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Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Video : And eating our way through San Juan

My new favorite thing, is organizing the food of my travels onto a post (with an awesome RECAP video at the end!).  Because lets be honest, the food just may be the best part about traveling.  Being on vacation and trying new food is the best combination (calories don't count once you get off the plane).  

A Few Things About The Food: 

My initial thoughts of Puerto Rico would be an abundance of fresh seafood, tacos, and plantains.  And in a few ways, I my thoughts were right, and wrong.  
  • Tacos were mediocre
  • Mofongo absolutely delicious (and really really heavy)
  • Mojitos are perfection
  • Fresh (not fried) seafood was not as abundant as I thought
  • Amazing homemade sauces
  • Vegetables are a rare sighting

 I have to start by saying I was a little disappointed in the tacos of Puerto Rico.   As weird as this sounds, Salt Lake City has amazing Mexican food, and I have gotten really used to having amazing tacos.  We had tacos at two different places, and while they were good, I wasn't blown away.  Maybe I didn't find the right spots, or maybe my taco expectations were set too high.  

Beef taco at Kabanas in Condado
Fish Tacos from Bar Gitano 

 Jill had talked a lot about this mysterious dish called mofongo on the island (and for good reason). Mofongo is an Afro-Puerto Rican delicious dish made with fried plantain. Plantains are picked green and mashed with salt and water in a wooden pil√≥n (a mortar and pestle). The plantains are mashed into this delicious starchy patty, that is made to absorb the sauce on top (think broth, garlic, olive oil). On top of this starchy delicousness, you can top vegetables, chicken, beef, or various kinds of seafood. Mofongo is a famous Puerto Rican dish, that really features the beloved fried plaintan, and is really representative of Puerto Rican cooking (or what I experienced). Lots of carb, starch, a deep frier, meat and seafood, and no vegetables in sight. It was nearly impossible to find a vegetable on the menu on this island.

Steak Mofongo at Vieja Ropa.
My favorite Mofongo:  Mahi Mahi Mofongo at Ajo del Pais 

Big Dishes  
While we are on the topic of heavy rich food, be prepared for the large dishes here.  At this restaurant, we found huge portions, and cheap prices.  Some of the most amazing pork, with tamales, rice, beans, and plantains.  Everything is so heavy and starchy though that you may feel 6 months pregnant after every meal.  I was not used to eating this much carb loaded rich food and I definitely felt 20 pounds heavier the entire trip.  There was definitely a few named food babies and a new term coined "Mofongo Belly".  

Dish at Cafe de Angel 

Fried Faire:   
Next up is your typical fried deliciousness of Puerto Rican Faire.  Fried Empanadas, Fried balls of codfish, fried plantains, there is no shortage of fried food on the menus in Puerto Rico.  The empanadas were amazing, and the creamy fried balls of cod were salty and delicious.

Empanadas at El Jiberito 

Homemade Sauces:  
Almost everywhere you went, you were greeted with a bottle of homemade hot sauce at your table.  Not overkill, spicy yet full of flavor.  There was also a few homemade garlic sauces and we were even greeted with a rendition of Fry Sauce at one of the restaurants. 

Homemade Garlic and Hot Sauce at El Jiberito

Finally, I found what I was looking for.  Fresh seafood and food that wasn't deep fried.  Octopus, conch, shrimp, prawns, mahi mahi, squid, and grouper were on some of the Puerto Rican menus.  Our favorite seafood was at Cueva Del Mar in Old San Juan.  A fresh and amazing Conch and Octopus Salad, followed by bowls of seafood and rice with a rich saffron tomato broth.

Shark Skewers with Fried Plantains at Ajo del Pais
Octopus and Conch Salad at Cueva Del Mar
 Conch, shrimp, prawns, squid, and grouper in a saffron tomato onion and garlic sauce, with rice and beans on the side. 

Mixed seafood over rice with a saffron tomato sauce, and plantain chips. 

