Vieques, Puerto Rico
Just got back from a short trip to Vieques. We tried El Quenepo (Esperanza, next door to Bananas) for dinner. It’s a beautifully presented place with an ambitious “high-end” menu that was reasonably priced ($20-30/entree range). I enjoyed our drinks and appetizers; the entrees were good but didn’t quite live up to my high hopes upon seeing the ambitious menu. We had a spicy grilled octopus on skewers for appetizer with sesame noodles and their version of homemade kimchi. The octopus was terrifically tender, but the sesame noodles were a little bit bland while the kimchi (made with American cabbage, not napa) was just… different and unexpected.
Our entrees: I had a special fennel crusted mahi mahi on a toasted parmesan risotto cake, with garlic spinach and in a little bit of some sort of sundried tomato broth. The mahi was good but a little dry, the garlic in the spinach was overpowering, and the broth was tasty if a little strong as well.
My boyfriend had a mixture of seafood/shellfish in tomato sauce (I think the menu called the entree “once around the aquarium”) that was unexpectedly spicier than he was anticipating. It was “pretty good”, he said.
Really nice atmosphere – covered but essentially still outdoors, quite trendy, and packed with expats – but not in a touristy way.
We also had lunch at the Rasta Pasta truck by the entrance to the reserve – I quite enjoyed the food given the inexpensive price. I had the shrimp white pasta (spaghetti with parmesan, garlic, butter, and fresh ground black pepper), while my boyfriend had the same but with chicken. The half portions at $5 each were enough to be a filling lunch. The black pepper was a bit heavy – spicier than my bf wanted, ok for me… but half portions were light on protein! Only 3 shrimp and maybe a scant 1/4 cup of shredded chicken.
Oh! The crab empanada ($3.50) at Rasta Pasta is possibly the most delicious thing I ate during my entire 3 days in Vieques. Cheddar cheese arepa wasn't worth it -- basically cheez whiz in an arepa.
Our second night, we got back from the Bio bay around 8:45pm, so most of our options in Esperanza were closed. We ended up having a burger at Duffy’s (yeah, yeah, far from chow-worthy). I went in expecting super-touristy food and prices to go with it. I essentially got that, though my burger was actually pretty darn good (though at $11, it should have been!) - sizable burger, lots of fresh lettuce/tomato, nice portion of hot seasoned fries, nice bleu cheese and mushrooms.
I realize this is an old thread, but for anyone traveling to Vieques in the near future...in March of 2006, we camped at Sun Bay for a night...and the beef empanadas (or pastellilos?) that I had at the little cafe there were amazing. So delicious, and they had this wonderful spicy sauce in a squeeze bottle on the counter, to put on top. The sauce mixed with the flavor of the actual empanada was perfect, it's making my mouth water thinking about it right now! While there, we also ate at a place called the Tiki Hut, I think it was? As well as Bananas, and some other place that I can't remember the name of. But the only food that I remember is the empanadas at Sun Bay.
La Campesina just reopened last month and it is fantastic. It has the best word of mouth. We went there and the place was packed with locals, which we took as a great sign. The servers were very knowledgeable and friendly, in keeping with the relaxed atmosphere. We just loved the food. Very innovative and tasty takes on classics. We would recommend to anyone and look forward to going back.
Just came back from Vieques this weekend. In my short stay, we ate at Inn on the Blue Horizon, Uva, the restaurant at Bravo Beach Hotel, and Bananas. I've eaten at the Inn on the Blue Horizon before when it was a different restaurant. I believe it's now called Carambola. I was a bit disappointed with Carambola -- nothing like the old restaurant. The food was adequate, but not as delicious and creative as the old restaurant. The ambiance was still beautiful, though.
I was pretty pleased with Uva. I was a bit worried at first when I walked in to find only two other parties there. But I'm definitely glad we went. It's difficult to get top quality ingredients in Vieques, but they did a great job with what they had. One of the dishes we had were the grilled sweetbreads which was pretty good. They had a Carribean lobster carpaccio. I'm not a flavor of Carribean lobster (prefer the Maine ones myself), but the sauce was incredibly vibrant and tasty. The only disappointment was the dessert -- ordered the banana cake with vanilla ice cream. I kept choking on the cinnamon they sprinkled on top of the meager piece of cake. The cake was also quite dry.
Brunch at Bravo Beach Hotel was definitely a hit. Twenty bucks buys you a mimosa, fruit platter, cranberry walnut bread, a shot of pumpkin soup and entree. I'm not sure if we received dessert with the brunch. I got the pork with cranberries placed on top of a yucca cake with greens. First greens I had on the trip (not including mesculin salad that came with certain entrees.) The pork was a bit dry, but very tasty. My fiance had the liverwurst sandwich which was a huge pile of liverwrust on bread with melted cheese on it. Not bad.
Bananas -- we shared an order of jerk chicken strips and had a burger with fries. The burger was all right, nothing special. The fries were a bit soggy. I really didn't like the jerk strips at all. But we just needed a place to have a quick lunch and Bananas fit the spot.
I'd appreciate updates on food in Vieques -- I haven't been in 2-3 years, but want to return this year. It seems the good chefs cycle in and off the island, so I'd like to know what's good now.
I liked Inn on the Blue Horizon; Chez Shack chef Tony was great; and yes, Seth left the island. Tradewinds was horrible; Bananas only good for blender drinks. Haven't ventured to Isabelle II for meals.
It's been a year and a half since we've been to Vieques, but we ate frequently at Tropical Baby in Isabelle II. Best place for breakfast on the island. She also does lunches (also VERY good), and may be doing dinners on a limited basis. The place is small and not high on ambiance (it's in a strip mall, next to a florist), but Baby's charm and delicious cooking make up for it. She describes her food as "global island cuisine"---very tasty and more healthful than most of what you'll find on the island (nothing is deep fried here!). Menu changes frequently---based on what she can get fresh---always order whatever is the specialty of the day. Prices are very reasonable.
Amapola in Esperanza is a more upscale (but still rather casual) place for dinner. Creative dishes. I'm not a drinker, but DH says they have the best rum punch he had while on Vieques.
One word of caution: Do NOT eat at Trade Winds in Esperanza! Worst meal I've ever paid for! They advertize that they specialize in lobster. I've had better at Red Lobster in Peoria, IL.
I'd also recommend the Bio Bay tour. Golden Heron offers an all-day tour where you kayak through the mangroves, then eat a (tasty!)picnic dinner on the beach before heading out again at dusk to explore the wonder that is the bio bay.
For the best info on Vieques (dining and other), check out www.enchanted-isle.com
I was just there in April. There are actually quite a few great places there.
One of the best is M Bar. Your hotel can help you out with recs.
Make sure you do the Bio Bay.
A great idea is to pack lunch and drive across the old bombin range to the beaches there. Go as far in as you can, the beaches are amazing.