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San Juan Restaurants

Hotel Photo
311 Trois Cent Onze
311 Calle Fortaleza
Old San Juan
San Juan
Puerto Rico 00901
Tel: 787 725 7959
info@311restaurantpr.com
www.311restaurantpr.com

It may be located in San Juan, but Trois Cent Onze feels as if it was airlifted directly from France. A former photo studio elegantly restored and inlaid with colorful Moroccan mosaic tiles, the restaurant is a labor of love overseen by the husband-and-wife team of Christophe Gourdain (formerly of Jean Georges in Manhattan) and Sylma Pérez, a onetime Ralph Lauren designer. Chef Juan Peña sticks close to French tradition with dishes like escargot in puff pastry, duck magret roasted with honey and served with pumpkin salpicon, and Caribbean lobster tail with Champagne beurre blanc. It may be a bit serious for the tropics, but it gives SoFo (South Fortaleza Street) a hefty dose of class.

Open Mondays and Tuesdays 6 to 10:30 pm, Wednesdays through Fridays noon to 3 pm and 6 to 10:30 pm, Saturdays 6 to 10:30 pm, and Sundays noon to 10 pm.

Hotel Photo
Aguaviva
364 Calle Fortaleza
Old San Juan
San Juan
Puerto Rico 00901
Tel: 787 722 0665
www.oofrestaurants.com

At the end of Calle Fortaleza in a spacious, brightly lit blue space, Aguaviva anchors SoFo and gives visitors a taste of the district's energy. The restaurant focuses on what islands do best (but often don't, given the amount of pork and sausage you'll see): freshly caught and innovatively prepared seafood. Starters include a ceviche tasting, with novel concoctions like fresh tuna and salmon ceviche, and mahimahi-mango ceviche—all served with crispy, savory tostones (fried plantains). Entrées are often tinged with Latin spices: barbecued camarones gigantes (jumbo shrimp) over basmati rice; grilled tuna with herbed tamales; and seared jumbo scallops with paella and chorizo. You should prepare to shell out a bit for your feast; dinner for two can cost close to $100.

Open daily 6 to 10 pm.

Hotel Photo
Dragonfly
364 Calle Fortaleza
Old San Juan
San Juan
Puerto Rico 00901
Tel: 787 977 3886
www.oofrestaurants.com

Dragonfly is decorated something like an opium den—sitting inside the crimson dining room, beneath light fixtures draped with fabric, you might just find yourself addicted to the Latin-Asian creations on your plate. The Dragon Punch, a potent mix of cranberry, lime, passion-fruit juice, and Bacardi Limón—will start you off with a bang. It's a good prelude to the inventive dishes, such as Peking duck nachos with wasabi sour cream, or Szechuan-pepper tuna with five-spice sauce. The only downer? The no-reservations policy. It can be a drag when the staff corrals you behind a velvet rope to wait for a table. But such is the price of getting your fix.

Open daily from 5:30 pm.

Il Perugino
105 Calle Cristo
Old San Juan
San Juan
Puerto Rico 00901
Tel: 787 722 5481
www.ilperugino.com

It's a few blocks from the trendy eateries on Calle Fortaleza, so this elegant Italian restaurant in Old San Juan is off the radar of the cruise-ship crowd. A favorite with well-heeled locals, Il Perugino is traditional in all the right ways. Dishes like marinated salmon with fresh chives and pork fillet with blueberries are deliciously simple; and even in more complicated dishes such as ravioli with chicken liver, spinach, and black truffles, the individual flavors shine. The mostly Italian wines, stored in an old cistern, are expertly paired with the food.

Open Sundays through Fridays 6:30 to 11 pm, Saturdays noon to 3 pm and 6:30 to 11 pm.

Kasalta
1966 Calle McLeary
Ocean Park
San Juan
Puerto Rico 00911
Tel: 787 727 7340
www.kasalta.com

It's little more than a coffee shop, but Kasalta serves what may be the best café con leche in the Caribbean. The espresso has inspired a sort of communal local obsession—some early-morning habitués don't even bother to sit down when they knock back a cup. If you're feeling peckish, there are plenty of savory baked goods, like pastelillo de broccoli (broccoli tart), served any time of day.

Open daily 6 am to 10 pm.

Hotel Photo
Marmalade
317 Calle Fortaleza
Old San Juan
San Juan
Puerto Rico 00901
Tel: 787 724 3969
www.marmaladepr.com

The restaurant certainly looks the part of a late-night celeb hangout, with daybeds piled high with glimmering silk pillows, and a sculptural orange lantern that ribbons over the length of the ceiling. The real reason to come here, though, is the food. Dishes that marry Italian and Puerto Rican influences—soul-stirring white bean soup topped with fragrant black-truffle oil and crispy fried chives; fluffy gnocchi with a rich ragù of beef and greens—are not to be missed. Showier dishes don't quite live up to their ambitions: Salt cod croquettes, for instance, have too many ingredients (saffron aioli, red pepper foam) that cloud the overall effect. But most dishes succeed. If the rear dining room is full (as it often is, well into the wee hours), grab a spot at the communal bar, where diners trade ordering tips and chat over glasses of refreshing yet terrifically potent cocktails.—Leigh Newman

Open daily 5:30 pm to 1 am.

