Puerto Rico is an enchanting island that’s personified by a myriad of cultural influences, tropical rainforest landscapes, and quite a tantalising culinary scene. When cooked right, Puerto Rican food is well-seasoned and features lots of bold flavours at the forefront of each dish. However, this island’s home to more than just traditional cuisine.
Sure, you can find everything from traditional Puerto Rican empanadas and tostones to the ever-classic national dish of arroz con gandules. But, don’t be surprised if you also stumble upon other hidden gastronomy treasures such as fresh seafood, elegant Spanish fare or even a delectable dish from one of the world’s most up-and-coming chefs.
Despite recent events, the island continues to thrive, welcoming guests from near and far who are interested in exploring the magic that is Puerto Rican culture, cuisine and hospitality. Plan a visit to one of the most beautiful islands in the world and treat yourself to a meal or two at the best places to eat in Puerto Rico in 2020.
Best Places To Eat In Puerto Rico In 2020How do these rankings work?
Okay, so we know we’re cheating a bit with this one, as it’s not technically a restaurant in and of itself. However, Lote 23 truly is one of the best places to eat in Puerto Rico in 2020, especially for travellers after a bit of variety and vibrant local culture. Colourful murals and lots of picnic tables adorn this space, which is separated out into four different terraces. Hop from kiosk to kiosk and sample everything from pizza and poke bowls to barbecue and some tasty mofongo.
Shibō is Asian soul food at its best. And, while it’s not necessarily something you’d expect to find in Puerto Rico, it’s a delightful respite from the tantalising traditional flavours of local dishes. Expect a tasty fusion of unique Latin flavours and traditional Asian soul food, with diverse dishes extending to include Malaysian Curry and Bao Buns. The space itself is eclectic and fun and the service is always top-notch.
Plant-based travellers won’t be able to get enough of the dishes on the menu at Verde Mesa. The atmosphere here is reminiscent of a greenhouse that’s been adorned with a tin roof ceiling and infused with some seriously good vibes. As for the menu, the restaurant does a fantastic job of placing emphasis on sustainable sourcing. Dive into the natural side of Puerto Rico with dishes such as lettuce tacos that are topped with papaya salad and drizzled in fermented guanabana. Simply delicious.
While it’s hard to single out just one spot in Lote 23 that’s worth visiting first, it’s clear that Pernilería Los Próceres is doing some amazing things in the world of pork. Some truly fantastic bites come out of this shiny airstream trailer, namely their pernil sandwiches, which they make with Puerto-Rican style pork shoulder. After just one bite you’ll be converted into a fan for life. Wash it down with a fresh glass of local maví and let the mixture of tangy and savoury flavours take you away to paradise.
As a traveller, you’re often looking for places to eat that offer the perfect balance between quality food and a fun atmosphere. Condal Tapas Restaurant ticks both of those boxes. This little slice of Barcelona is well-known across the island for serving only the highest-quality cured hams and marinated fish. Pair that with an exceptional wine list and you’ll find yourself enjoy the finest flavours from Spain in an environment that’s undeniably Puerto Rican in style and service.
Escape the hustle and bustle of San Juan in favour of an inland adventure all the way to Cayey. There, you’ll be welcomed by the alluring aroma of whole roasted pig. Once you can smell it, you’ll know you’ve reached Lechonera Los Pinos. This local spot is one of the best places to eat in Puerto Rico in 2020 for visitors interested in truly indulging in local flavours. They’re one of the few spots that still roast their pigs on site. And, you can sample a variety of other local delicacies while you’re there.
It’s near impossible to visit Puerto Rico and not encounter something from Chef Mario Pagán. He’s a part of a lot of other eateries on the island, making him one of the most well-known chefs on the island. In fact, he’s the only Puerto Rican who’s been selected to participate in the Diplomatic Culinary Partnership program attached to the United States Department of State. At his namesake restaurant, you can experience that kind of quality first-hand. It’s fine dining characterized for its fusion of native ingredients.
La Estacion gets its name from the fact that it used to be an old service station. And, the eccentricity doesn’t stop there. The food here beautifully merges traditional American BBQ techniques with a palate of Caribbean flavours and spices. The result is truly tantalising from start to finish. It’s the kind of place you have to visit more than once, simply because there are so many mouthwatering dishes on the menu. In short, if it’s not on your 2020 foodie bucket list, it should be.
You’ll find Uma’s stuck into the soft sands of Playa Jobos. It’s the perfect stage upon which the restaurant crafts the appropriately-themed beach shack fare. Settle into a seat on the open-air deck and sample what is surely the island’s freshest, tastiest seafood. Their daily changing menu features catch-of-the-day seafood, so it’s as fresh as it comes. From poke bowls to enticing Mahi Grande, it’s easy to taste the flavours of the sea here.
Casita Miramar is traditional Puerto Rican food personified in a package that delivers a cosy, romantic setting that’s both elegant and easygoing. As the name suggests, this spot feels like more of a local home than a restaurant. And, despite offering quite an intimate yet bustling atmosphere, this is about as local as it gets. Expect nothing but full-flavoured dishes that stick to tradition. Indulge in mofongo, maduros, and some of the island’s best tres leches cake. It’s a meal you’ll remember forever.
Never tried a Puerto Rican alcapurria? It’s a fritter dish made from mashed plantains or grated yuca. The deep-fried fritter is usually stuffed with beef or pork and served as a crispy, golden slice of what can only be described as flavourful heaven. And, while the menu at La Alcapurria Quemá extends to include other flavourful dishes as well, it should definitely be your first order. Settle in and prepare to take your tastebuds on a journey at this bright, comfortable space.
