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From above, an oblong plate holding a sandwich in a hotdog bun with a pile of potato chips. The sandwich consists of grilled strips of mushroom topped with chunky green sauce
Mushroom choripan sandwich at Taberna Medalla
Taberna Medalla/Facebook

The 25 Essential San Juan Restaurants

Where to find oyster mushroom choripan sandwiches, tempura-fried ají dulce peppers, smoked gouda croquettes, and a Negroni-flavored piragua (shave ice) in San Juan

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Mushroom choripan sandwich at Taberna Medalla
| Taberna Medalla/Facebook

In San Juan, Puerto Rico, the fried alcapurrias and banana leaf-wrapped pasteles of comida criolla, the local blend of Indigenous Taíno, African, and Spanish ingredients and flavors, are everywhere. They are at the kiosks of Piñones and in the glossy restaurants of the city’s best chefs. But to come to Puerto Rico for only Puerto Rican food would be a disservice to the imagination, the bar scene is constantly expanding with new venues for cocktails that rival the stalwart La Factoria, and the city’s cafes are perpetually invigorated by the growing nation.

This ever-growing dining and bar scene has thrived despite ongoing crises both natural and political. The archipelago has been under the control of the United States since 1898, and that colonial control has had long impacts on agriculture and culinary culture. Serving local produce requires commitment and the development of relationships with farmers, and the same goes for seafood and fishermen. Part of the Jones Act of 1920 requires all trade to be done on U.S.-owned boats staffed by U.S. workers, which makes many imports quite expensive. Taking care with cuisine under these conditions requires persistence and knowledge. Luckily, many chefs are willing to put in that work.

Update May, 2022:

After Hurricane Maria in 2017 and the COVID-19 pandemic, new restaurants and bars are opening in San Juan, and the city has fully come back to life — perhaps better than ever. More chefs are focusing on local ingredients, and new importers are bringing in natural wines that have enlivened a scene previously focused on Spanish and Californian bottles.

Alicia Kennedy is a San Juan, Puerto Rico-based writer. She is at work on a book about eating ethically for Beacon Press.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Casa de Montecristo

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201 Calle del Cristo, San Juan
00901, Puerto Rico
(787) 705-4957
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Whether a cigar lover or not, Montecristo delivers on cocktails and ambiance. It is ostensibly a cigar bar, but the drinks are not second-rate, with some of the best bartenders in San Juan often behind the bar. Here, guests find one of the highest-caliber selections of spirits in town, but there’s no kitchen, making it the perfect pre- or post-dinner spot for a drink.

A bartender strains a shaker tin into a prepared coupe glass, in front of a brightly lit back bar full of bottles
The finishing touch
Casa de Montecristo

2. La Factoría

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148 Calle San Sebastián, San Juan
00901, Puerto Rico
(787) 412-4251
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An Old San Juan stalwart since its opening in 2013, La Factoria has expanded in the years since into an institution, often appearing on the list of the World’s 50 Best Bars. It is still a go-to for its Lavender Mule, where lavender gives floral balance to a Moscow mule; the La Champeta, with Don Q Añejo rum, pineapple, and fermented ginger; and the Garibaldi Criollo, where Campari is infused with acerola, a Caribbean cherry. If wine is desired, Vino, right behind the main bar, provides a selection.

A tall cocktail on a bar, with two pineapple fronds and a pineapple wedge sticking out the top. The cocktail is a milky yellow with a foamy head. The bar is lit by neon
The Champeta with rum, pineapple, and fermented ginger
Ricardo M Hernandez

3. Mercado Agrícola de Viejo San Juan

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150 Calle Norzagaray, San Juan
00901, Puerto Rico

Every Saturday morning by El Morro, a fort from the Spanish colonial times and a national park, a dozen or so vendors line up at this farmers’ market to sell not just locally grown produce, piques flavored with local fruits, giant tropical flowers, and vanilla beans, but plant-based milks, desserts, and vegan sushi. This is not to be missed for a glimpse at what agroecological farmers are growing, as well as ready-made foods for a walking breakfast while seeing the sights.

4. La Taberna Lúpulo

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151 Calle San Sebastián, San Juan
00901, Puerto Rico
(787) 367-9519
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Lúpulo, a beer bar, is always blasting the best playlist and serving a wide array of beers on draft as well as in bottles and cans. The local beers are where to focus your drinking efforts, such as those from Boxlab in Aguadilla on the island’s west coast, or Zurc Brauhouse in Coamo, which all pair well with the bar food selection, including some truly wonderful French fries.

