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Insider Guide to Puerto Rico Restaurants

Puerto Rican chef-icon Wilo Benet has operated San Juan’s elegant Pikayo for more than 20 years, helping it grow from a modest space in Old San Juan to the 10,000-square-foot palace it occupies in Condado today. Here, the expert local shares where to find the best seafood, street food stands and Caribbean craft beer.

Wilo Benet’s Favorite Puerto Rico Restaurants

Caribbean Burgers: The Place

“The Place is airy, with a cool-mist system for when the weather gets too hot, and the burger choices are phenomenal. They use house-ground beef and artisan buns, and you can top your burger with ripe plantains. There’s also truffle salt for your fries and a spicy Japanese mustard that is super-delicious.” 787-998-4209

Cult Food Truck: El Churry

Tripletas have become the iconic local street sandwich and no one does them better than El Churry in Isla Verde. You can get grilled chicken, beef or mixto (a half-and-half blend of the two) in a soft, almost sweet French-style bread. I like mine with lots of the ketchup-and-mayo sauce. El Churry usually has a long line and it only opens at night.” elchurry.com

Best Diner: Kasalta

“I go to Kasalta in Ocean Park a couple times a week for breakfast or lunch. There’s a great buzz, with lots of locals doing business and socializing. I like the huevos estrellados or ‘crashed eggs’ with fries and chorizo, or the medianoche sandwich, which became famous after President Obama ate one here. It’s hand-carved pork, ham, Swiss cheese, mustard and pickles.” kasalta.com

Pork Worth Traveling For: El Cuñao

“This treat will require a 45- to 60-minute drive out of San Juan, but if you are a pork fan this is my favorite place. El Cuñao, in Cayey, is tucked in the middle of the mountains, and the service isn’t great. But the lechón, or roast pork, is moist and the skin is always crispy. My second favorite thing to get here is the blood sausage and tripe stew.” 787-263-2626

Puerto Rico Restaurants: Restaurant 1919
Photo courtesy of Condado Vanderbilt Hotel.

High-End Newcomer: 1919

“Juan Cuevas is the chef here, and he has trained under some of the great players in New York and Spain, like Daniel Boulud, Alain Ducasse and others. I just had the tasting menu recently and there was not a single dish I did not like. Cuevas says that everything he serves is locally sourced, which is something that’s very hard to do here in Puerto Rico.” Quintessential dish: wild striped bass with roasted pasteles de yuca, buche de bacalao, olives, sofrito and almonds. 1919restaurant.com

Modern Food in an Ancient Setting: Marmalade

“Peter Schintler oversees the kitchen here and personally has a hand in almost every dish. He works with lots of premium ingredients, and his techniques, flavors and presentations are very beautiful and modern. The restaurant is set inside a five-century–old building in Old San Juan.” Quintessential dish: Tiny white bean soup with scallions, black truffle oil and pancetta dust. marmaladepr.com

Go-To Gastromart: Bottles

“Bottles is a food and wine store as well as a full-service restaurant, located 20 minutes from San Juan, in the affluent suburb of Guaynabo. You’ll find great steaks, beautiful lobster tails and enormous sandwiches here—pretty much everything on chef Trent Eichler’s menu is served generously.” bottlespr.com

Market-Driven Seafood From F&W’s First Puerto Rico-Based Best New Chef: Jose Enrique

“Jose Enrique is a talented local chef who also attended the Culinary Institute of America and is putting a lot of effort into using local ingredients. Of his two restaurants, I personally prefer the one near the market in Santurce. The whole fried fish with fresh avocado and papaya chutney is delicious, as is the smoked meat. It’s very casual and a little bit loud; arrive early because it is always packed and they don’t take reservations.” joseenriquepr.com

European-Style Bakery: Cafe Marquesa

“In my opinion there is no better French baguette in Puerto Rico. Jesus Fernández is the owner and chef here and he makes phenomenal artisanal pizzas, pastas, pastries and coffee.” 787-723-4124

Destination Italian: Il Nuovo Perugino Enoteca

“My dear friend Franco Seccarelli is the owner of the best and most authentic Italian restaurant in Puerto Rico, located in the mezzanine of the Banco Popular building in Hato Rey. There are lots of excellent pasta dishes, but my wife, Lorraine, and I absolutely love Franco’s amatriciana. Il Nuovo is only 15 minutes from the main tourist areas of San Juan, and it is well-worth the trip.” ilperugino.com

Craft Beer Stop: Old Harbor Brewery

“Medalla and Magna are Puerto Rico’s most famous local beers and I thoroughly enjoy them. But the best artisanal beer is Taína, which is produced on the premises at Old Harbor Brewery. Stop by during your visit to Old San Juan.” oldharborbrewery.com

Funky Bar Snacks: Dragonfly

“Emilio Figueroa is the king of the Fortaleza Street restaurant scene, but among his many great spots, my very favorite is Dragonfly. It’s only open for dinner, the crowd is hip and young, and the spring rolls and calamari are so good.” oofrestaurants.com

Street Food Hub: Piñones

“Visit the kiosks at Piñones, 20 minutes outside San Juan, to experience traditional Puerto Rican fritters. All of the food stands are shacks, and some are in dire condition, but it doesn’t matter. The fritters are authentic and delicious: The alcapurrias, bacalaitos and pastelillos here are the best.”

Wilo Benet’s Puerto Rico Travel Tips

Puerto Rico Hotels: Copamarina
Photo courtesy of Copamarina Beach Resort & Spa

Boutique Beach Resort: Copamarina

“Right next to the Dry Forest in Guanica, this 150-room hotel is a gem. Copamarina has that local Caribbean feeling, with the beautiful ocean, gardens and gorgeous sunsets. The food is from chef Alfredo Ayala, whom I admire and recognize as the father of New Puerto Rican gastronomy. I used to be a manager there, from 1996 to 2000, and part of my heart stayed behind.” copamarina.com

Mega-Resort Alternative: El Canario

“This is one of the longest-standing B&Bs in San Juan. There are two locations and both are close to everything you’d want to do in Condado: The beach, shopping, restaurants. The accommodations are really charming—I often use the Ashford Avenue location for my own guests since I live nearby.” canariohotels.com

Best Golf Course: Trump International Golf Club

“This is the course where the Puerto Rico Open is played every year, and it’s one of the official stops of the PGA tour. It’s a lovely course with great views, and offers a chance to play where the bigwigs play.” trumpgolfclubpuertorico.com

Unbeatable Zip-Lining: Toro Verde, Morovis

“Toro Verde is a must-stop. The ride is long, beautiful, well organized and adventurous. I took my whole family here including my sons, Gonzalo and Lucas, and they had a blast. It’s an hour from San Juan.” toroverdepr.com

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