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  • Padre Tim

Puerto Rico: Where Should I Eat in Old San Juan

This is the first in my series "Where should I eat, Tim" Puerto Rico blogs. You may ask, why is a wedding officiant writing about food and beverage. The answer is that I am all about LOVE, and I Love food and beverage! Plus I want to answer the question: where should I eat?? Yes, Puerto Rico has TripAdvisor and Yelp, but everyone wants to know where the locals eat. Thus my first blog...

Let's begin by telling you a little about me and my wife, Cheri. We both worked in the hospitality industry for over 50 years combined and owned 2 restaurants for 7 years (Spanish tapas and an all-American burger place, in PR). We aren't traditional diners, preferring the bar to a table, lots of small plates/apps instead of entrees, and often hitting several locations in a night. We Love great food, service, and ambiance, and we're glad to share our findings with you!

First, a little on Old San Juan: One of the oldest cities in the Americas, established in 1509, the fortress of San Juan proper. This area is very European in style, with narrow cobblestone streets and beautiful architecture. There are restaurants and bars throughout, with great shopping from high-end boutiques to kitsch-y shops.

So, where should you eat? Here are some of my favorites in Old San Juan, PR.

1. MARMALADE, 317 Calle Fortaleza, (787) 724-3969

The best restaurant in Puerto Rico. Chef/owner Peter Schintler does an outstanding job with all of his fresh, local ingredients and tasting menus. Just amazingly good.

2. DRAGONFLY, 364 Calle Forteleza, (787) 977-3886

Dragonfly has great sushi and Asian/PR fusion dishes, with great drinks and always a special on big-name champagne for about $70 a bottle, and we love the duck nachos. The ambiance is dark and the place is a narrow, winding maze (don't let them seat you up front where they put the tourists, keep walking to the end, the last bar and seating area). Awesome!

3. LA CUCINA di IVO, 202 Calle Del Cristo, (787) 729-7070

Hard to find (hint: it's just off the street pictured above), from the street a narrow pathway leads to a beautiful, open-air courtyard with just a couple of tables. Chef/Owner Ivo Bignami serves great Italian food, but the thing here is the gnocchi: potato-y puffs of air, lighter and more delicious than any I have ever had!

4. ST. GERMAIN BISTRO, 156 Calle Sol, (787) 725-5830

This little bistro would be welcome in any city in the world. Everything is prepared fresh, from the international sandwiches to the quiche and enticing salads. Open for lunch and dinner, it's a great spot to park awhile from shopping or touring the historic forts just above.

5. LA TABERNA LUPOLO, 151 Calle San Sebastian, (787) 721-1542

Beer! In the US it's common to find a great hang-out bar with lots on tap and hundreds of bottles in a historic building, but here in PR it's mind blowing!

6. PIRILO PIZZA, 207 Calle Fortaleza, (787) 721-3322

The hands-down winner of my personal "best pizza in PR" competition! I Love this place - a narrow hole-in-the-wall (are you sensing a common theme here? All these restaurants operate in a city built before the US was "discovered") with great atmosphere and better pizza.

Extra Credit: THE CIGAR HOUSE, 255 Calle Fortaleza, (787) 723-5223

This is an amazing spot to hang out! Huge selection of rare liquors and lots of beer/wine options behind a bar's bar, with leather sofas and recliners. They have the best cigar selection in the Caribbean, with all the top brands (the family has been in the business forever). You are free to smoke anywhere in the store while you shop accessories and jewelry in the front and the lounge in the back. Also, it is located right in the midst of several of my favorite restaurants on this list, and your night has just begun!

So that's where you should eat, drink, and smoke in Old San Juan. At least a start, then explore and find your own favorites. There's a great big world out there just dying to be found! Yes, please!

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