Two rows of taps on a blackboard with beers written in chalk
Taps at Taberna Lúpulo
La Taberna Lúpulo [Official]

5. Pio Pio

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151 C. de San Francisco, San Juan
00901, Puerto Rico
(787) 306-7792
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Old San Juan’s Plaza de Armas bustles during the day as locals, visitors, and office workers descend on the area’s coffee kiosks. At night, though, it tends to quiet down. Here, far from the dives of Cristo and San Sebastían streets, wine bar Pío Pío serves a big menu of sparkling wine, paired with small plates like oysters Rockefeller; beef tartare; and a salad of chrysanthemum greens, silken tofu dressing, hazelnuts, and chayote. There’s even a Negroni piragua, a decidedly adult take on the local street cart treat of shaved ice and flavored syrup.

6. Deaverdura

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200 C. del Sol, San Juan
00901, Puerto Rico
(787) 463-1038
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In Old San Juan, Deaverdura is a staple of comida criolla, the Puerto Rican cuisine that blends local Taíno ingredients with Spanish and African influences. Pasteles, carne frita, tostones, and more create glorious smells wafting from the kitchen into the street, which explains why this corner stop is always drawing a crowd of locals and visitors alike. While the menu is meat-focused, there is seafood and they’re always able to do vegan and vegetarian dishes as well.

7. Spiga

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258 Calle San Justo Esq, Calle de Tetuán, San Juan
00901, Puerto Rico
(787) 667-6159
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Tiny but mighty, Spiga is a beloved Old San Juan gem that bakes its own sourdough loaves daily for sandwiches and toast, as well as chocolate chip walnut cookies no one leaves without. Breakfasts of scrambled eggs with tomato, spinach, and feta are simple, but made special by the bread; for lunch, there are daily house-made pastas, occasional lasagna, and satisfying salads.

A loaf of bread sliced in half and displayed on a wooden panel to reveal the crumb inside
The crumb
Spiga [Facebook]

8. Finca Cialitos

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267 C. de San Francisco, San Juan
00901, Puerto Rico
(939) 207-9998
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Cialitos is a quirky space in Old San Juan that often has a line out the door on weekends. The coffee is sourced from the café owners’ own finca — their estate — and sometimes dried on the roof itself, making it worthwhile to pick up a bag of beans as a souvenir or to sip at home. From iced coffee to cortados, the espresso here has a particular, unmistakable fruitiness that reflects Puerto Rico’s own terroir.

9. Bodega Chic

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313 Calle de la Fortaleza, San Juan
00901, Puerto Rico
(787) 721-6083
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This French bistro in Old San Juan is known for its weekend brunch, with mushroom and blue cheese quiche, but the dinner, too, lives up to the hype. Here, the classics are on offer, from duck confit to coq au vin to trout amandine, in a convivial atmosphere that will take you out of the touristic restaurant path just one block away.

A building exterior with classic San Juan Spanish colonial architecture and signage for Bodega Chic restaurant
Outside Bodega Chic
Bodega Chic [Official]

10. El Vino Crudo

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320 C. de la Fortaleza, San Juan
00901, Puerto Rico

Natural wine is new to San Juan, and the place to drink it is El Vino Crudo, an expansive space in Old San Juan that maintains all the character of the old city while coming off beautifully minimalist and modern. It’s operating as both a shop and bar, so take the opportunity to pick up some bottles for the beach, especially since the importers are attuned to the hot weather, providing lots of light reds, rosés, and skin-contact wines. El Vino Crudo is a chill experience in a city where drinking spots tend to get rowdy, making it a respite to enjoy a glass with olives, artichokes, local cheeses, and other snacks.

Corked wine bottles stick out of a hidden ice bucket along a wall. A bust of Frida Kahlo serving as a planter sits nearby
Bottles chilling at El Vino Crudo
Alicia Kennedy

11. Nam Pla Street Food Co.

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1319 Av. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, San Juan
00909, Puerto Rico

Once a food truck, Nam Pla settled into its brick-and-mortar location in 2020. While ostensibly a pan-Asian restaurant, they serve the biggest, most exquisite salad in the metropolitan area, along with both vegetable and meat dumplings, huge portions of pad Thai, lentil curry, fried rice, and more in a menu that changes at least weekly — if not daily — based on what is available. Order family style and BYOB by stopping at The House nearby for wine, beer, or spirits.

