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Nov 11, 2007 10:09 AM

Just returned from Puerto Rico

+Stayed at the Marriott on Ashford Ave. Nice Hotel for being over 40 years old, and used to be a Sheraton. Only decent food at the hotel was the italian restaurant. Ate at The Palm and got a BIG disappointment. Steaks ordered medium came rare, ordered Salmon and got shrimp. They immediately took it back and 7 minutes later returned with the Salmon but was inedible--all raw. They did not charge for the salmon, but we complained to the host, and his remark was "well you got it free"....That was really not called for or appropriate. Has to ask for the water glasses to be filled twice....
Our waiter was serving since the place opened 10 years ago, and his white jacket said
"Certified Trainer".... Very nice advertising for Puerto Rico. It was a terrible experience at The Palm.
Tried to make a reservation at METROPOL, highly recommended, but they do not take reservations. Its across the street from the Ritz.
Went to Ajill Mujili (spanish food and atmosphere) in Condado area. Nice atmosphere, but slow service because lack of waiters, and food was just OK....I guess we would of been better off at Tony Roma's or Chili's........
Lots of traffic, dirty streets, very bad drivers, terrible highway signs, and very rude drivers make it a island that we do not need to go to....................
Gambling was great.

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  1. Im sad you dilsike your trip and sad to tell you stayed and eat at the worst places possible. no foodie in puerto rico eats at Ájili Mójili or The Palm, and Metropol is not the place to eat either it is just a long time cuban place, that's it..Since i moved from PR i do not visit this Board (cause if you're from there you know where to eat and puerto rican foodies do not post here to update on new places or anything) and im always at the Manhattan board, but I just saw the reccs people have posted here and I have to say they seem pretty clueless....!You need to eat at the few nice places in el area metropolitana (even in Condado you could have gone to Pamela's which is really nice) and go to "la isla" (that means, the countryside) for good food an non touristy ambiance..I never go to condado to eat or stay, it's pretty bad, but PR has a lot of nice places, you just need a car and get out of San Juan. If you want sepcific reccs for next time, just ask.

    17 Replies
    1. re: gurmanda

      Kind of a shame for the missed opportunity. Went to a four day conference in early June (first visit to Puerto Rico)-stayed at the El San Juan. While my colleagues ate at the Palm, etc. I spoke with the concierge (native of the island) to ask where we could find some food mufungo, asapao, bacalitos, etc. His face lit up and he directed us to some wonderful local places where it appeared tourists were uncommon. Some great ChowHounding experiences with great food. Just ask a local!

      1. re: gurmanda

        I did ask 6 or 8 weeks ago, and received very few recommendations. It was like pulling teeth and I really thought I wuld get some fine places to eat. So I had to depend on the conceige.

        1. re: irwin

          oh, sorry to hear that...locals do not use these boards, to begin with they're in english. next time, we'll give you nice reccs.i hope you went at least to Loíza or Luquillo's kiosko #2 (or even kiosko #1) to get bacalaítos, empanadillas de chapín, alcapurrias de jueyes, mofongo con chicarrón and puertorican arepas de coco y anís (not to confuse with venezuelan or colombian arepas, they just have the same name) to asopao de camarones, you could have found that near the marriot, too bad... for nicer places we'll talk next time.

          1. re: LRS

            I have posted a gazillion times about local food in that area. Did you do a CH search? Too bad..Pamela's is lovely but very $$ for lunch. Did not eat dinner there. I love Metropole for a quick lunch. Never ever dine at the hotel is my motto..

        2. re: gurmanda

          Hi Gurmanda,
          My husband and I, chowhounds from the Toronto, Canada board, just booked our trip today to Puerto Rico over xmas. We'll be in San Juan, Ponce and Rincon during our stay, and have rented a car. We're very excited to see the island and are definitely mobile and plan to drive out for some great food! Any recs from someone who lived there is very appreciated! Thanks.

          1. re: Mandy Lin

            just read your running, but for now, check out LRS's reccs for Rincon which are great, better than what i could have given you. ill give you reccs for sj and ponce soon. What kind of food/restaurants (type of food and price range) are you interested in?

            1. re: gurmanda

              Hi Gurmanda,
              Thanks for your reply. My husband and I will be traveling alone (no kids) and we are up for almost anything. We would probably like to have a couple of nicer more expensive dinners, but are also looking for the best roadside/street food and other lunch spots. We rented a car so driving through the island to find the best is something we are looking forward to. We definitely want to try the local cuisine but are also up for other good restaurants. Thanks!

              1. re: gurmanda

                Hola Gurmanda!
                Partimos pa' PR este jueves. Got any good suggestions for Old San Juan, Salinas or the Utuado area on the Cordillera? We are looking for authentic 'comida criolla', not the touristy traps.

                Mil gracias!

                1. re: comelon777

                  Sorry I am late on this reply but I am new here and I am a Puerto rico local. While in Salinas go to El Dorado, very good seafood and good prices too.

              2. re: Mandy Lin

                Hi I am a local resident in Puerto Rico, while in Ponce go to Mark's at the Melia Hotel, just accross from the Plaza and the "Parque de Bombas" (old firehouse) in the city. Great food, a bit pricey though. In addition, in old San Juan there are a lot of good restaurants.