Street Food
 And then we found the other thing we were looking for. Amazing and cheap street food.  Skewers ("pinchos") are advertised all along the beaches and streets of Puerto Rico.  We found these amazing pork skewers in home made BBQ with a slice of grilled bread in Pinones at Puerta Del Mar for about $3.  Amazing, messy, cheap and easy.  How I like my food. 

Skewers at Puerta del Mar

I have to say, the only dessert we got on the island was flan (and Jills amazing rum and guava wedding cake).  We only ever ordered the flan, because it was always so delicious, and on every menu.  Flan isn't something you find on every menu back in the states, and it definitely isn't something you find done well.  The flan in Puerto Rico was amazing, and came in various flavors from coconut, to vanilla, to cheese.  Not just for your grandma, flan is absolutely delicious on this island.  

Flan at Cafe de Angel
Flan at Ajo del Pais 

As far as cocktails go, there are some great options.  Beware, that they are as strong as they are delicious.  The mojitos with fresh mint are always an awesome choice, though often very sweet.  And the Long Island I had in Loquillo at the Kiosks was equally as delicious (and dangerous).  

Don't expect amazing beer options on this island.  But do expect the local light beer for a good price depending where you go.  Medalla (pronounced "medaya") light is the popular beer on the island.  It tastes like a really watered down Bud Light, often comes in 10 oz (vs 12 oz) cans, and has about 80 calories (very low).  Sadly, it's still a higher alcohol content than Utah can serve on tap. Prices range from $7.50 at expensive restaurants in Condado, to $1.25 at Puerta del Mar in Pinones.  

Favorite Places: Old San Juan

Ajo del Pais:  Affordable food and the best mofongo I had.  Two beers, two entrees, and one dessert was only $38 including tax.  A trendy fun open air style restaurant in Old San Juan.  When I saw the cop pick up his to-go order, I knew we picked a good spot.  

El Jiberito:  Recommended by my dive instructor.  A no frills divey looking spot with amazing food.  Cheap prices and great service.  We had the empanadas and the fried balls of cod.  The place can get busy with a long line in the evenings, so its a great spot for apps earlier in the night before dinner. 

Cueva del Mar:  Again a recommendation by my dive instructor.  He said it was the best seafood on the island, and it did not disapoint.  Amazing seafood dishes for under $20.  The octopus and conch salad was a perfect start, followed by piles of seafood over rice in a saffron broth. Do be aware that this is directly on the road where most Cruise shippers pour out to so it can get very busy at times. We hit right before the dinner rush and seat right away, but 30 minutes later it was a mess.

Grilled Octopus at Bar Guitano

Favorite Places: Condado

Bar Gitano is a great place if you want to try a few different things tapas style.  The prices were fair and the charred octopus was one of the best things I had on the island.  

Cafe de Angel -  Cheap drinks and heaping portions of food for an amazing price.  Try some of the mixed plates to try a little bit of everything.  Also our favorite flan.  

--- V I D E O ---

A week on Puerto Rico, February 2016 . Featuring diving from Fajardo, natural slides at Las Paylas, a trip to El Yunque National Forest (tropical rain forest), paddle boarding in the lagoon, the fabulous Hill Wedding, and fun on the beach with friends. 

Or directly on You Tube here 


  1. Oh the video is such a great way to recap this trip!! All of the food looks pretty incredible. My faculty advisor is from Puerto Rico and I'm sure she'd love to see this and tell everybody to go there. Awesome!

    1. Videos are my favorite part of the trip! Love getting home and putting them together. How cool that she is from PR! Such a beautiful place.

  2. Medalla is a "watered down" version of Bud Light? Ha! I didn't realize Bud Light could get any more watered down. Great recap video of your trip, BTW. It really captures the beauty of Puerto Rico.

    1. I didn't either until I had Medalla! Thanks for the feedback! Its a gorgeous place I was lucky to catch on "film".


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