12. Peko Peko

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1000 Av. Juan Ponce de León local 3, San Juan
00907, Puerto Rico
(787) 508-6377
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They don’t take reservations at this narrow Miramar ramen joint, so arrive early — though if you have to wait, it’s well worth it for their house-made noodles, intensely spicy vegan broth, various mazemen preparations, and katsu. The appetizers, such as fried trumpet mushrooms, potato croquettes, and edamame, are filling, so order accordingly. This is an excellent spot for those who don’t eat meat, as there are three vegan ramens to choose from.

A bowl of ramen, with noodles curled to one side in the broth. Toppings include edamame, scallion, onion, tomato, mushrooms, and some sort of crunchy sticks
Ramen
Alicia Kennedy

13. Cocina al Fondo

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658 C. San Juan, San Juan
00907, Puerto Rico
(787) 469-5527
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Chef Natalia Vallejo shut down her Miramar restaurant when the pandemic hit, and now she’s back in a brand-new, bigger space. A renovated house with an ample backyard provides a stunning setting for her updated, vegetable-forward takes on Puerto Rican cuisine, skipping over well-known staples like mofongo to focus on deeper cuts. Vallejo serves a terrine of beet and goat cheese with toasted bread, pastelillos (or empanadas) filled with pumpkin, ají dulce (a local sweet pepper) fried tempura-style, buñuelos of mashed root vegetables, a vegetarian pastelón, and much more on the newly expanded menu. Dessert, a cocktail list by Karla Z. Torres, and a thoughtful wine selection aren’t afterthoughts, but complementary to Vallejo’s cooking.

A round mound of pastelon topped with a pile of french fries beside a salad on a decorative plate, with a bottle of wine nearby
Vegetarian pastelón
Alicia Kennedy

14. 1919

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1055 Ashford Ave, San Juan
San Juan 00907, Puerto Rico
(787) 724-1919
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When the occasion calls for a fancy dinner, there is none better than 1919, where chef Juan José Cuevas uses local produce, meat, and seafood to create exquisite tasting menus that can be made vegetarian or vegan upon request. Located inside the luxe Condado Vanderbilt Hotel, the food has far more substance than the big hotel-style environs might suggest, as Cuevas cooked at New York’s legendary Blue Hill before returning home to Puerto Rico to give local ingredients the fine dining treatment.

An empty table in a dining room, with a view beyond into a darkened sky and sea
Inside 1919
Facebook

15. Taberna Medalla

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1049, 1128 Av. Ashford, San Juan
00907, Puerto Rico
(787) 724-5570
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Those who have followed the dining scene in San Juan for the last decade will know of chef María Mercedes Grubb, who closed her longtime Santurce restaurant Gallo Negro at the end of 2019. She’s back now, overseeing the menu at this Condado venue overlooking the ocean, putting her signature spin on comforting bar food. An oyster mushroom choripan sandwich, mussels in beer broth, soft pretzels, a signature burger, and okra fries make this family-friendly outdoor restaurant an easy choice in the neighborhood. As a bonus, local DJs are usually playing.

16. Los Guapos Taquería y Mercado Mexicano

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Ave De Diego # 89, Villas de, # ll, San Juan
00927, Puerto Rico
(787) 599-8226

Simply put, Mexican food in San Juan has never been great. But Los Guapos, from chefs Xavier Pacheco and Gaby Antúnez, is turning the tide with fresh ingredients and care. The burritos, chilaquiles, and micheladas are especially superb, making it a go-to for weekend lunch. 

A hand squeezes a taco overflowing with pulled saucy meat, crispy cheese, pickled onion, and cilantro
Taco de costra de queso
Los Guapos/Facebook

17. Panoteca San Miguel

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85 Av. José de Diego, San Juan
00927, Puerto Rico
(787) 653-8888

Diego San Miguel opened this bakery in Cupey, a San Juan suburb, and in a few months made it a destination where items sell out daily. Options include sourdough breads, a selection of wines, cheese, and other high-end pantry options, as well as some pastries and local sweet breads, such as Mallorcas. Thursday night pizza is a real draw, when the line extends into the parking lot for New York-style pies, often made by local guest chefs.