While there are numerous lechoneras all over the island, El Rancho de Apa is a true ranch-like setting where you’ll enjoy nothing short of pure authenticity. Cinder block roasting pits line the grounds of this Aguas Buenas ranch. Here, they roast pork that’s they season with their own mouthwatering blend of salt, garlic, adobo and a few other secret ingredients. Then, they smoke it for hours before serving it with savoury sides such as pickled green bananas.
If you’re a true foodie interested in exploring traditional Puerto Rican cuisine then La Guardarraya is one of the places to eat in Puerto Rico in 2020 for you. It’s the only place on the island where you can indulge in the legendary Chuleta Can-Can. This Puerto-Rican pork chop might now have many varieties, but La Guararraya is the only place that serves it up true to tradition. Pair it with one of their wines from their little “Casita de Vinos” and you’ll understand what Puerto Rican flavours are truly about.
Fresh-off-the-boat fish is what you’ll find at Que PezCa’o, perhaps one of the best spots for seafood dining in Puerto Rico. A small patio spills out onto the harbour here where you’ll find guests enjoying fish-based dishes galore. What’s particularly enticing is how they use fish to present innovative takes on traditional dishes. Their mahi-mahi mofongo is a must-try while their grilled snapper is an island delicacy that you simply can’t pass up.
Oversized windows provide some of the most spectacular sunset views at the 1919 Restaurant, one of the most romantic spots in all of Puerto Rico. Serving New American fare alongside an impressively extensive wine list, everything here is alluring from start to finish. Book a table for two by the window and watch the sea waves roll in as you graze your way through exquisite dishes prepared by Michelin Star-rated Executive Chef Juan José Cuevas.
When literally translated to English, the name of this spot means “the tasty point.” And, that’s actually pretty accurate. Although simple in nature, there’s absolutely nothing simple about the fantastic flavours that spill out of their savoury volcanes. Flavourful ingredients erupt out of these tasty treats, which they craft using a mofongo mound based before loading them up with chicken, pork, shrimp, and more.
Whether inside or out, La Copa Llena delivers breathtaking views at every corner. From sweeping seaside sunsets on the patio to the vibrant, eclectic decor that adds even more colour to the already stunning sky, there’s a lot to love here. And, that’s not even beginning to talk about the food. The menu focuses largely on seafood. But, they serve tapas-like appetisers as a delicious introduction to the wonderful ingredients you’ll devour throughout your entire meal.
While nobody ever really wishes to be anywhere but right in the heart of Puerto Rico when they’re visiting, L’Osteria Decanter offers guests the chance to transport themselves to Italy. Here, exquisite and innovative Italian dishes are accompanied by a truly intimate ambience. Settle into your evening with a great glass of wine, some fine Italian food and enjoy the local Old San Juan colonial atmosphere.
Dining at Cocina al Fondo is a feast for all of your senses. The delicate, artful decor perfectly compliments the thoughtfully-crafted menu. It feels wildly enchanting yet oh-so-familiar to dine here, where menu highlights include lots of fresh fish, pastelillos, and other dishes that are inspired and nurtured by art, nature and rich local flavours. As one of the best places to eat in Puerto Rico in 2020, you’re going to want to visit more than once.
Jungle BaoBao is helmed by one of the world’s most up-and-coming chefs. Paxx Caraballo Moll was recently named by Food & Wine as one of the Best New Chefs. The restaurant regularly promotes LGBTQ+ chefs, but that’s not the only way in which they promote change. They source ingredients from local farmers and fishermen to craft world-class dishes that should be savoured slowly and intentionally.
The husband-and-wife team behind Vianda opened the restaurant shortly after the island was devastated by Hurricane Maria. In a bid to transform the island in the aftermath of destruction, they’ve certainly accomplished that and more. And, the menu here provides a fresh, inventive take on Puerto Rican classics. The menu showcases everything from Tom Kha Bacalao to braised rabbit that they dip into turmeric butter. In short, it’s both tantalising and creative.
This upscale Condado restaurant is where legendary chef Jose Enrique gets to showcase all of his years of culinary knowledge and expertise. And, show it he does. An evening here feels just as much of an artist’s showcase as it does a dinner, and that’s what’s so enchanting about it all. Farm-to-table specialities have visitors lining up out the door to get a chance to dine at this no-reservations spot. If you’re visiting Puerto Rico in 2020, it can’t be missed.
Located on the trendy Cerra Street, MUSA is just as eclectic as its locale. This ever-changing restaurant excels at ensuring guests indulge in a unique experience every visit. Transport yourself to a world of enchantment as you journey through a myriad of flavours. They’re great at delivering unique fusions, such as skirt steak dumpling and ropa vieja served with mac and cheese. If you can, however, definitely stop by for a sugar-filled and tempting Friday brunch.
With so many fine dining options to visit, it might be odd to hear that a place as hip and funky as SODA Estudio de Cocina would be one of the best places to eat in Puerto Rico in 2020. However, this trendy little gastropub ticks off all the foodie boxes travellers are usually after. It’s fun, it’s vibrant, it’s funky, and it’s full of world-class food. The menu straddles a fine line between Puerto Rican and Asian fusion. Regardless of what you order, rest assured it’s all absolutely filling and dripping with flavour.
Marmalade Restaurant & Wine Bar offers everything you’re looking for out of a night in San Juan. It’s romantic and sophisticated, peppered with small details that ensure a memorable meal. From start to finish, expect nothing short of excellence. Order one of their exquisite cocktails. Then, explore the flavourful adventure that is indulging in one of their tasting menus. If you’re feeling extra bougie, opt for the wine pairings as well. You won’t regret it.