1. Kasalta – The panadería, or Spanish bakery, is a special part of the social fabric that makes up life in Puerto Rico. This panadería and restaurant in San Juan’s Ocean Park neighborhood boasts a great café con leche (equal parts espresso and steamed milk) as well as traditional Spanish dishes.
2. El Coco de Luis – The soups at this kiosk are fantastic! El Coco de Luis is in La Placita de Santurce, a section of San Juan that’s real, where you can truly experience how to live like a local.
3. Jose Enrique – There are no frills or luxuries at this restaurant in La Placita de Santurce, opened by James Beard Award-nominated chef José Enrique, but I respect it for its consistency. It’s good for comida Criolla (Creole cuisine).
4. Pikayo – There’s a reason why Pikayo’s been around for 25 years — it’s a lavish Puerto Rican dining experience. The restaurant, located in Condado, comes from chef-owner and bestselling author Wilo Benet, a pioneer known for infusing traditional Criollo cuisine with international dishes.
5. MAVÍ – This take-out restaurant and gastro-bar is great for when you’re on the go around Old San Juan as it’s conveniently located at the entrance to the Old City. I like their baked empanadas and drinks made with mauby, a tree bark-based beverage that’s popular in the Caribbean.