An oval-shaped pizza cut into wedges, topped with tomato sauce, globs of cheese, and leaves of basil. The pizza is in a cardboard box with one slice missing
Pizza from Panoteca San Miguel
Alicia Kennedy

18. La Penultima

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1359 Avenida de la Constitución, San Juan
00907, Puerto Rico
(787) 523-6538
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This industry hangout came back from the pandemic with a natural wine selection and revamped (but still exceptional) cocktail lineup. The new drink menu features a martini infused with sesame, a daiquiri made with the local agricola rum Ron Pepón, and a spicy hibiscus margarita. Thankfully, the food menu is just as well executed, with bar food you’d expect like wings and burgers, plus veggie lo mein, smoked gouda croquettes, and a barbecue portobello sandwich.

A paper-lined basked of chicken wings, another basked behind it, and a martini on a wood bar with a server standing nearby
Wings and a martini
Alicia Kennedy

19. Fidela Pizzería

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Av. Hipódromo &, Av. Juan Ponce de León, San Juan
00907, Puerto Rico
(787) 640-8377
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This food truck parks in Santurce, near the Museum of Contemporary Art, but don’t expect to just pop by for a pie. Order early in the day before the sourdough crust runs out in order to enjoy perfectly crisp and bubbly Neapolitan pies from a wood-fired oven. Take one home or find a nearby spot to sit and enjoy it while it’s hot. Owners and partners Camila Cruz and Ángel Rosario here play the hits, with pomodoro, marinara, cacio e pepe, a vegetable pie, and honey pepperoni, all done with the utmost care.

A full pepperoni pizza in a box, and several slices of other types on plates, with coupe glasses of sparkling wine
Pizzas from Fidela
Ricardo M Hernandez

20. Mai Pen Rai

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303 Calle Canals, San Juan
00907, Puerto Rico
(787) 998-6338
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Chef Kelly Pirro has created a menu with a focus on Southeast Asia, which is a refreshing alternative to the abundant Chinese and Japanese restaurants. Thai curries, banh mi, a healing tom yum soup, and satisfying laab. This is also one of the most vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free-friendly restaurants in San Juan, making it a safe bet when one has a varied party to entertain.

Mai Pen Rai [Official]

21. Vianda

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1413 PR-25, San Juan
00907, Puerto Rico
(939) 475-1578
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When the strictest local lockdown was lifted during the COVID-19 pandemic, chef Francis Guzmán started a pop-up series with many local chefs who were either out of work or running their own restaurants, giving them a chance to put together a prix fixe menu. Since then, the chef has hit an incredible stride, serving dishes both locally and globally inspired. The “raíces locales” appetizer, with beet and other root vegetables (the restaurant’s name refers to them), horseradish cream, and a dusting of fresh dill cannot be missed for its matching of earthiness and brightness. The wine list dips into surprising choices that don’t always abound locally, like a rosé Zweigelt with a dry punch that pairs beautifully with the vegetable and seafood-focused menu.

A stylish dining room interior with lots of light, cement flooring, pendant lights over the bar, and a wooden back bar
Inside Vianda
Adnelly Marichal

22. 173 Grados

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1464 Av. Wilson, San Juan
00907, Puerto Rico

For a true cocktail experience outside of Old San Juan, 173 Grados in Santurce is a lounge where one can rely on truly superb bartender knowledge in cocktails like the O.F.T.A., made with bourbon, a blend of sugars, chocolate bitters, orange peel, and lavender smoke. The ginger beer and chocolate bitters are made in-house, and the chef Mayra Hernandez puts out pizzas, shrimp aguachile, beef empanadas, and tuna burgers to match.

A bowl of fish, tomatoes, and plantain chips in broth on a dark background
Aguachile
Ricardo M Hernandez

23. Café Regina

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58 Calle Taft, San Juan
00911, Puerto Rico
(570) 498-9845
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Café Regina has two locations, one on Calle Taft in Ocean Park and another kiosk inside Lote 23. The Calle Taft location, just two blocks from the beach, has become an Instagram star, not only because its chic minimal aesthetic is a great photo backdrop, but because the food and coffee, too, are undeniably good. The avocado and salmon toasts are classics, and local seasonal fruit stars in specials and house-made sodas. Owner Kali Solack sources from local farms and bakers, making sure everything is fresh from local farm Frutos del Guacabo and bakery Panoteca San Miguel.

