lovers, try Café Regina’s chocolate chip cookies, pumpkin & pepita bread, or a delicious vegan brownie. They also have toast, granola, and fruit bowls.
Want a great breakfast by the beach? Head to Pinky’s. They are known for their large variety of breakfast dishes like the Drunken Pilot with four eggs, spinach, goat cheese, and tomatoes and the Morning After Surfer with grilled turkey, mozzarella, and three fried eggs. Don’t miss the banana pancakes!
Waffle-era Tea Room
For waffle lovers, no place is better than Waffle-era Tea Room aka La Waflera. They have two dozen waffle flavors like s’mores, honey almonds, crème brûlée, and Nutella’s Delight. The savory waffle selection includes green eggs and ham, salmon, prosciutto and manchego, roast beef, and gorgonzola basil. You also can create your own combo from 21 toppings.
Ready to take a break from lounging in the sun? Check out some of the best places to eat in San Juan for a quick lunch between exploring the city’s history and getting a tan.
Café Manolin serves Creole food and you can count on a fantastic meal no matter what you order. Get the 10 oz sirloin, red snapper, skirt steak, pork chops, kingfish, chicken breast, salmon, or mahi mahi. Then choose one or more of their great sides like rice, tostones, mofongo, beans, or salad.
Café Marquesa has a variety of lunch and brunch foods from eggs benedict to steak and eggs. Try the Hangover Burger, which has a juicy beef patty with cheddar, bacon, spinach, and tomato with fries. Or try one of the pizza options like pepperoni and cheese or the Nicoletta with goat cheese, mozzarella, and dates.
Although it specializes in Puerto Rican cuisine, Café Berlin also serves vegetarian and international food. Eat in the cozy dining area or on the terrace where you can enjoy the sun. Popular dishes include seafood and mofongo or the fish taco platter. Tropical salmon and Caribbean paella are also excellent.
Dining in Style
San Juan doesn’t disappoint when it comes to dinner. With a small but perfectly formed selection of fine dining establishments, you can turn eating out at night in San Juan into an occasion. Try unforgettable seafood, mouthwatering sides, and stellar traditional dishes.
Be sure you have your phone to take food pics and share on social media because Vendimia designs each dish as a work of art. The restaurant itself is stunning and the food… unforgettable. The ribeye is mouthwatering with wine sauce and raisins, and the beef risotto is adorned with prawns and mushrooms.
Located in the luxurious Condado Vanderbilt Hotel, 1919 is a sensational restaurant with exquisite food and a gorgeous view. They even have a Michelin star for their exceptional menu items like swordfish with squid, clams, mussels, and the roasted duck breast with eggplant and mushrooms. But don’t miss the walnut streusel for dessert.
With an earthy and chic atmosphere, Santaella is a lovely little bistro with warm and friendly staff. And the food is stellar. Traditional dishes like morcilla with hot sauce, goat cheese quesadillas, and pork belly mofongo are popular. The entrees include salmon with Asian noodles, braised pork, and several more.
What would a trip to the city be without trying some of the local spots for a quick bite? Some of the best places to eat in San Juan are small mom-and-pop restaurants ready to showcase their specialty cuisines.
If you want a Tex Mex meal on a budget, Vagón has what you need. Try the Baja fish tacos, surf & turf, or salmon tacos with sides for under $10. They also feature a Puerto Rican favorite, the tripleta, which is a sandwich with beef, chicken, and pork on a sweet roll. Or you can order fajitas, quesadillas, or burritos.
If you can’t decide what you want, head to Lote 23. This park has 10 different kiosks that offer a variety of choices. Doroteas has pizza, El Jangiri features poke bowls, Berger has burgers, the Hen House serves chicken, and if you want mofongo, go to El Cuchifrito. If you are looking for something light — Tio Dora has snack foods, Budare serves arepas, and Caneca has drinks.
For a mouthwatering burger for an amazingly low price, El Hamburguer is the place to go. They take freshly ground beef and cook it over an open flame before dousing it with whatever toppings you desire. From Swiss cheese to jalapeños, these thick burgers are unreal. They also serve crispy fries, onion rings, and hot dogs.
Finally, for all those sweet tooths out there, you can miss San Juan’s desserts. Some of the best places to eat in San Juan can be found at the local ice cream parlor just down the street. With chocolates, cookies, and ice cream, you’re sure to find exactly what you’re craving.
Chocolate lovers must visit the Chocobar Cortés. Chef Ricky is a chocolatier, so he knows how to tempt your tastebuds. Try the vanilla chocolate pancakes with strawberry jam, eight flavors of bonbons, a chocoburger, or chocolate grilled cheese. The chef even dresses the salad in a chocolate vinaigrette.
We all love cookies and David’s Cookies has cookies and much more. From classic chocolate chip to double fudge chocolate, you will find your favorite here. The lava cookie is something special with gooey chocolate sauce in the middle of a chocolate chip cookie. They also have brownies, muffins, and Nutella cookie cups.
Have your ice cream roll your way at Below Zero. They have parlors in Condado and La Marqueta. Drool over a selection of flavors including brownie, green tea, and peanut butter. Choose one and then top with three ingredients such as almond slice, cinnamon crunch, and granola.
Whether you are in San Juan for one day on business or a week on vacation, take the time to try some of these outstanding eateries. Don’t miss the local cuisine like asopao (gumbo) and pasteles (meat-filled pastries). And be sure to have Puerto Rico’s national drink — the piña colada.
by Abigail Jones