Puerto Rico is a tiny Caribbean island with a lot of character. And the cuisine reflects the country’s diverse cultures: Spanish, African, and Tono Indian, with a dash of American. As a result, the cuisine isn’t just delicious but also traditional, with dishes such as fried red snapper and crispy pork crackling.
Caribbean food is closely associated with mothers, grandmothers, and family gatherings in Puerto Rico. So, when you have any traditional dish, you will have history, diversity, and love with it.
To make it easier for you to try them, here are some of the best local Puerto Rican restaurants with dishes passed down from generation to generation.
Best Puerto Rican Restaurants to Try Local Caribbean Food
1. Punto de Vista
Punto de Vista offers a rooftop eating experience with a restaurant setting design unique to San Juan’s old town and is the ideal place to watch the sunset.
The chicken and shrimp mofongo with garlic sauce is highly recommended, as are their mojitos, which are constantly and enticingly on sale for buy-one-get-one-free. Then, as you unwind in the evening, try the strawberry and coconut flavours.
2. Princesa Cocina y Cultura
It is Old San Juan’s first gastrobar to open. Princesa specializes in traditional dishes with international and Caribbean influences. The restaurant is accompanied by magical trees and serves a diverse cocktail menu that includes rums from local distillers.
3. Cafe Cola’o
The mission of Cafe Cola’o since its inception in 2006 has been to endorse the devotion of Puerto Rican coffee bean farmers and their produce’s thrilling quality and taste. You can sample the various local varieties in this one-of-a-kind and specialized café, located alongside San Juan’s beautiful old port area.
Cafe Cola’o offers a cozy and enchanting ambience in which to drink a café con leche with an exquisite, flaky pastry and admire the world go by, making it ideal for those who want to spend a few hours before exploring the old town.
Marmalade is one of Puerto Rico’s most exciting culinary destinations, fusing contemporary French, local Caribbean food, and Spanish gastronomy with eclectic techniques.
It defies kitchen conventions by presenting a new view of what a restaurant can be, collaborating with Puerto Rican growers to take advantage of local goods sustainably.
Oceano is a three-story modern Caribbean lifestyle experience with a spectacular view of the adjacent ocean. It serves seafood with ‘tropical accents,’ such as crispy calamari steak strips accompanied by sweet mango chilli, cilantro aioli, yuca-crusted calamari, and poke-style ahi tuna tacos.
The ‘ocean of chocolate,’ which consists of cocoa praline croquantine doused in chocolate with maracaibo cremeux and a dark chocolate mousse swirled in an indulgent praline sauce, is a must-try for dessert lovers.
This upscale restaurant’s cuisine is not only farm-to-table but also ocean-to-table. From cheeks over apio polenta to braised veal crispy grain salad, coconut ganache, passionfruit curd, and pineapple-cilantro sorbet, the Executive menu is full of sophisticated dishes.
If the local Caribbean food isn’t enough reason to visit 1919, the beachfront place within the historic Condado Vanderbilt Hotel is.
7. Cocina Abierta
The name Cocina Abierta translates to “open kitchen.” You can not only watch the talented kitchen staff expertly craft the diverse creations that will land on your plate, but the menu also gives an open-minded concept to food, sourcing different flavours from the Caribbean toward the Mediterranean and beyond.
This lively, modern spot in the heart of the Condado is close to many famous hotels and is ideal for walking off a big dinner.
8. La Central
La Central is Distrito T-Mobile’s fine dining destination, where local flavors and dishes are given flair and creativity. The space and the menu pay tribute to the history of Puerto Rico as a sugarcane producer, with sugarcane and rum incorporated into most dishes.
In the open charcoal kitchen, high-quality cuts of meat, fresh fish and seafood are expertly prepared, while rum cocktails are served at the eye-catching bar, which features a copper still in the centre.
An architectural triumph emerges from a ramshackle hardware store. Santaella is a feast for the eyes and taste buds, with an internal tropical garden in the centre of the restaurant and beautiful abstract wallpaper.
A short distance from the traditional local farmer’s market, or ‘La Placita,’ the menu emphasizes locally sourced, organic ingredients. Popular dishes include:
- The ahituna skewers with rice paper fritters.
- The baby octopus casserole with chorizo and chickpeas.
- The fried Nutella dessert.
10. Sazón Cocina Criolla
Sazón Cocina Criolla, located in Distrito T-Mobile, aims to showcase the best of authentic Puerto Rican cuisine by incorporating a variety of flavors, local herbs and spices, and fresh seafood.
Sazón’s menu features stuffed mofongos, large pans of flavorful paella jbara, asopao de camarones (a shrimp stew popular in Puerto Rico), Caribbean lobster, and more.