From above, a thick slice of bread layered with shaved beets and oranges, on a decorative polka dot plate
Beet toast with goat cheese, cara cara oranges, herb oil, pistachios, and hot honey
Café Regina [Facebook]

24. Berlingeri

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#1966 Av. McLeary #1954, San Juan
00911, Puerto Rico
(939) 277-3224
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This veggie burger haven is only open for lunch during the work week, but its location in Ocean Park, not too far from the beach, makes it an excellent post-swim meal. They specialize in different house-made patties, like the barbecue onion burger, with a bean and mushroom base, and the beet and kimchi burger, which is as pink as a beef patty. Bowls and salads are also served, some with house-made seitan providing heft.

A hand holds a veggie burger, topped with tomato, sauce, and lettuce, in front of a wooden background and succulent
House burger
Berlingeri [Facebook]

25. Kiosko El Boricua

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Piñones, Carolina
Carolina Municipio, Puerto Rico

The first kiosk you hit when driving to Piñones, famous for its beachside shacks hawking endless frituras, or fried foods, is everyone’s favorite. This is the place for alcapurrias, a green banana and yautia fritter filled with meat or crab, pastelillos filled with the same, and fried rice with jueyes, or crab. Wash them down with cold Medalla, the local light pale lager that cuts the fat of the frituras and cools you down in the sun.

A roadside restaurant and outdoor covered seating area with advertisements and Puerto Rican flags flying
Outside Kiosko El Boricua
Kiosko El Boricua/Facebook

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1. Casa de Montecristo

201 Calle del Cristo, San Juan, 00901, Puerto Rico
A bartender strains a shaker tin into a prepared coupe glass, in front of a brightly lit back bar full of bottles
The finishing touch
Casa de Montecristo

Whether a cigar lover or not, Montecristo delivers on cocktails and ambiance. It is ostensibly a cigar bar, but the drinks are not second-rate, with some of the best bartenders in San Juan often behind the bar. Here, guests find one of the highest-caliber selections of spirits in town, but there’s no kitchen, making it the perfect pre- or post-dinner spot for a drink.

201 Calle del Cristo, San Juan
00901, Puerto Rico

2. La Factoría

148 Calle San Sebastián, San Juan, 00901, Puerto Rico
A tall cocktail on a bar, with two pineapple fronds and a pineapple wedge sticking out the top. The cocktail is a milky yellow with a foamy head. The bar is lit by neon
The Champeta with rum, pineapple, and fermented ginger
Ricardo M Hernandez

An Old San Juan stalwart since its opening in 2013, La Factoria has expanded in the years since into an institution, often appearing on the list of the World’s 50 Best Bars. It is still a go-to for its Lavender Mule, where lavender gives floral balance to a Moscow mule; the La Champeta, with Don Q Añejo rum, pineapple, and fermented ginger; and the Garibaldi Criollo, where Campari is infused with acerola, a Caribbean cherry. If wine is desired, Vino, right behind the main bar, provides a selection.

148 Calle San Sebastián, San Juan
00901, Puerto Rico

3. Mercado Agrícola de Viejo San Juan

150 Calle Norzagaray, San Juan, 00901, Puerto Rico

Every Saturday morning by El Morro, a fort from the Spanish colonial times and a national park, a dozen or so vendors line up at this farmers’ market to sell not just locally grown produce, piques flavored with local fruits, giant tropical flowers, and vanilla beans, but plant-based milks, desserts, and vegan sushi. This is not to be missed for a glimpse at what agroecological farmers are growing, as well as ready-made foods for a walking breakfast while seeing the sights.

150 Calle Norzagaray, San Juan
00901, Puerto Rico

4. La Taberna Lúpulo

151 Calle San Sebastián, San Juan, 00901, Puerto Rico
Two rows of taps on a blackboard with beers written in chalk
Taps at Taberna Lúpulo
La Taberna Lúpulo [Official]

Lúpulo, a beer bar, is always blasting the best playlist and serving a wide array of beers on draft as well as in bottles and cans. The local beers are where to focus your drinking efforts, such as those from Boxlab in Aguadilla on the island’s west coast, or Zurc Brauhouse in Coamo, which all pair well with the bar food selection, including some truly wonderful French fries.

