San Juan and Luquillo, Puerto Rico: Report
Recently returned from a trip to Puerto Rico and Vieques. I'll write a separate report about Vieques, but here's what we ate in San Juan and Luquillo!
Kasalta - Ocean Park, San Juan
Thanks to the recommendation on Chowhound, we went here for lunch on our first day. The cuban sandwich was quite good, and the sancocho was nice as well. Pretty simple, with meat, corn, potato and plantain, but comforting. For dessert we shared a mallorca, which wasn't as good as what I remember eating at La Bombonera years ago. Also had a good small coffee.
Casa Dante - Isla Verde, San Juan
Also found out about this place on Chowhound, and it was a good choice for us. Four of us shared several items, including:
Sangria (quite fruity, served very cold)
Piña colada with rum (good)
Churrasco (done medium, a bit tough and salty, but still good)
Shrimp w/ garlic sauce (very nice)
Chicken soup (too salty, but I liked the pieces of pumpkin in it)
Chicharron de pollo (also salty, but good!)
Each of the mains came with a side. The mofongo was great here, and we tried two types: classic mofongo de platano, and also mofongo de yuca. I preffered the platano, but all the others preferred the yuca. We also had rice and beans, and sweet plantains. Finally, for dessert, we tried one coconut flan. I thought it was good, with a smooth texture and not too-coconutty taste...but it wasn't anything special. The main reason to go here is to try the excellent mofongo.
Panaderia España - Isla Verde, San Juan - We stopped here in our rental car on the way out of town to pick up sandwiches. We bought both cubanos and medianoches to bring with us to El Yunque. Also bought some cheese and meat empanadas. Overall, sandwiches weren't as good as the ones at Kasalta, but still made for a nice lunch on top of the mountain in El Yunque! Empanadas were a good snack, and the cheese ones were sweet and reminded me of cheesecake.
Ceviche Hut - Luquillo Food Kiosks, Luquillo
We went here because the menu looked decent, and it had some decent reviews on TripAdvisor and Yelp. It turned out to be horrible. I almost never have meals this horrible, so it was a weird experience! We only ordered three things: fried calamari was the least bad...it was about $10 for a small serving, and it was fine. Tasted like what you'd get at any old cheap Italian restaurant. Mussels paella was priced at over 20 dollars, and what came out was not even as good as an order of fried rice from a neighborhood Chinese place. It was edible, but that's the best I can say about it. I would have been mad paying $10 for this, but $20 is outrageous. I think it had been microwaved.
Finally, the ceviche. Perhaps this was partially our fault, since we ordered it "regular" and not Peruvian style, which is less cooked. But the mixed ceviche was SUPER garlicky, to the point that it tasted like chimichurri sauce had been poured all over it. We ate it, but it was really not good. Also really expensive. As someone who has eaten many ceviches across the globe (Chile, Peru, Mexico, Ecuador, USA) this was the worst I've ever tasted.
None of the other kiosks looked that great to us, either, and prices were really high at all of them. I had been excited about Luquillo's kiosks, but I guess I was wrong about what to expect.
Finally, after Vieques, on our last night in Puerto Rico, we ate at La Casita Blanca in Santurce. This ended up being, by far, the best meal of the trip. They are mainly a lunch place, and they are only open for dinner on Fridays and Saturdays. Dinner on Saturday was pretty empty, but service was good and food was great.
We were seated, and before anything else happened, they brought us each a cup of chicken soup (very hot and good), some fried flatbreads, and some garlicky toasted bread. Then they asked us what we wanted to drink (we ordered sangria), and only THEN were we brought the menu, which is on a whiteboard. We shared four items:
Arepas con bacalao - Outstanding. Crispy fried dough w/ a slight coconut taste, topped with salty salt-cod mixture.
Stuffed avocado with crab - Huge perfectly ripe avocado, generous amount of crab mixture on top. Really good.
Bistec encebollado - Tender beef, nice sauce. Not as amazing as the other three dishes, but still good.
Fricassé de pollo - Big portion of stewed chicken. Easily came of the bones.
Sides were: mofongo (decent, but a bit dry. Not as good as at Casa Dante), arroz con gandules (made better by adding beans), rice and beans (excellent. beans were served in a clay dish, and were best we had all trip). Some dishes also had sweet plantain.
For dessert, we shared vanilla flan, which was a bit on the eggy side, but still very good. Price for all of this was about $70 before tip, which was a good deal. This place was really fun and we were glad we made the trek to the somewhat random neighborhood.
That's the report. Will add in some pictures too!