                1. re: raoul

                  Will be in Ponce end of July. Looking for any recommendations near the Hilton or on the boardwalk. No "fancy" or pricey just good food -- we eat almost everything...and my husband is adventurous. Gracias!

                  1. re: raoul

                    Hi Raoul, I am also going to be staying at the Marriott on 1309 Ashford Avenue in San Juan. My family and I are looking for inexpensive local authentic food. Can you please help us? We will be renting a car. Thank you for your help.

                2. re: gurmanda

                  I used to live in New Orleans (and I've lived in Puerto Rico too) and the Chowhound tips there were terrible. Manhattan is the best board.

                  1. re: gurmanda

                    i'd like some reccommendations if you can - we'll have a car, staying in fajardo - gonna try la estacion - rosa'a sounds okay too... looking for middle priced but we love to eat outdoors and have seafood or fish. not too big on facny places but if they have good food we'll go there... also looking for good lunch places in culebra and viequilles - on the water would be perfect please give any advice - we have 6 dinners to try!

                    1. re: gurmanda

                      Please give me some regular pr food joints...don't want nothing too fancy just good food..will be staying at the waterclub for 3 days and going to rainforest and kayak tour!!! Thanks

                      1. re: gurmanda

                        Hi Gurmanda, I am also going to be staying at the Marriott on 1309 Ashford Avenue in San Juan on July 23 - 28, 2008. My family and I are looking for inexpensive local authentic food. Can you please help us? We will be renting a car. Thank you for your help.

                        1. re: gurmanda

                          Hello gurmanda, I am leaving for Puerto Rico on Wednesday. My boyfriend and I are staying at the Intercontinental Resort in Isla Verde. I have read that all the restaurants at our hotel are super expensive. Do you have some recommendations (possibly within walking distance) for quick, inexpensive breakfasts and lunches? We will be renting a car for one day and driving out to Luquillo-- where I heard there are some really good places to eat. So, we are mainly concerned with eating on a budget for breakfast, lunch and some dinners. Thanks!

                        2. If you will be in Utuado on a Saturday or Sunday, definitely try one of the fabulous restaurants on Dos Bocas Lake...

                          Enjoy, Ronnie

                          1. Sorry your experience was not good. Next time you might want to do a search of this board. I got some good suggestions from hounds before I left and luckily went with someone who knew PR very well. I went to PR for the first time in August and loved it. Food was delicious (I posted a report on 8/23).

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: financialdistrictresident

                              Going to Puerto Rico in the beginning of April. we are flying into San Juan and staying in Aguada. We have a rental so driving isn't an issue. Need suggestions on great local foods throughout the area. We are on a budget but may be willing to splurge for something local and fresh. Looking for recs especially in the area of Aguada, Aguadilla, Mayaguez, Rincon, Pone and San Juan. Thanks!

                            2. My mother is from Puerto RIco and I've visited the island many times. P.R. has a rich cultural history and delicious food.
                              Although I don't consider myself an expert on the island by any means, here's my list of favorites:
                              Frituras (fried stuff) at any of the kiosks along the road in Loiza driving East along the coastline. There are all these little "kioskos" with wood fired stoves frying up some of the best food on the island. It's a fun drive as well and very close to San Juan.

                              Mofongo con Camarones at Casa Dante in Isla Verde. I've seen many locals dine at this place in addition to tourists. The "criollo" sauce is great.

                              Upscale "fusion" at Aqua Viva--great ceviche

                              Lechon (roast suckling pig) in Guavate, a little town just off the highway near the mountains south of San Juan. Lechon is a must!

                              Bear in mind that a lot of Puerto Rican cuisine has pork and rice and beans are ubiquitous at every meal.

                              Irwin--I'm sorry that you had a bad time in P.R., but quite frankly, eating at a chain restaurant when you're on vacation pretty much guarantees mediocrity. Yes, P.R. has dirty streets and crazy drivers, but that's part of the charm as far as I'm concerned. Personally, I travel to see and taste new things.

                              1. We're in San Juan right now, and I have to disagree with several of your points.

                                The drivers, while speedy, always yield to pedestrians.

                                Street sweepers are out morning to night, sweeping and hosing down the sidewalks and gutters.
                                (Many people own dogs, but 99.9% clean up after them.)

                                Have had many tasty meals, the best of which were (seafood) dinner at Atlantico in Isla Verde, and a lunch of Puerto Rican specialties at Bebo's in Ocean Park. Eating lunch at the food huts in Penones was a blast.

                                The mangoes from the supermarket have been the best we've ever eaten.

                                The weather has been remarkably beautiful.

                                We were waiting (a long time) for a bus yesterday, when a young woman pulled up in a car and asked where we were going. We (me, my husband and adult daughter) told her "Old San Juan." She said, "You're gonna wait forever. Hop in." She drove us the entire way (30 minutes), giving us a tour as we went. She refused to accept a penny!

                                Needless to say, our memories of Puerto Rico will be radically different than the OP's.