151 Calle San Sebastián, San Juan
00901, Puerto Rico

5. Pio Pio

151 C. de San Francisco, San Juan, 00901, Puerto Rico

Old San Juan’s Plaza de Armas bustles during the day as locals, visitors, and office workers descend on the area’s coffee kiosks. At night, though, it tends to quiet down. Here, far from the dives of Cristo and San Sebastían streets, wine bar Pío Pío serves a big menu of sparkling wine, paired with small plates like oysters Rockefeller; beef tartare; and a salad of chrysanthemum greens, silken tofu dressing, hazelnuts, and chayote. There’s even a Negroni piragua, a decidedly adult take on the local street cart treat of shaved ice and flavored syrup.

151 C. de San Francisco, San Juan
00901, Puerto Rico

6. Deaverdura

200 C. del Sol, San Juan, 00901, Puerto Rico

In Old San Juan, Deaverdura is a staple of comida criolla, the Puerto Rican cuisine that blends local Taíno ingredients with Spanish and African influences. Pasteles, carne frita, tostones, and more create glorious smells wafting from the kitchen into the street, which explains why this corner stop is always drawing a crowd of locals and visitors alike. While the menu is meat-focused, there is seafood and they’re always able to do vegan and vegetarian dishes as well.

200 C. del Sol, San Juan
00901, Puerto Rico

7. Spiga

258 Calle San Justo Esq, Calle de Tetuán, San Juan, 00901, Puerto Rico
A loaf of bread sliced in half and displayed on a wooden panel to reveal the crumb inside
The crumb
Spiga [Facebook]

Tiny but mighty, Spiga is a beloved Old San Juan gem that bakes its own sourdough loaves daily for sandwiches and toast, as well as chocolate chip walnut cookies no one leaves without. Breakfasts of scrambled eggs with tomato, spinach, and feta are simple, but made special by the bread; for lunch, there are daily house-made pastas, occasional lasagna, and satisfying salads.

258 Calle San Justo Esq, Calle de Tetuán, San Juan
00901, Puerto Rico

8. Finca Cialitos

267 C. de San Francisco, San Juan, 00901, Puerto Rico

Cialitos is a quirky space in Old San Juan that often has a line out the door on weekends. The coffee is sourced from the café owners’ own finca — their estate — and sometimes dried on the roof itself, making it worthwhile to pick up a bag of beans as a souvenir or to sip at home. From iced coffee to cortados, the espresso here has a particular, unmistakable fruitiness that reflects Puerto Rico’s own terroir.

267 C. de San Francisco, San Juan
00901, Puerto Rico

9. Bodega Chic

313 Calle de la Fortaleza, San Juan, 00901, Puerto Rico
A building exterior with classic San Juan Spanish colonial architecture and signage for Bodega Chic restaurant
Outside Bodega Chic
Bodega Chic [Official]

This French bistro in Old San Juan is known for its weekend brunch, with mushroom and blue cheese quiche, but the dinner, too, lives up to the hype. Here, the classics are on offer, from duck confit to coq au vin to trout amandine, in a convivial atmosphere that will take you out of the touristic restaurant path just one block away.

313 Calle de la Fortaleza, San Juan
00901, Puerto Rico

10. El Vino Crudo

320 C. de la Fortaleza, San Juan, 00901, Puerto Rico
Corked wine bottles stick out of a hidden ice bucket along a wall. A bust of Frida Kahlo serving as a planter sits nearby
Bottles chilling at El Vino Crudo
Alicia Kennedy

Natural wine is new to San Juan, and the place to drink it is El Vino Crudo, an expansive space in Old San Juan that maintains all the character of the old city while coming off beautifully minimalist and modern. It’s operating as both a shop and bar, so take the opportunity to pick up some bottles for the beach, especially since the importers are attuned to the hot weather, providing lots of light reds, rosés, and skin-contact wines. El Vino Crudo is a chill experience in a city where drinking spots tend to get rowdy, making it a respite to enjoy a glass with olives, artichokes, local cheeses, and other snacks.

320 C. de la Fortaleza, San Juan
00901, Puerto Rico

11. Nam Pla Street Food Co.

1319 Av. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, San Juan, 00909, Puerto Rico

Once a food truck, Nam Pla settled into its brick-and-mortar location in 2020. While ostensibly a pan-Asian restaurant, they serve the biggest, most exquisite salad in the metropolitan area, along with both vegetable and meat dumplings, huge portions of pad Thai, lentil curry, fried rice, and more in a menu that changes at least weekly — if not daily — based on what is available. Order family style and BYOB by stopping at The House nearby for wine, beer, or spirits.

