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I recently returned from a trip to Vieques, a dreamy 21-mile-long island off the coast of Puerto Rico. As on many islands, good fresh food can be hard to come by, but I managed to find two spots I’d go to again and again if I could:
1) The year-and-a-half-old open-air El Quenepo restaurant in the tiny southern coastal town of Esperanza is intensely focused on local ingredients—somewhat rare in the Caribbean and tricky on such a small island. The night I was there, they made a lightly sweet, super refreshing (albeit blue!) cocktail using ginger and lemongrass grown in the backyard. The extra peppery arugula as well as many of the other greens on the menu are grown on the island or at a co-op farm on Puerto Rico. The seafood and fish come from local fishermen and is showcased all over the menu. My favorite dish? An elegant version of mofongo (a Puerto Rican staple made with mashed and fried plantains or other starchy vegetables) stuffed with shrimp and lobster in a sweet-and-slightly spicy criollo sauce (148 Calle Flamboyan, 787-741-1215).
2) Across the street from El Quenepo, a young gregarious local fries up Puerto Rican arepas at his beachside stand, Hubba Hubba, starting around 1 or 2 in the afternoon until about 11 at night. While his arepas are still warm and crispy, he splits them and stuffs them with vinegary seafood salads—like octopus, conch and shrimp—studded with tomatoes and olives. At $6 a pop, they’re a perfect post-swimming snack. For a balanced meal, grab a can of locally-brewed Medalla beer from the bar next store for $1.35.