Okay, so we've covered breakfast in San Juan: now it's time to move onto lunch. And usually, lunch ends up being one of two things: a quick bite to get you fueled for the afternoon, or a much-anticipated break in the day in which you leisurely make your way through a menu. But whatever you prefer, one thing remains the same; you want to eat well.
Luckily, these restaurants in San Juan serve up excellent lunch fare.
Since this hallowed institution of pure Puerto Rican home cooking is only open during the day, it rightfully claims the top spot among my favorite restaurants for lunch. The only downside to La Casita Blanca is that it isn't easily accessible. You'll need a cab or a car to get here, but the trip is well worth it for outstanding local cuisine.
The menu is written daily on a chalkboard, the ambiance combines the best of a boisterous cafeteria and a welcoming family home, and the food is presented with minimal fanfare and maximum flavor.
St. Germain Bistro & Cafe
If you want a break from the rich and heavy 'Rican diet, or if you just want to enjoy a typical European lunch in the Caribbean, you'll want to head straight to St. Germain. Thanks to their terrific fresh salads, quiche of the day, and excellent sandwiches (I had the pesto chicken on pita bread last time I visited), lunch here is light, flavorful, and pleasant.
The decor and ambiance are as European as the menu. And since the bistro is tucked away on a quiet corner of Sol and Cruz Streets, it's far from the maddening crowds. Whether you want a quick bite or an hour or so to relax and chill out, St. Germain is a welcome addition to the old city.
I recommend El Jibarito for numerous reasons. For one, you can stop by on your way from El Morro to San Cristóbal. For another, it's about as authentic a dining experience as you'll have in the old city. The no-frills cuisine is pure Puerto Rican, and the decor takes its cue from the old city's vibrant colors and architecture. And finally, the food is quite good and quite affordable.
The one knock on El Jibarito is that service can be slow, so if you're in a hurry to see and do as much as you can, it might not be the best choice.
La Tasca del Pescador
Most sightseers don't come to the marketplace in Santurce, known as La Plaza del Mercado, or more commonly, La Placita. But I recommend the trip if only for the cluster of fondas, or local eateries, that can be found in the marketplace. La Placita is a slice of rustic Puerto Rican life, and its restaurants do a lively trade with the locals.
One such place is La Tasca del Pescador (located at 178 Dos Hermanos Street) which is usually crowded, always serving fresh fish and seafood, and naturally popular both for tasty food and its location. If you happen to be near here (say, when you're visiting the Museum of Art of Puerto Rico or the Contemporary Museum of Art), you'll be glad you made the effort to drop in for lunch.