                                10 Replies
                                1. re: pikawicca

                                  From a pedestrian point of view, the drivers are fine. From a driver's point of view, I can definitely understand what the OP was talking about. About 90% of the drivers I encountered don't use their signal and cut you off with not a lot of breathing room. You'll be driving down the street and the car ahead of you will stop right in the middle to have a leisurely chat with somebody he/she knows on the sidewalk. I don't want to say it's rude -- it's just a different style of driving and can be frustrating to somebody not acclimated to this.

                                  Yes, I also didn't agree with some of the OP's points. However, I don't think he chose the best restaurants to eat in. I know the overwhelming majority of posters love Metropol and Ajili Mojili on this board, but I just found it kind of mediocre. To be fair, Metropol isn't too bad but it's more Cuban than PR food. And I've heard that chains aren't as good in PR -- perhaps it has something to do with sourcing their ingredients.

                                  Too bad we didn't try mangoes on our trip. I've been yearning for them, especially since they're out of season where I'm from. I really miss my mangoes.

                                  1. re: Miss Needle

                                    Will be in San Juan for a long one day cruise stop in a few days - what are your top picks that are walkable or use of public transportation from the cruise port? The ship does not leave until 11 pm so what would be a good way to spend some evening time in Old San Juan. Thanks.

                                    1. re: glbtrtr

                                      Here's my trip report from a few days ago.


                                      If you're going to be in from a cruise, the neighborhood you'll be in is Old San Juan. Everything in Old San Juan will be in walking distance. On this trip, I only hit Marmalade, Aguaviva and Parrot Club (only for dessert) in that neighborhood. Just based on quality of food, I would say Marmalade was my favorite. All of these three restaurants are more "fusion" than traditional Puerto Rican food, with Marmalade having the least amount of Puerto Rican influence. However my favorite restaurants in San Juan from my last trip were outside of Old San Juan. If you were to go outside of Old San Juan, I'd probably take a cab as opposed to public transportation. Buses don't run very frequently (the one from Condado to Old San Juan runs about once every 45 minutes).

                                      1. re: Miss Needle

                                        I understand there are fixed route trams in the city, right? Are there any Puerto Rican style restaurants that can be reached outside of Old San Juan off the tram lines you can recommend?

                                        Can you get to that famous restaurant in the University Art museum by tram? It is so hard to picture things from a guidebook. I know once I get there all of this will make more sense, but right now it seems like there is a lot to explore, and maybe too much ground to cover that is too far from the ship. Thanks.

                                        1. re: glbtrtr

                                          Aside from buses and taxis, there's a trolley (some may call it tram) that takes you around Old San Juan and there's a train system in San Juan that takes you to limited places (but does not stop in Old San Juan). If you're arriving to San Juan by cruise ship and want to go outside of San Juan, taxi really is the best option. The famous restaurant you're talking about is Pikayo and is really wonderful, and would be my choice. This is also not a traditional restaurant but more of a Neuvo Latino place. I surmise that a one-way cab ride from Old San Juan should cost around $15. Pikayo is not cheap, and the cost of the cab ride is pretty negligible compared to the cost of the meal.

                                          Here's my google map which will give you an idea of where things generally are. For Old San Juan, you can use Aguaviva as a reference as it's the closest restaurant I have to the cruise ship.


                                          1. re: Miss Needle

                                            What a great map - this is getting a lot clearer now. Thanks!

                                            1. re: Miss Needle

                                              Back to the question of what to do later at night - places where people gather or street entertainment scenes, food markets in the evening --- or is San Juan like many latin cities where it only comes alive after 9pm anyway?

                                              1. re: glbtrtr

                                                Just a friendly reminder, Folks, please keep the focus of the discussion on finding great food and drink in Puerto Rico.


                                                1. re: glbtrtr

                                                  If you're in San Juan on either a Thurs, Fri or Sat night, there's supposed to be a large party at Santurce Market with food, music and lots of people. As I was there on a weekday morning, I just saw some vendors. Pikayo isn't too far from the market. I also wanted to say that this market is relatively small compared to markets like Union Square Market in NYC in the summer/fall, farmer's market at the Ferry Building in San Francisco and Jean-Talon market in Montreal. Probably not a must-see if you're in San Juan for a day. Not exactly sure where in California you're from, but I live in NYC and see quite a lot of these fruits and vegetables they sell at the market (eg. quenepa, plantains, yuca, etc.).

                                                  I would say that the best place to hang out in the evening after dinner would be in Old San Juan. The architecture is beautiful. Lots of bars and restaurants and squares with people hanging out (not all tourists). Near the cruise ship are some food stalls selling coco frios, frituras, etc. (though I'm not so sure if they are the best places to find the best examples of this type of food). There's also a free outdoor photo exhibit called Earth From Above near the cruise ships that's very interesting.

                                              2. re: glbtrtr

                                                Public transportation here is a joke -- walk a lot or take cabs. Much closer to Old San Juan than Pikayo is Budatai, an Asian/Puerto Rican fusion restaurant. We had an outstanding meal there last night, the best of the entire trip. It's located at 1056 Ashford, about a 10 minute cab ride from OSJ.