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San Juan recommendations?

Our family will be in San Juan over Christmas. We're a pretty large party and staying at the Ritz and I think we'd like to get out and do a little food-exploring. That said, we've got a few limitations: of our party of 11, there will be a three month old, a seven month old, a four year old, a vegetarian (fish is okay), and one who cannot eat any dairy. So I think the first real restriction is that we're interested in things relatively close to the Ritz (walking distance? Is that a walkable area?). With that big a group I don't think we'd be looking for anything too formal, although if there were an upscale place that could take a party like ours I'm sure we'd be interested. But generally we're just looking for neat places to eat. With all this mind, does anyone have any recommendations?

Thanks much.

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  1. we just returned and that area is ok to walk at night. Ask the conceige for recommendations. Thats their job. In general, the food in San Juan is terrible.

    3 Replies
    1. re: irwin

      psegall,

      I am not sure where Irwin ate but I have had many great meals in SJ. Do a search on this page and you will find great recs. Also the Concierge's are sometimes paid to recommend tourist traps. Ask the desk clerks and taxi drivers if you want local eats. Try Pamela's at Numero Uno Guest House and Pikayo. Also so many options in OSJ.

      1. re: luci

        luci, the food in PR was so good I didn't want to leave! Pikayo was superb. Carli's, El Convento in OSJ were lovely.

        1. re: luci

          Just as a note, the taxi drivers are also paid to reccomend places (although this happens more outside of San Juan). I've been forced to be very assertive with drivers who insist on taking me to a "better" place. Beware. Desk Clerks, bartenders, casino dealers even servers at restaurants you enjoy are a good resource. there is nothing wrong with asking if there is another place they would reccomend for the following night.

      2. psegall...

        For a party of your size and in walking distance, try Metropol and Mi Casita. Family friendly and in my opinion good food and good prices. Bebos in Santurce is also very good but you would need to take a taxi.

        1 Reply
        1. re: RONNIENJ4

          Second. These were both very good. Casual, good for families and delicious food. Ambience is better at Metropol, Mi Casita has more of a diner feel.

        2. Not sure what your budget is...but if money is no object do try the Il Mulino in the Ritz. A short walk away (on the same side as the Ritz) and past the Metropol (yes, highly recommended -- try their whole fried fish if you can handle the bones; their avocado salad if on special;) is Lupes. This is a drinking place later at night..but they have decent mexican fare and welcome families. Will you have a car?

          1 Reply
          1. re: JulieF

            Il Mulino's revisited...and a 180 turn around. Was just at Il Mulino's last week and have to say I was greatly disappointed. Service was just okay. Prices were outrageous (food is expensive in PR, but this was outrageous). My husband had a glass of wine and a half order or pasta; I had a small salad and a half order or pasta. Our granddaughter only had a coke...no food. Cost was around $100 plus tax and tip. The main point, however, was not the price. If it was great food there's no problem. This time the food was just okay...not superb like it has been in the past. And they've downgraded their pre-meal amuse bouches -- used to be three items: a chunk of cheese (with a bread basket), a grilled eggplant dish, and some salami or some such. Instead, now they give you a small cube of the hard cheese and then a small piece of bruschetta with vinegary tomatoes (they tasted off). The pasta dish that I've gotten before (and ordered again) was the ravioli stuffed with mushrooms in a cream sauce. It used to be hard to keep me from licking the plate -- the sauce used to be so flavorful and rich. Worth every calorie in the past, but not now. Okay sauce, nothing special pasta...VERY disappointing.

          2. Ropa Viejo and have the pork rind risotto.

            6 Replies
            1. re: sushiman

              Il Mulino?!!! But why did you go there??

              Some stuff in the metro area

              high end prican fusion: Delirio, Chayote
              highendish other options: Pamela's, Compostela tapas (the chef is the ex sous chef from Fleur de Sel in NYC), Jose Enrique, Lemongrass
              fondas: there are many, some of them are La casita Blanca, El fogon de Bertin, Zayas, Manolin, El canario
              seafood: El pescador, La Atlantica
              Italian: Pinoli, Il Perugino
              Sushi/Rican: Jinya
              Chinese: Great Taste of China
              hamburger: El hamburger (classic, roquefort brger), Top Burger (more sofisticated brger)
              Panaderias: la vina, la jerezana, kasalta, el roble, espana,la mayorca, la bombonera
              Mexican cheap joint: Los pioneros
              Middle Eastern: Al Salam

              1. re: LRS

                We just got back from Puerto Rico last night. We stayed at the ESJ. I'll post a report. Ate at most of the same places as last year but did try a restaurant in Condado we had not been to. Within walking distance of the ESJ (and Ritz) best P.R. food is Metropol and Mi Casita. We went to Metropol (mofongo with shrimp and Creole sauce) but didn't make it to Mi Casita this year.

                1. re: financialdistrictresident

                  Well, I have to say that i don't like Mi casita and i'm not a fan of Metropol either (it went downhilll in the mid 90's) but once in a while i have a cornish hen stuffed with congri in Metropol. However, if by the ESJ you mean the towers in isla verde then you had many places around la avenida isla verde, punta las marias and pinones (Las dos palmas for rice with crab). The problem is there is no such thing as walking distance places in PR anywhere except for tourist areas. I hope you ate well at non walking distance places.

