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The best restaurants in Puerto Rico

Come experience a culinary renaissance at the best restaurants in Puerto Rico.

Written by
Jessica van Dop DeJesus
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Puerto Rico, with its complex history, is home to many cultures. From the Tainos to the colonization by Spaniards to the arrival of the enslaved Africans to being a United States colony, the island has received many influences best expressed by food and music. Whether it's the classic arroz con gandules from restaurants that have been around for almost a century to avant-garde tasting menus, there's something for every taste. 

Puerto Rico's restaurant scene continues to evolve as many Puerto Rican chefs are diving deeper into indigenous ingredients and introducing techniques they've learned abroad to create unique dishes with fruits and vegetables that have been part of the culture for centuries. The dining experience in Puerto Rico goes beyond the vibrant capital of San Juan to cities like Rincon, Guayama, and Rio Grande. Here are the best restaurants in Puerto Rico you should check out on your next trip.

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Best restaurants in Puerto Rico

San Juan

Located in the luxury hotel Condado Vanderbilt, 1919 is one of the top restaurants in Puerto Rico. 1919's executive Chef Juan José Cuevas returned to his native Puerto Rico after spending twenty years working at top restaurants in Spain, San Francisco, and New York. He brings together his experience of fine dining while incorporating local ingredients. His contemporary tasting menus showcase locally produced fruits and vegetables such as plantains, carrots, pumpkins, and passion fruit. Catch ocean views from their modernly designed dining room. 1919 is the place for you if you're looking for a luxury dining experience.

Juncos

Nestled in the mountains of Juncos, Bacoa is more than a restaurant--it is an experience. Walking uphill to the two-story restaurant, you notice the many banana trees, a pond, and a cow that may even walk past you. Bacoa focuses on ingredients made in the fogón (open flame), such as fresh local red snapper, steaks, and vegetables. Vegetarians will rejoice with several dishes, such as the roasted whole Puerto Rican pumpkin and roasted beet dip. For cocktail connoisseurs, there are plenty of choices (also zero-proof options) focusing on tropical fruit such as tamarind, guava, and starfruit.

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Cayey

For a unique dining experience, check out Bohemia Cocina en Movimiento. Located in a Hacienda in the mountainside town of Cayey, the concept is more of a dining experience. The multi-story hacienda lends to dazzling views of the lush countryside. The menu by Argentinian chef Mariano Sena changes weekly based on local ingredient availability and the creative process of his staff. Guests buy tickets ahead of time with a multi-course menu featuring items like succulent cuts of pork cooked over an open fire. Guests are encouraged to walk around the hacienda between courses and enjoy the beauty of tropical nature.

Morovis

German Puerto Rican food? Ja! In the mountains of Morovis, you will find Casa Bavaria. Founded by a German-Puerto Rican family, Casa Bavaria is a restaurant-slash-beer garden with impressive views of the Cordillera Central (the mountain range that crosses the center of the island from east to west) and the southern coast of Puerto Rico. Sip on a Paulaner beer and have mofongo (mashed, fried green plantains) topped with creamy mushroom schnitzel sauce. Servers wear authentic dirndls and lederhosen, and if you come during October, you can experience an Oktoberfest, Puerto Rican style!

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Ciales

Casa Vieja (old house), a small blue house in the countryside town of Ciales, is home to the popular restaurant owned by Liliam Ayala. She wanted to recreate something similar to her grandmother's home, focusing on traditional Puerto Rican dishes such as pasteles (a dough made with root vegetables, filled with stewed pork, and wrapped in banana leaf), rice, pigeon peas, and roasted pork. Open from Thursdays to Sundays, Casa Vieja is a popular stop for locals on the weekends, so make sure you get there early so you can grab a seat with a mountain view to sip on a passion fruit mojito and listen to live music.