Pamela's Caribbean Cuisine
Numero Uno Guest House
1 Santa Ana Street
Ocean Park
San Juan
Puerto Rico 00911
Tel: 787 726 5010
www.numero1guesthouse.com

Like the Numero Uno Guest House, the hotel in which it's housed, Pamela's is both surprisingly high-end and reasonably affordable. In posh Ocean Park—one of the city's older residential districts—the restaurant dishes up creative Nuevo-Latino fare. Among the standout dishes are filet mignon teriyaki rolls; crab cakes served with lemon-lime aïoli; grilled prawns served with coconut curry sauce; and spicy pork loin served with pineapple sweet-and-sour sauce. Reserve a table at sunset and ask to sit as close to the waves as possible. They're open all day, but serve only a limited tapas menu between 3 pm and 6 pm.

Open daily from noon to 10 pm.

Hotel Photo
Pikayo
Conrad San Juan Condado Plaza
999 Avenida Ashford
Condado
San Juan
Puerto Rico 00907
Tel: 787 721 6194
www.pikayo.com

Long before it found its current home in the Conrad San Juan Condado Plaza Hotel, Pikayo was considered San Juan's most innovative restaurant. Credit Wilo Benet, a former chef de cuisine at Puerto Rico's Governor's Mansion and an alum of Le Bernardin in New York, whose pairing of Latin flavors and ingredients with Euro flair made him the island's most celebrated chef. Now well established in the firmament of Puerto Rican chefs, Benet continues to impress both locals and visitors with his traditional puertorriqueño basics and European classics. Choose from scallops with piquillo peppers and corn emulsion, sauteed shrimp in a saffron broth, and onion-drenched bistec encebollado (beef stew).

Open for lunch Tuesdays through Fridays noon to 3 pm; open for dinner Mondays through Saturdays 6 to 11 pm.

Raíces
315 Calle Recinto Sur
Old San Juan
San Juan
Puerto Rico 00901
Tel: 787 289 2121
www.restauranteraices.com

At first glance, Raíces looks as if it caters to the Old San Juan cruise-ship crowd: The waitresses wear Ye Olde Island kerchiefs on their heads, drinks are served in kitschy tin cups, and the booths look like little island casitas, styled in plank wood with tin "roofs." But Raíces (the name means "roots") serves up seriously delicious, authentically local food. The mofongo, the beloved national meal—essentially a mountain of pounded, garlic-enriched plantains with a bubbly center of chorizo, beef, shrimp, or chicken—is served, rich and juicy, in a traditional wooden pilón bowl. Puerto Ricans love their hot oil, and the mixed appetizer plate here—codfish fritters, crabmeat turnovers, and plantain chips—might as well be called "the festival of the fried." The even deeper-fried pork, crisped to a lavalike crunchy exterior and eaten with onions and soupy, spicy, garlicky beans and rice, is also worth clogging your arteries for. Want something (relatively) lighter? Try the grilled skirt steak, doused in parsley-rich chimichurri sauce. Go hungry, then stagger out into the sunny, historic streets.—Leigh Newman

Open Mondays through Saturdays 11 am to 11 pm, Sundays 11 am to 10 pm.

Tasca El Pescador
178 Calle Dos Hermanos
Santurce
San Juan
Puerto Rico 00907
Tel: 787 721 0995

The restaurants of Condado are always crowded—with tourists. If you want to live it up with the locals, head a few blocks south to the Santurce neighborhood. Surrounding the Plaza del Mercado, a century-old fruit and vegetable market, are dozens of simple eateries packed with Puerto Rican families. Our favorite is Tasca El Pescador, where the catch of the day is iced down in a glass display case. If there's red snapper, try the whole fish deep-fried in a dish called chillo entero frito. The tostones—mashed green plantains that are also deep-fried—make a good side. Otherwise, stick to the arroz con calamari, a dramatically dark dish of rice mixed with pieces of squid in its own ink. The staff in the pea-green dining room here runs the air-conditioning nonstop, so to avoid the chill grab one of the tables out on the sidewalk. As with most seafood places, it's closed Monday.

Open Tuesdays through Sundays 11 am to 6 pm.

Hotel Photo
Toro Salao
367 Calle Tetuán
Old San Juan
San Juan
Puerto Rico 00901
Tel: 787 722 3330
www.oofrestaurants.com

The latest addition to the collection of OOF Restaurants (owners of the much-celebrated Parrot Club and Aguaviva), Toro Salao forgoes the trendy fusion movement in favor a straight Spanish menu, focused on the three quintessentially Iberian ingredients: ham, wine, and cheese. The tapas are fun to share, if somewhat heavy: A traditional tortilla española we tried was overladen with oil, butter, cheese, and sausage. Instead, share a few entrees (raciones), which are far more subtle and satisfying. Good choices include tuna "blackened" with smoked paprika, grilled skirt steak drenched in fresh chimichurri sauce (chimichurri is huge in Puerto Rico, even though it comes from Argentina), or veal meatballs with local queso de hoja, a firm white farm cheese traditionally wrapped in leaves. The warm homemade churros, served in a puddle of melted chocolate, make for a wickedly rich finale. Though you can eat indoors in the atmospheric Moroccan-Spanish dining room, most diners prefer an outdoor table set right on the historic cobblestones of Old San Juan.—Leigh Newman

Opens daily at 12 pm.

Information may have changed since the date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.