It’s been more than five months since Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico on September 20, but 450,000 residents are still without power and hundreds of thousands have left the island. Add to that tourists’ concerns of spending their vacation on an island with electricity issues, and Puerto Rico has fewer people to eat, drink and support a tourism industry that’s seen incredible growth in the last decade. But in San Juan, Puerto Rico, there are restaurants, bars, and hotels open for business – and they need customers.
Favorites like La Factoría, Gallo Negro, 1919, José Enrique and Verde Mesa are still serving the cocktails and dishes you might have enjoyed on past vacations, but there are new openings and adjustments at other spots that are now ready for visitors in the capital city, where life has mostly returned to normal.
Here are a few top spots to eat and drink on your next visit:
Comedería Fonda Urbana
Once called La Jaquita Baya, the renowned Miramar restaurant from chef Xavier Pacheco that focused on local ingredients, has rebranded as Comedería, serving many of the same dishes at toned-down prices. The pigeon pea hummus topped with a bit of yogurt and pigeon pea escabeche remains an acidic, perfectly Puerto Rican take on the Middle Eastern dip, and the bacalao, pork, and even patty melt are similarly satisfying and homey.
This restaurant from chef Martin Louzao opened up rather quickly after Maria, but its menu is new and suited to sharing. A bruléed sweet plantain carpaccio topped with tuna, mushrooms and avocado presents an expected flavor in a contemporary play on a classic. The soy-and-ginger-marinated beef tenderloin with fried egg over potato purée has shockingly delicate, well-balanced flavor.
The tropical bar near La Placita de Santurce, an area known for its market and many bars, took its time reopening after the storm, but for now has chef Paxx Caraballo Moll in the kitchen cooking up handmade vegetable-stuffed dumplings, wings glazed in tamarind and chipotle, and lightly battered and fried eggplant wedges. You can wash them down with a tepache colada, a spin on the classic piña colada made with the Mexican fermented pineapple beverage.
After spending a year in Portland, Oregon, husband-and-wife team Abner Roldán and Karla Quiñones returned home to Puerto Rico with plans of opening their own coffee shop. Many delays and one huge hurricane later, they’re now serving espresso and pour-over coffee made with beans roasted Stateside in a fashionably minimalist space with plentiful outlets and good Wi-Fi. You can also enjoy an open-faced sandwich as you linger over a latte poured by Roldán, a two-time Puerto Rican latte art champion.
Over in the Miramar neighborhood, not far from Comedería Fonda Urbana, you’ll find Radio Red – a brand-new internet radio station modeled after Brooklyn’s The Lot Radio – in a former art gallery space, serving coffee in the style of Hacienda San Pedro. You can also browse a selection of records, including some by local acts like Los Vigilantes. Expect to pop in while a local DJ is doing a live set in the window.
Right around the corner from La Factoría (one of the World’s 50 Best Bars for two years running) is Mono Stereo, which opened at the start of 2018. The owner is Edwin Borrero, formerly of Factoría, who’s serving daiquiris, rum Manhattans, and $10 spirit flights.