You saw the sights yesterday, today is all about the food! I had some fantastic experiences… and some not so great ones. Be forewarned if you go to Puerto Rico, vegan is not usually well understood. Even the word vegetarian is confused and most think white meat is acceptable, as well as oyster sauce and beans cooked in pork lard. Just be sure you ask lots of questions and be clear about what you don’t eat.
After our red eye flight in, I was hungry getting off the plane. We hit up a café to wake up. Cocobana is a vegetarian restaurant located just a few minutes outside of the San Juan Airport. We were happy to be met by an English speaking server (I really need to learn Spanish!). Vegan was a well understood and they had great options. We each tried smoothies, the falafel burger with salads and chips.
Delicious & refreshing with fresh coconut milk
Warm, soft pita bread with a delicious homemade falafel burger
We ate at the hotel a few times as well. After a tough day lounging at the pool, we shared some hummus:
Puerto rican hummus is insanely delicious!!! Especially with fresh, fried plantain chips.
We also ate at Iguana’s Pub in the golf & country club of the hotel. I was a little nervous eating there as they didn’t seem 100% certain what on the menu was vegan, so I settled on a salad and sweet plantains.
We also shared hummus and Brie got vegetarian Mofongo & Tostones.
Overall the food was pretty good, it just would have been nice if they understood the word vegan more.
We also ate at a nice restaurant called Shima’s in the hotel as well. I was delighted that our waiter knew exactly what vegan meant and was able to have the chef tweak the vegetarian stir fry to leave out the oyster sauce for me. The dumplings are also vegan friendly.
I found it expensive, but am willing to pay for good food, especially when they are happy to accommodate vegans
The night we went to watch the Flamenco dancing was at Barrachina’s in Old San Juan. I thought it’d be nice to get gussied up 😉
They tout themselves as being home of the Pina Colada – so I ordered a virgin to start off the evening.
Black Bean Soup
Another place that understands vegan!! Yay! And they had vegan mofongo, which I was happy to try as it’s an authentic Puerto Rican dish. This place was definitely about the atmosphere. Very funky vibe and the pina colada was quite good. The food was just ok though. My friend commented that the bean soup tasted like it had just come from a can of black beans. And although the mofongo was pretty good, the vegetables seemed like they had been packaged/frozen. But the Flamenco show (free if you stayed for dinner) made up for it for me
One of the nights we were in Old San Juan, we noticed a vegan-friendly pizza place nearby and tried it out. Peace n’ Loaf is a completely vegetarian pizza place and has lots of vegan options and can add daiya cheese to your choice of pizza. We tried the Chori Peace’s (veganized) & ordered a Super Veggie Pizza.
Our stay at the Dreamcatcher Bed & Breakfast was also nice. The breakfast we had both days was really good! The place is completely vegetarian, making things easier for us. And they definitely understand vegan.
Breakfast day 1 – quinoa cake, hummus & pita with salad
Pumpkin Ice Cream
Breakfast Day 2 – Avocado & sautéed veggie toast with homemade cashew cream with salad
The breakfast food was phenomenal! A lot of care and love goes into the food they serve for breakfast. The ingredients are fresh and seasoned perfectly. It was a light meal, however it managed to keep me full well into the morning. They have gluten-free options too. Both mornings I was there, they offered breakfast with eggs as a main, which I declined and was a little disappointed they didn’t have a vegan option and just instead omitted it. I was offered juice our last morning and as one of their boards boasted pressed juice, I was disappointed to see them pull a Tropicana jug out of the fridge. I also questioned them about the adorable cookies they left on our bed our first night wanting to know if they were vegan and was bummed to see them pull out a cookie package to check. I’m glad they take such care with the breakfasts they serve, but think they could go the extra mile with the little things like homemade cookies & fresh juice, especially for the price of the stay.
My favourite place was actually an adorable smoothie bar with a cool vibe in Palmer, Puerto Rico near our hotel. Degree 18 Juice Bar is vegan and stocked with exactly what I’m looking for in a hot, humid climate. Smoothies!!!
La Maquina Verde
Hummus & Chips
Coco Energy Balls
The owner, Charlie, easily chatted with us, giving us tips about what sights to check out and advising us which trails to take at El Yunque. He made everything fresh, on the spot and I loved everything he made. The food is as vibrant as the digs. I appreciate having a revitalizing meal infused with energizing ingredients, especially before trekking through a rain forest or after a run on the beach. The only disappointing thing was we only had time to visit Charlie three times during our stay. Maybe Charlie will give me the recipe to his coco energy balls… I can promise you that I will be trying to recreate his awesome sauce smoothie bowls in the near future 😉
Brie wanted to try Marmalade in Old San Juan. I was honest and told her it sounded nice, but was way out of my budget. So she treated me =) Although the restaurant is not vegan, it clearly indicates vegan options and they have a ton of them. It is a multiple course, tasting menu type of place with optional wine pairings. I will admit that it is the fanciest restaurant I have ever been to and the food was sincerely incredible. It’s not just about the food though. The staff is friendly & extremely attentive. The decor is gorgeous as well as the plates!
Ancient Grain Gnocchi
Spaghetti & Neatballs aka the best food I have EVER had
Local Pineapple Crisp
I’m not even sure how to properly express how I feel about this meal. It was life changing. I have never really been interested in eating at super fancy pants places, but this has changed my mind. Yes, it was indecently expensive. But with good reason! I enjoyed every. single. bite. And by some miracle, the food was even more delicious with each passing course, just when I was committed to thinking it couldn’t possibly get any better. I was pleasantly surprised when the chef visited our table and I happily told him that if I had to pick one thing to eat for every meal, for the rest of my life, I would without a doubt pick his spaghetti and neatballs. Spaghetti squash as a base, cooked to perfection in a delectable sauce, paired with lentil and walnut balls, moist, chewy and tantalizingly good. All topped with beautiful, fresh microgreens. Yes, please! Oh! And I will admit that I was disappointed to see the only vegan option on the dessert menu was not chocolate. Ha!! It was all a clever ploy to make me realize you can win friends without chocolate. “Roasted pineapple lacquered with mandarin juice and fresh ginger baked with a gluten-free pistachio granola & a melting spoon of coconut-basil vegan ice cream”. ‘Nuff said. Cheers to Chef Peter!