Located on 300 San Francisco Street in the heart of Old San Juan, Cafeteria Mallorca is an unassuming place, identifiable by its plain red awning and red lettering on an orange background and a large window displaying a variety of baked treats. Inside, the long countertop bar and cafeteria-style tables are indicative of a local diner, and the most interesting decor (beyond the clean, old-fashioned uniforms of the staff) is the black-and-white photo that dominates one corner of the dining room.
So why is it that it became one of our favorite spots to start out our day? The answer lies in its very name: the mallorcas!
Mallorcas and More
I happily confess that it was the mallorcas that first brought me to Cafeteria Mallorca. I can't help it. Those delicious buttery rolls generously dusted with powdered sugar can be enjoyed plain or with ham and cheese (a favorite combination). And they're so good that, while I have my list of favorite places to eat a gourmet breakfast, I could happily stop by Cafeteria Mallorca every day for a mallorca and a coffee.
That said, there are other reasons to visit this place. Whether you're here for breakfast or lunch, this is a great bet for a reasonably priced bite.
A San Juan Diner
If you miss the comfort of your neighborhood diner, you're going to love the homey, unpretentious feeling of Cafeteria Mallorca. It's got those plastic-coated menus and that kind of local buzz and bustle that invites you to take a seat and order quickly. Indeed, the crisply attired waiters are cut from a traditional cloth; ours took our order with a solemnity that was completely at odds with mallorcas and sandwiches. In addition to these sweet treats, breakfast at Cafeteria Mallorca includes pancakes, eggs, and other basic fares.
I enjoyed a tasty omelet with tomatoes, onions, cheese, and peas.
For lunch, the stars of the menu are the emparedados, or sandwiches. Puerto Ricans love their sandwiches, and panaderías or bakeries (but really, they're so much more than bakeries) can be found throughout the island. At Cafeteria Mallorca, you'll find all the usual suspects: ham and cheese, chicken, turkey, etc. We tried a simple but very tasty club sandwich.
In addition to these, the menu features a few typically Puerto Rican entrees. Chicken or shrimp asopao, churrasco and skirt steak with tostones are among the larger lunch fare options, and while I would steer you to one of these restaurants for terrific comida criolla (local cooking), you could do worse than enjoy a no-frills lunch here.
With breakfast ranging from around $3-$5 and lunch from roughly $5-$10 (with a few items closer to $20, like the churrasco), this is also one of the better lunch-time bargains in a city that has its share of pricey eateries.
Lastly, I'd be remiss if I didn't steer you back to that display case in front of the window. You won't find their pastries on the menu, so feel free to get up and take a look or ask your waiter. You might find typical Puerto Rican pastries like brazo gitano and other baked concoctions with guava or coconut.
Don't expect gourmet Puerto Rican cooking at Cafeteria Mallorca. For that, you have a dizzying selection of outstanding restaurants in the city. Instead, come here when you want a quick, satisfying bite for breakfast or lunch. With its location just a few blocks away from the central Plaza de Armas, Cafeteria Mallorca can be easily incorporated into a day of sightseeing... even if that brief pause is just to grab a mallorca and a cup of coffee.