Salsa at the Nuyorican Cafe in Old San Juan

••• Photo © Zain Deane

The Bottom Line

The quintessential salsa joint in Old San Juan, the tucked-away Nuyorican Cafe is the perfect Puerto Rican introduction to the music, vibe and friendly, fun-loving culture of Puerto Rico.

Pros

  • One of the best places to catch excellent live bands on a regular basis.
  • If there is a cover, it is rarely more than $10.

Cons

  • You can walk right by and miss it; look for the alleyway off San Francisco Street.
  • If you don't like crowds, stay away: on a busy night, it can get very full.

Description

  • If you had to pick one night to visit, come on Friday at 11 pm, when you can catch El Comborican.
  • The word Nuyorican is a blend of New York and Puerto Rico, and refers to the unique culture of New York Puerto Ricans.
  • Also check out Da House, the bohemian music-themed hotel adjoining the Nuyorican.

Guide Review - Salsa at the Nuyorican Cafe in Old San Juan

My first experience with salsa on the island was at The Nuyorican Cafe. I remember it well: it was my sister's wedding and we had all decided to go out for a night on the town. And while I didn't know the first thing about salsa, it wasn't long before I was on the floor stumnling along and trying to learn the steps while my patient partner-for-the-moment guided me along. The music was contagious and flawless, the atmosphere was relaxed and informal, and the place was so packed there were people spilling out the door.

Years later, it's still the same. The Nuyorican Cafe is still bare-bones, still the real deal, and still one of the most affordable nights out in Old San Juan. The bands are all quality (the styles change daily), and many sell their CDs after their sets. Even the pizza is a welcoming appetite-quencher betweeen dances. And the people continue to be a mix of old and young, novice salseros and seasoned pros, united by a desire to hear a great beat and express themselves on the dance floor.