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Home > Interests & Activities > Food & Dining > Culinary Experiences
Mofongo; asopao; lechón; if you don’t know what those words mean, you probably haven’t tasted our food. And if you haven’t tasted our food, you haven’t truly experienced Puerto Rico.
Our island hasn’t just become a magnet for foodies; it’s grown into the gastronomic capital of the Caribbean. World-class chefs man the kitchens at many restaurants in San Juan, while internationally renowned chefs have brought their brands to the island.
Our culinary tradition spans centuries and combines Taíno, Spanish and African cultures, recipes and ingredients. In recent years, it’s been combined with flavors from around the world to create mouth-watering fusion and nouveau Rican creations.
From gourmet fine dining to roadside kiosks, you will love exploring our menus and discovering the many tastes of Puerto Rico. As we say in Puerto Rico, ¡buen provecho!
Classic Puerto Rican Dishes
The first time you dine at a Puerto Rican restaurant, you might not recognize many items on the menu. We’re here to help. Our most iconic dish is mofongo, which is a mound of mashed fried green plantain or yautia (a locally grown tuber root vegetable) either stuffed with a variety of fillings (including steak, seafood, chicken, pork or vegetables) or served as a side to a main course. Puerto Rico’s official dish is asopao, a hearty soup made with chicken, rice, sofrito (a zesty seasoning popular in Latin cuisine) and vegetables. Finally, for many Puerto Ricans, lechón, or roast suckling pig, is the best of Puerto Rican cooking.
Plantains any way you like ‘em
The most ubiquitous ingredient in Puerto Rican cooking is the plantain. Beyond mofongos, it can be served toasted into flat cakes (tostones), caramelized and fried (maduros) or deep fried into crunchy fritters. It’s the quintessential side dish to any entrée.
You’ll find a delectable blend of local and international cuisine in Puerto Rico, including Asian-Latin, Spanish-Puerto Rican, and Pan-Caribbean fusion.
Puerto Rican Seafood
As an island, we naturally have an abundance of seafood dishes. Two of our most popular are chillo frito, or fried, whole red snapper, and locally fished Caribbean spiny lobster. Also look for fresh oysters, conch, jueyes (crabs) and clams.
Dining at kiosks
One of the culinary delights of Puerto Rico is our array of food kiosks. These rustic eateries specialize in fried fritters and snacks, turnovers (empanadillas), even a Puerto Rican take on tacos. But you can also find kiosks selling local fine dining, gourmet burgers, and other tempting fare.
The most famous and popular kiosks can be found along Route 3 in the town of Luquillo. A long string of over 60 small eateries line the road, offering everything from sophisticated Puerto Rican cuisine to Italian cuisine to crab on a stick!
Beachside kiosks are incredibly popular in Puerto Rico, and the largest cluster of them are located in Piñones, a beachfront neighborhood just a short drive from San Juan. Piñones comes alive on weekends, when locals and visitors arrive to enjoy the sea, sand and snacks.
Seafood kiosks on the West Coast
You’ll find kiosks specializing in seafood all along the west coast of Puerto Rico, but the ones in Boquerón and Joyuda are particularly famous for their freshly shucked oysters and clams.
New York has Soho; we have Sofo, an acronym for South Fortaleza Street in Old San Juan and a veritable restaurant row of outstanding modern eateries. From classic French to Asian-Latin fusion to inventive seafood, the restaurants at Sofo have helped make it a culinary hotspot that attracts locals and visitors alike.
Sofo Culinary Fest
A biannual festival organized by participating restaurants, the Sofo Festival transforms South Fortaleza Street into a pedestrian promenade where restaurants bring food tables, demonstrations, and samples of their menus out to passersby. It’s one of the most sough-after foodie events in the old city.
One of the primary architects of the Sofo experience is the Oof! family of restaurants, which has four restaurants in this culinary corner: the pan-Latin Parrot Club, seafood eatery Aguaviva, inventive Spanish Toro Salao, and Asian-Rican fusion Dragonfly.
Beyond its fine dining, Sofo has become a hip late-night hotspot; many of the restaurants here stay open late, keeping a funky lounge atmosphere going until the wee hours.
Fans of food TV have already been introduced to some of Puerto Rico’s best chefs. The island boasts a crop of outstanding young cooks, many of whom have received acclaim and accolades on the global stage. In particular, three of our chefs have made regular appearances on shows like Bravo TVs “Top Chef Masters” and The Food Network’s “The Next Iron Chef.” Get to know them, and their food!
Chef and owner of Pikayo restaurant in Condado, Chef Benet was a contestant on “Top Chef Masters.” He is one of the pioneers of nouveau Rican cuisine.
To help you on your culinary journey of discovery, the Puerto Rico Tourism Company began a unique program to recognize restaurants around the island that served authentic, tasty and moderately priced Puerto Rican cuisine. These eateries are called Mesones Gastronómicos. Visit our directory for a listing of mesones in Puerto Rico.
Pick your mesón
With over 30 mesones listed around mainland Puerto Rico, you’ll never be far from one of these gastronomic standbys; there are mesones in each of Puerto Rico’s six regions.
Seal of approval
Mesones must be sanctioned and approved by the Puerto Rico Tourism Company; as such, when you step inside one, you’ll know you’re dining at a destination that carries an official seal of good quality.
Not in San Juan
Note that there are no mesones in San Juan. The program was designed specifically to promote outstanding restaurants outside of the capital.
Saborea! is Puerto Rico’s largest annual food festival, and an event that has quickly grown to become one of the most important gatherings for foodies and chefs in the Caribbean. This weekend-long celebration of Puerto Rican cuisine combines food pavilions, a friendly “kitchen-stadium” competition featuring celebrity chefs from around the world, and booths from various participating sponsors and businesses. For any food-lover, it’s a can’t-miss treat.
When and where
Saborea! takes place annually in April near Escambrón Beach in the Puerta de Tierra neighborhood of San Juan. Tickets are available for one-day, two-day and weekend packages.
A parade of stars
Among the many world-famous chefs who have participated at Saborea! are Cat Cora, Robert Irvine, Jacques Torres (also known as Mr. Chocolate), Anne Burrell, and Ted Allen, to name just a few.
A parade of Puerto Rican chefs
Of course, Saborea! is not just an event for international stars. Many of Puerto Rico’s best chefs participate in the event, giving you a chance to get to know the flavors and specialties of many local restaurants.