                  1. re: LRS

                    LRS, thanks for your thoughts. The OP requested walking distance, but now I see it's an old 2007 post. We ended up in OSJ for most of our meals. In Condado we went to Ropa Vieja on Ashford Avenue (nice for a walk before or after dinner). Is Great Taste of China in Embassy Suites? If yes, I heard it's not very good but I'm spoiled with 2 Chinatowns in NYC. . .

                    1. re: financialdistrictresident

                      Hi. No, Great Taste is not at Embassy Suites, It's in Condado. I don't know which restaurant is in Embassy Suites, I just remember an Outback branch there. However, I haven't been to GT in 10 years, because I moved to NYC and there is NO way you can compare any Chinese restaurant in PR to any Chinatown place. There was a cheap decent place but they just closed, so I’d take any amazing 66, joe's shanghai, congee village..... or any place in flushing any day.

              2. My husband is in Puerto Rico right now and since I am on this website all the time, I thought I would post for him! He is staying at Intercontinental and checked out Mi Casita...way too crowded and packed like sardines (he is there for work and is by himself and didn't want to be packed in and then rushed out!) so he kept walking...Went by Metropol, but wasn't too crazy about the menu and decided to return to where he had dinner his first night there. While researching some good places for him to try, I came across Casa Dante. He went there and absolutely loved it! Great service and his meal, he said, was as if he was in someone's house and they were cooking for him! It was all locals in the restaurant so I am not sure how many people have discovered it yet! I can't remember where online I read about it, but he is sure glad I found it. He returned there tonight and had just as good of a meal and superior service. He said there are enough things on the menu that he would like to try so he will be going there every night until he leaves. So I would say that it is highly recommended! Just thought I would help someone else out as I have been helped out by so many on these great boards! Finding a great restaurant makes your vacation all that much better! If anyone ever needs any Aruba recommendations, feel free to ask...Aruba is our favorite place in the world!!

                1 Reply
                1. re: Montaukbea

                  Montaukbea, thanks for the report. I heard good things about Casa Dante but still have not been. Metropol and Mi Casita are crowded local places. I first heard of Casa Dante from this hound's January 2007 report:

                  San Juan, Puerto Rico report
                  Just got back from a trip to San Juan. We were not nearly as adventerous as we might have been food-wise, but did manage to get to a couple local places. For better or worse, here's the summary.

                  ON CALLE FORTALEZA ...

                  There's a block of restaurants near the taxi stand on Calle Fortaleza that cater primarily to yuppie tourists. Dragonfly is probably the best, based on the comments here and the line out the door every night. Unfortunately, we never did manage to eat here. Once the wait was looking to be well over an hour, another time they had stopped even adding names to the waitlist. The two places we did try were Parrot Club and Marmalade.

                  Parrot Club: Very crowded and very popular with tourists, but food just wasn't anything special. Not bad, but kind of bland. Service seemed to be spotty; while we got lucky and had no major problems, the table next to us had to wait over an hour between finishing appetizers and getting their entree.

                  Marmalade: Just as touristy as Parrot Club, and a little more pricey, but the difference is that the food was really enjoyable here. Great mixed drinks too. It's not local cuisine by any stretch of the imagination, but it's certainly a fun place with great food.

                  PUERTO RICAN PLACES ...

                  Casa Dante (39 Isla Verde Ave, about a mile or so west of the Isla Verde resorts): Probably the best food we had on the trip. The Mofongo, which is mashed plaintain with garlic and a little bit of pork, is absolutely outstanding. Basically, you get that with your choice of meat or fish; the entrees we tried were great as well. (You can substitute other sides, but Mofongo is their speciailty, so why bother?) Everything -- the Mofongo, the entrees, even the bread they bring out as a starter, is extremely garlicy, just so you know what you're signing up for. Only locals were there when we went, but we found the place in a guidebook and they have a review written in English on the wall, so I think they see plenty of tourists as well.

                  La Fonda El Jibarito (280 Calle Sol, in Old San Juan): Decent food here, not as good as Casa Dante, but the pork in plaintain sauce with a side of beans and rice still makes for a great hearty meal. Awful (slow, uninterested) service.

                  Ristorante El Popular (near Santurce marketplace): Saw a lot of locals here, and figured we ought to try it, but this was a miscalculation ... it was just mediocre bar food.

                  ISLA VERDE RESORTS ...

                  The Palm (El San Juan): Very good meal here. The steak may have been a little below average compared to the steaks I've had at other locations of this chain, but was still excellent. Lobster, salad, appetizers all outstanding.

                  BLT Steak (Ritz): Steak might have actually been a little better than the one at The Palm, but pretty much everything else was inferior, lobster over-cooked, salad no good, etc.

                  La Piccola Fontana (El San Juan): A pretty good Italian restaurant dressed up as if it were a great one ... and priced like it were a great one.

                  Mares (Ritz): The casual place at the Ritz. Uninteresting, but quality wasn't bad.

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                  chetlemon Jan 03, 2007 06:51PM