Puerto Ricans are a proud bunch. We are proud of J.Lo., Roberto Clemente, our flag, Puerto Rican music and dance, and of course, the food. And as a Puerto Rican vegetarian, I always felt like I was missing something. So when my brother, Ravi, and I recently received the opportunity to tour with Flavors of San Juan Food & Culture Tours, I was psyched. In addition to seeing all of the dishes in their original, meaty formats, I also got to try everything with a vegetarian twist. I have never been on a tour that catered to vegetarians to this extent, but didn’t exclude the carnivores in the process.
The tour offered 5 tastings in 5 different locations.
Take a lot of rum and add century old secret recipes and you’ve got Princesa Gastrobar. After taking a tour behind the bar to learn about the intricacies of Puerto Rican rum, we sat down to enjoy a delicious piña colada and the tasting.
What we tried:
- 1 piña colada with rum
- 2 spanish croquettes
- 1 breaded eggplant with chicken
- 1 tostonacho with veggies
- 1 breaded eggplant with vegetables
This place is pretty famous with people coming from all over to try its tropical treats. With popsicles ranging from passion fruit to brownie, there is something for everyone.
Café El Punto
What’s better than eating until your stomach is content? Shopping while eating until your stomach is content. This former alley turned art gallery offered street food options and cool souvenir shopping.
What we tried:
- 1 serving of freshly made grouper ceviche
- 1 alcapurria with ground beef and the house pique (hot sauce)
- 1 caprese salad
- 1 veggie alcapurria
Rosa de Triana
Puerto Rico wouldn’t be what it is today without the Spanish influence. Mofongo is almost equally as important to the rich culture. At Rosa de Triana we were able to make our own mofongo while basking in the Spanish ambiance. The restaurant is shabby chic and really did make me feel like I was in Spain with its decor.
What we tried:
- 1 mofongo with chicken in criolla sauce
- rice and beans
- 1 mofongo with vegetable in criollo sauce
Chocobar at Casa Cortes
If a restaurant has a line to get in, that’s usually a good sign. Luckily, with the tour we didn’t have to wait at all. The Chocobar was a sweet way to end the tour.
Maya’s Favorite: Churros, cheese and hot chocolate, oh my. It is certainly a strange combination, but that is exactly what I liked so much about it. It’s unique. You add the cheese to your hot chocolate, let it get melted and gooey, and then dip your churro into the concoction to sop up the cheese. I’m not usually one to mix savory and salty, but I think it is a must try!
Ravi’s Favorite: Ravi loved everything about Café El Punto. The ceviche was extremely fresh and the empanadas were made with ground beef and some of the traditional root vegetables typical of Puerto Rico, rather than flour. He was also thoroughly impressed with the pique, the house salsa. It was very spicy but also had a robust flavor.
In addition to helping work off some of the food, walking from one location to the next really gives people a great history lesson and tour of Old San Juan. I had previously been to Old San Juan maybe ten times, but the tour still managed to highlight some sites I had never even seen before, such as the former thinnest building in the world and the slightly creepy remains of St. Pius. Shannon, our guide, also told us that the restaurant choices change slightly from trip to trip, so I could definitely see doing this tour again when traveling with someone new to the island. I highly recommend it, especially if you have a limited amount of time on the island. It is one of the few tours I’ve been on where I had such a great mix of culture and history and didn’t leave hungry.