Puerto Rico Food and Drink

Puerto Rico (and especially San Juan) abounds with good restaurants, catering for all tastes from Spanish to Chinese, French, Greek and Italian. Peruvian and Argentinian restaurants have multiplied in San Juan in recent years as well. The island cuisine is Spanish-based, with rice and beans as the staple diet. Local dishes are not spicy but do tend to be salty.

Puerto Rican food is experiencing a culinary renaissance and is being reinterpreted for nouveau palates, particularly by popular local chefs like Wilo Benet (who regularly features on TV and in travel and food publications) and Puerto Rico's one and only Iron Chef, Roberto Trevino. As you might expect, the capital city's restaurant scene is lively and varied, and each year, it seems, a new culinary festival pops up to celebrate island cuisine.

Specialities

Seafood and tropical fruits are not as abundant on Puerto Rican menus as many visitors expect. Many of Puerto Rico's favourite foods are fried; good thing you're only here on holiday! Beach huts and stalls typically sell a variety of fried doughs stuffed with beef, chicken, or fish; note that ‘tacos’ in Puerto Rico are not the tacos you're accustomed to.

Mofongo (mashed plantain dish that is stuffed with meat, chicken or seafood and served in a broth).
• Tostones (another plantain dish, this one is best described as thick plaintain chips).
Maduros (yet another plantain dish, maduros are sweet plantains; they may be served fried or baked).
Lechon asado (roast pork; the most popular place to eat lechon asado is in the mountain town of Guavate, but lechon is found on most restaurants' menus).
Arroz y habichuelas (rice and beans; the beans are typically kidney beans and are often served wet, like a soup, in a bowl apart from the rice).
Quesitos (a sweet pastry stuffed with cream cheese).
Pastel (known in other countries as a tamal, this is a plantain-based patty typically steamed in a plantain leaf; though eaten any time of year, these are particularly popular around Christmas).
• Bacalao (codfish; may be prepared in one of many styles, but perhaps the most popular is serenata de bacalao or bacalao serenade, which typically is prepared with codfish, potatoes, and onions, in a tomato-based stew).
Piraguas (a typical cool, refreshing treat sold in Old San Juan, on beaches, and around town sqaures, piraguas are paper cones filled with shaved ice; try one of the local flavours – parcha (passionfruit), mango, or pineapple.

Tipping

It is customary to leave a 15-20% tip if service gratuities are not included on the bill.

Regional drinks

• Piña colada (Puerto Rico claims to have invented this, one of many tropical drinks available here).
• Rum (any drink featuring rum is a safe and sure bet – Barrilio, Don Q, and Bacardi are popular local rums).
• Medalla is the local beer.
Coquito (a holiday drink, served around Christmas, that's akin to an eggnog).

Drinking age

18.

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