1319 Av. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, San Juan
00909, Puerto Rico

12. Peko Peko

1000 Av. Juan Ponce de León local 3, San Juan, 00907, Puerto Rico
A bowl of ramen, with noodles curled to one side in the broth. Toppings include edamame, scallion, onion, tomato, mushrooms, and some sort of crunchy sticks
Ramen
Alicia Kennedy

They don’t take reservations at this narrow Miramar ramen joint, so arrive early — though if you have to wait, it’s well worth it for their house-made noodles, intensely spicy vegan broth, various mazemen preparations, and katsu. The appetizers, such as fried trumpet mushrooms, potato croquettes, and edamame, are filling, so order accordingly. This is an excellent spot for those who don’t eat meat, as there are three vegan ramens to choose from.

1000 Av. Juan Ponce de León local 3, San Juan
00907, Puerto Rico

13. Cocina al Fondo

658 C. San Juan, San Juan, 00907, Puerto Rico
A round mound of pastelon topped with a pile of french fries beside a salad on a decorative plate, with a bottle of wine nearby
Vegetarian pastelón
Alicia Kennedy

Chef Natalia Vallejo shut down her Miramar restaurant when the pandemic hit, and now she’s back in a brand-new, bigger space. A renovated house with an ample backyard provides a stunning setting for her updated, vegetable-forward takes on Puerto Rican cuisine, skipping over well-known staples like mofongo to focus on deeper cuts. Vallejo serves a terrine of beet and goat cheese with toasted bread, pastelillos (or empanadas) filled with pumpkin, ají dulce (a local sweet pepper) fried tempura-style, buñuelos of mashed root vegetables, a vegetarian pastelón, and much more on the newly expanded menu. Dessert, a cocktail list by Karla Z. Torres, and a thoughtful wine selection aren’t afterthoughts, but complementary to Vallejo’s cooking.

658 C. San Juan, San Juan
00907, Puerto Rico

14. 1919

1055 Ashford Ave, San Juan, San Juan 00907, Puerto Rico
An empty table in a dining room, with a view beyond into a darkened sky and sea
Inside 1919
Facebook

When the occasion calls for a fancy dinner, there is none better than 1919, where chef Juan José Cuevas uses local produce, meat, and seafood to create exquisite tasting menus that can be made vegetarian or vegan upon request. Located inside the luxe Condado Vanderbilt Hotel, the food has far more substance than the big hotel-style environs might suggest, as Cuevas cooked at New York’s legendary Blue Hill before returning home to Puerto Rico to give local ingredients the fine dining treatment.

1055 Ashford Ave, San Juan
San Juan 00907, Puerto Rico

15. Taberna Medalla

1049, 1128 Av. Ashford, San Juan, 00907, Puerto Rico

Those who have followed the dining scene in San Juan for the last decade will know of chef María Mercedes Grubb, who closed her longtime Santurce restaurant Gallo Negro at the end of 2019. She’s back now, overseeing the menu at this Condado venue overlooking the ocean, putting her signature spin on comforting bar food. An oyster mushroom choripan sandwich, mussels in beer broth, soft pretzels, a signature burger, and okra fries make this family-friendly outdoor restaurant an easy choice in the neighborhood. As a bonus, local DJs are usually playing.

1049, 1128 Av. Ashford, San Juan
00907, Puerto Rico

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16. Los Guapos Taquería y Mercado Mexicano

Ave De Diego # 89, Villas de, # ll, San Juan, 00927, Puerto Rico
A hand squeezes a taco overflowing with pulled saucy meat, crispy cheese, pickled onion, and cilantro
Taco de costra de queso
Los Guapos/Facebook

Simply put, Mexican food in San Juan has never been great. But Los Guapos, from chefs Xavier Pacheco and Gaby Antúnez, is turning the tide with fresh ingredients and care. The burritos, chilaquiles, and micheladas are especially superb, making it a go-to for weekend lunch. 