Ponce

In Ponce, Puerto Rico, you will find Chef's Creations. Owned by Chef Jorge Rivera, this cozy restaurant in the heart of Ponce on the southern coast is a must-visit. Upon entering, you can take in the smoky scent of the wood-fired range where the chef prepares Puerto Rican classics like cornmeal dumplings, stewed codfish, and fried red snapper. He also features vegan dishes with vegetables sourced from the Ponce's Plaza de Mercado (farmer's market). While there, ask Chef Rivera for local tips since he knows everybody in his hometown!

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Loíza

El Buren de Lula is a legendary restaurant in the seaside town of Loíza, known for its strong Afro-Puerto Rican roots. The space is small and straightforward, but the flavors are big and rich. Chef and owner Maria Dolores DeJesús, known as Lula, is an important figure in Puerto Rican cuisine. For over fifty years, she's been making dishes from scratch with local ingredients over an open fire. There she makes arroz con coco (rice with coconut), cornmeal arepas filled with stewed codfish, rice, and stewed crab, among other traditional dishes from that region. The menu items ranging from $7-$15 are affordable, delicious, and skillfully made.

Guaynabo

If you ask a Puerto Rican about the island's traditional dish, they will probably say "lechón and arroz con gandules" (roasted pork, rice, and pigeon peas). No trip to Puerto Rico should be complete without experiencing a lechonera. Lechoneras are restaurants specializing in whole, roasted pig cooked over an open fire. El Rancho de Apa is one of the best places to experience a lechonera close to San Juan. These dishes with traditional sides such as rice and pigeon peas, stewed root vegetables, and rice. Luis "Apa" Ramos owns this local institution that has been around for several decades, and his famous roasted pork has even been ordered by Michelin-starred chef Eric Ripert.

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Rincón

Located in the surf town of Rincón on the west coast of Puerto Rico, Estela is a culinary experience worth the 2 1/2 hour drive from San Juan. James Beard Award-nominated Chef Abel Mendoza returned to his native Puerto Rico after working abroad in places such as Hawaii and Peru and using those experiences to drive the menu at Estela. The dining room is small and cozy, and the star is the food. With a mix of international influences like a succulent pig with a distinctly Puerto Rican sazón and Peruvian rice and duck made with local produce, Estela provides a fine dining experience in a casual setting.

Guayama

Head south to Guayama, a town located on the southern coast of Puerto Rico, and experience Gallo Pinto (spotted rooster). Occupying a stunning remodeled Spanish-style home near the town square, Gallo Pinto, as the name implies, focuses on chicken. The menu is a range of high-end to inexpensive items. They offer a "cajita de pollo," fried chicken in a cardboard box with fries, as a homage to the old-school fried chicken baskets of the 80s & 90s for $12. But if you're feeling fancy, you can order foie gras!

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San Juan

In Puerto Rico, you must eat at a panadería (bakery). Don't be fooled by the name! Panaderías are much more than just pastries and loaves of bread in Puerto Rico, and one of the best ones to experience this is at Kasalta. Located in the Ocean Park neighborhood of San Juan, you will see a mix of locals and tourists indulging in their famous sandwiches such as medianoche, a soft roll filled with savory roasted pork, ham, and swiss cheese. If you're looking for something heavier, they also offer soups, salads, and of course, arroz! Also, save room for a quesito, a puff pastry filled with cream cheese that is a Puerto Rican favorite.

Orocovis

Did you know that Puerto Rico has a "ruta de la longaniza"? It's a route focusing on longaniza, a sausage with Spanish and Portuguese origins. Many of the restaurants in the mountain town of Orocovis offer this delicacy. Still, the most popular place has to be La Sombra-Longanizas Doña María which has been in operation for over 80 years. The restaurant is still family-owned, using the recipes of the original owner, Doña María. We highly recommend ordering a sampler platter where you can taste a variety of sausages accompanied by rice with longaniza, stewed beans, and fried plantains.