11. Don Ruiz
Cafe Don Ruiz, located in the beautiful Cuartel de Ballajá, is a new arrival to the artisan coffee shops of the old town. It has a museum that displays the traditional methods and antique equipment used in the coffee-making process that Don Ruiz and his family have mastered since the early twentieth century.
You can enjoy a simple accompanying menu of homemade pastries, sandwiches, thin crepes layered with cream. You can even try Puerto Rican tea and cigars while the emphasis remains on the strong, potent flavor of the coffee.
Vianda’s evolving farm-to-table menu combines cuisines in novel ways, such as Crispy Pork Belly Con “Arroz Kimchi” with coconut broth, mushrooms, roasted bok choy, and kimchi rice. An extensive wine, beer, and cocktail list complement the local Caribbean food.
13. Chocobar Cortés
Chocobar Cortés implements rich and creamy chocolate into nearly every dish and beverage, from mofongo drizzled in hot chocolate sauce to the Chocolate Lover’s Cake.
Chocobar, an innovative gastronomic space, provides a sophisticated backdrop ideal for everything from business lunches to family brunches.
10 Local Caribbean Food That You Have to Try
During your visit to Puerto Rico, wherever you go to one of the top restaurants we showed you, there is a list of local Caribbean food that you must try. Each restaurant may have specific versions of the following dishes, but you’ll find at least one.
This is the list of local Caribbean food that you have to try:
Mofongo, a savory mash of fried green plantains, is one of the most versatile dishes in Puerto Rico. Carnivores can rejoice with a mofongo topped with decadent carne frita (fried pork), while it can also be prepared as a vegan dish.
Mofongo can be the protagonist of a dinner as a main or a dependable co-star as a side dish. Enjoy it alongside an epic sunset at Ladi’s Place in San Juan.
One of the most popular Puerto Rican dishes is lechón asado (roasted pork). Although it is especially popular around the holidays, you can enjoy tasty meat and crispy skin all year.
The island, particularly in the center, has numerous lechoneras (restaurants specializing in roasted pork). A day trip to Guavate in the mountainous town of Cayey is a must to try their famous lechoneras.
Arroz con Gandules
Arroz con gandules, or yellow rice with pigeon peas, is the traditional accompaniment to lechón asado. This dish is associated with Christmas, but you can find it all year on the island, particularly in lechoneras. It represents Puerto Rico’s “sazón,” which is colourful and flavorful.
Plantains, a banana cousin, are larger and less sweet. It grows abundantly throughout the island and is a popular ingredient in Puerto Rican cuisine.
Tostones are one of the simplest dishes that incorporate this ingredient, consisting of fried sliced plantains served as a dish or snack. These decadent and crispy treats are naturally vegan and should be at the top of your list of Puerto Rican dishes to try.
A day at the beach in Puerto Rico isn’t complete without an alcapurria. It’s a popular street food made from a “masa” of green bananas and yautia (taro root).
The fritters are deep-fried and filled with tasty ground beef or crab meat, resulting in a crunchy exterior and soft interior. A glass of alcapurria with a cold beer and a view of the beach could be the highlight of your trip.
Another popular snack is bacalao, made from bacalao (codfish). These beachside treats are made of codfish and flour batter and deep-fried. These golden roundels are irregular, but once you take a bite, you’ll remember them forever. They are available at most beach kiosks.
Another must-try local dish in Puerto Rico is “chillo frito,” which can be found in any seafood restaurant on the island.
Chillo is the Spanish word for red snapper. It’s typically served whole with a side of crispy tostones, and Santaella in San Juan serves one of the best versions.
Ensalada de Pulpo
Another popular dish is ensalada de pulpo (octopus salad), which can be found in many of the island’s beachside restaurants. It’s usually made with tender pieces of chopped octopus, onions, tomatoes, and olives, but each restaurant has a slightly different recipe.
You can buy it in a cup at many beach kiosks or see a more elaborate presentation at a restaurant.
Panaderias (bakeries) abound on the island and are excellent places to get a cheap meal. Quesitos, sweet puff pastry filled with cheese, are among the best local foods at a panaderia.
A good one will have a flaky exterior with a shiny coat of caramelized sugar. They go well with a cortado made from rich Puerto Rican coffee.
Finally, the perfect drink to accompany many of these dishes, is piña colada. This cocktail is considered the national drink of Puerto Rico and is a must-try. Made with cream of coconut, pineapple juice, and Puerto Rican rum, it’s pure heaven.
You now have a complete list of places to eat local Caribbean food and some dishes you should try while in Puerto Rico. You will be positively surprised by the seasoning of Puerto Rican gastronomy, and if you want to take that savory to your home, it is possible.At Caribbean Trading stores or the online store, you’ll find a variety of spices, seasonings and flavorings in the Food category. You’ll also find coffee and many other ingredients and fundamentals of Caribbean cuisine and this way, take Puerto Rican memories back home.