Ave De Diego # 89, Villas de, # ll, San Juan
00927, Puerto Rico

17. Panoteca San Miguel

85 Av. José de Diego, San Juan, 00927, Puerto Rico
An oval-shaped pizza cut into wedges, topped with tomato sauce, globs of cheese, and leaves of basil. The pizza is in a cardboard box with one slice missing
Pizza from Panoteca San Miguel
Alicia Kennedy

Diego San Miguel opened this bakery in Cupey, a San Juan suburb, and in a few months made it a destination where items sell out daily. Options include sourdough breads, a selection of wines, cheese, and other high-end pantry options, as well as some pastries and local sweet breads, such as Mallorcas. Thursday night pizza is a real draw, when the line extends into the parking lot for New York-style pies, often made by local guest chefs.

85 Av. José de Diego, San Juan
00927, Puerto Rico

18. La Penultima

1359 Avenida de la Constitución, San Juan, 00907, Puerto Rico
A paper-lined basked of chicken wings, another basked behind it, and a martini on a wood bar with a server standing nearby
Wings and a martini
Alicia Kennedy

This industry hangout came back from the pandemic with a natural wine selection and revamped (but still exceptional) cocktail lineup. The new drink menu features a martini infused with sesame, a daiquiri made with the local agricola rum Ron Pepón, and a spicy hibiscus margarita. Thankfully, the food menu is just as well executed, with bar food you’d expect like wings and burgers, plus veggie lo mein, smoked gouda croquettes, and a barbecue portobello sandwich.

1359 Avenida de la Constitución, San Juan
00907, Puerto Rico

19. Fidela Pizzería

Av. Hipódromo &, Av. Juan Ponce de León, San Juan, 00907, Puerto Rico
A full pepperoni pizza in a box, and several slices of other types on plates, with coupe glasses of sparkling wine
Pizzas from Fidela
Ricardo M Hernandez

This food truck parks in Santurce, near the Museum of Contemporary Art, but don’t expect to just pop by for a pie. Order early in the day before the sourdough crust runs out in order to enjoy perfectly crisp and bubbly Neapolitan pies from a wood-fired oven. Take one home or find a nearby spot to sit and enjoy it while it’s hot. Owners and partners Camila Cruz and Ángel Rosario here play the hits, with pomodoro, marinara, cacio e pepe, a vegetable pie, and honey pepperoni, all done with the utmost care.

Av. Hipódromo &, Av. Juan Ponce de León, San Juan
00907, Puerto Rico

20. Mai Pen Rai

303 Calle Canals, San Juan, 00907, Puerto Rico
Mai Pen Rai [Official]

Chef Kelly Pirro has created a menu with a focus on Southeast Asia, which is a refreshing alternative to the abundant Chinese and Japanese restaurants. Thai curries, banh mi, a healing tom yum soup, and satisfying laab. This is also one of the most vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free-friendly restaurants in San Juan, making it a safe bet when one has a varied party to entertain.

303 Calle Canals, San Juan
00907, Puerto Rico

21. Vianda

1413 PR-25, San Juan, 00907, Puerto Rico
A stylish dining room interior with lots of light, cement flooring, pendant lights over the bar, and a wooden back bar
Inside Vianda
Adnelly Marichal

When the strictest local lockdown was lifted during the COVID-19 pandemic, chef Francis Guzmán started a pop-up series with many local chefs who were either out of work or running their own restaurants, giving them a chance to put together a prix fixe menu. Since then, the chef has hit an incredible stride, serving dishes both locally and globally inspired. The “raíces locales” appetizer, with beet and other root vegetables (the restaurant’s name refers to them), horseradish cream, and a dusting of fresh dill cannot be missed for its matching of earthiness and brightness. The wine list dips into surprising choices that don’t always abound locally, like a rosé Zweigelt with a dry punch that pairs beautifully with the vegetable and seafood-focused menu.

1413 PR-25, San Juan
00907, Puerto Rico

22. 173 Grados

1464 Av. Wilson, San Juan, 00907, Puerto Rico
A bowl of fish, tomatoes, and plantain chips in broth on a dark background
Aguachile
Ricardo M Hernandez

For a true cocktail experience outside of Old San Juan, 173 Grados in Santurce is a lounge where one can rely on truly superb bartender knowledge in cocktails like the O.F.T.A., made with bourbon, a blend of sugars, chocolate bitters, orange peel, and lavender smoke. The ginger beer and chocolate bitters are made in-house, and the chef Mayra Hernandez puts out pizzas, shrimp aguachile, beef empanadas, and tuna burgers to match.

1464 Av. Wilson, San Juan
00907, Puerto Rico

23. Café Regina

58 Calle Taft, San Juan, 00911, Puerto Rico