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Fajardo

La Estación (the station), a former gas station turned restaurant by husband and wife team Chef Kevin Roth and Idalia García, is a favorite among chefs in Puerto Rico. Kevin and Idalia met in NYC and merged Kevin's American-style BBQ with Idalia's family Puerto Rican recipes. At La Estación, you can sample a smokey brisket, spiny Caribbean lobster, or ribs where the meat falls off the bone and plenty of Puerto Rican sides to choose from like rice and beans and homemade coconut arepas that are a staple on the east coast of Puerto Rico.

Guaynabo

Wilo’s Eatery, owned by Chef and cookbook author Wilo Benet is a balance of fine dining and casual options. You can choose fancy items like duck breast and fresh sashimi if you dine in. There's also a section where you can buy to-go meals like wraps, burgers, and noodles that will cost you less than $15, perfect if you want a picnic on the beach or a night in. Located in Guaynabo, you’ll find mostly locals sipping wine and enjoying the gandules (pigeon pea) risotto and cod croquettes.

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Cayey

One of the best places to experience Puerto Rico's food culture is in the mountains of Cayey. On the weekends, the town comes alive at the lechoneras, restaurants specializing in roasted pork. One of the best places to experience the authentic lechonera experience is El Cuñao, operated by the López family since 1940. While taking in the views of the greenery of the Puerto Rican countryside, enjoy a heaping plate of freshly roasted pork with a crispy "cuerito" (pork skin), arroz con gandules, and batatas (Puerto Rican sweet potatoes). Wash it down with a cold Medalla (Puerto Rican beer).

San Juan

Orujo is one of the most creative restaurants that you will find in Puerto Rico with its eclectic, ever-changing menu. Chef/owner/sommelier Carlos Portela creates unique dishes featuring Puerto Rican ingredients and highlighting local farmers and growers. His tiny restaurant in Miramar allows you to have an intimate dining experience while watching the chef and his staff do their magic. Sample local plantains topped with braised short rib flavored with Caribbean spices or freshly caught Mahi Mahi with local root vegetables. The tasting menu changes daily based on the chef's sourcing.

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Luquillo

The Kiosks of Luquillo (a series of attached beach food shacks) is a legendary place to stop and have a fritura and a beer by the beach. However, there's a gem in the middle of these restaurants: Terruño. Although it's located in the kiosks, this is a sit-down restaurant serving all the frituras (local fritters) but also more complex dishes like coconut rice and pigeon peas, mofongo topped with seafood, and fried red snapper. You must pair the meal with a piña colada, views of Luquillo beach, and live music if you're lucky.

San Juan

Led by James Beard Award-nominated Chef Maria Mercedes Grubb, Suma is a modern take on Puerto Rican classics with a global touch. Located at Hotel Decanter, the quaint dining room in Old San Juan is the perfect place for an upscale yet casual dining experience. For example, yuca fries are served in a gochujang (Korean bbq sauce), a Puerto Rican rice and chicken dish is converted into a creamy risotto with avocado mousse. For wine lovers, there's an extensive list of wines to pair with your meal.

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Guayama

Prime Market is the spot for those craving quality steaks in a casual setting. Located in Guayama, Puerto Rico, the indoor/outdoor space is modern, relaxed, and stylish. During the week, you can get a NY Strip for $25 on their lunch special. If you're not in the mood for steaks, there are plenty of other affordable choices, like the guava cheeseburger in a soft buttery Mallorca bread for $13. Save room for a dulce de leche crepe for dessert.

Río Grande

Prime 787 (787 is the Puerto Rico area code) is the place to go if you're looking for a Texas-style steak in an elegant Caribbean-style setting. You're welcomed by a sleek, social-media-worthy martini bar, followed by a dark and sexy dining room. Puerto Rico Chef Steven McQueeny leverages his Puerto Rican techniques and experiences working in steakhouses in the United States South to prepare exquisitely smoked prime steaks.

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