On the south east side of the Carribean between the North Atlantic Ocean and the Carribean Sea lies an island that is 100 miles long and 35 miles across. When you land in Puerto Rico and walk out of the terminal the last place you might think you are is in the United States, but in 1898 after the Spanish-American war we appropriated Puerto Rico under the terms of the Treaty of Paris. Now Puerto Ricans are natural born citizens of the United States. On the island they take US dollars and more people here speak perfect english than in Los Angeles (at least that was our experience). As a US Citizen, this is a fantastic place to visit. There are no customs lines to go through at the airport and a passport is not needed to travel to this colorful, richly cultured and majestic place.
I’ll be honest, prior to my visit here I did very little research in terms of food assuming I’d have no problem finding healthy vegan eats. Not having too high of expectations mine were simply blown away and the vegan and vegetarin food here gives Los Angeles a run for its money. There are several resturants catering to those on plant based diets and most typical resturants had at least 1-2 options for non-meat eaters. Below is a vegan food diary of San Juan, PR should you be planning your next trip here.
Just off the main resturant street, Calle Loiza, Ocean Park Cafe sits comfortably a couple block up from Ocean Park Beach. They have a wide assortment of vegetarian and vegan options, including a menu for your four legged friends. Yes, people! they have a dog menu. We had the Guava Curry (see above) and the Pink Hummus, neither of which dissapointed. The service was friendly and quick, although the place was not very crowded when we were there. We grabbed a table outside and sipped on wine while waiting for our food. Come here for a healthy meal near the beach, grab a table outside and enjoy the sounds of the island.
Cooking in your airBnB?
Should you have a kitchen where you are staying be sure to check out FreshMart, a natural grocery with similar brands to Whole Foods and lots of organic produce. They have a location in Candado on Ashford Ave. We went there several times during our stay to cook food at “home.”
Ali Baba – tucked inside a strip mall behind a Starbucks sits Ali Baba. If you weren’t looking for it you would absolutely miss it. The signage is minimal and the construction on the sidewalk was instrusive but after a few looks to our right and left we spotted it. Based soley on quality yelp reviews, we chose this place for dinner and enjoyed every last bite. They had several vegan options all of which we ordered. The creamy hummus was complemented by the crisp crunch of cucumbers, the tabouli was bright with fresh parsley and the plantain stew was spiced perfectly with just enough local flavor to make it something special. Unfortunately we went at night time and I did not get any pictures. Come here for an intimate dinner date, snag a corner table and enjoy your the company of your dinner companion.
Berlingeri Cocina Artesanal – if you are looking for a place to leave you inspired and full then Berlingery Cocina is the place. With fantastic food, an instagrammable interior and friendly staff we went here twice on our five day trip. The chef and his team elevated soup and tacos to new levels with black bean and planain stew, mango tofu taco with house made vegan macadamia nut cheese, and lentil salad to write home about. This was easily my favorite meal on the island. They are only open Monday-Friday 11am-3pm so be sure to squeeze it in on an afternoon near the ocean.
Coco Bana – A few blocks east of Ocean Park Cafe lies Coco Bana another healthy vegetarian and vegan eatery on Loiza street, which seemed to be THE street for quality restaurants in San Juan. With a wall of windows this cafe is bright and inviting with a clean interior and open kitchen. Filled with locals and tourists alike all enjoying locally inspired yet globally infused cusine. I ordered the Pink Burger (pictured below) which hit all the right notes, savory, sweet, crunchy and smooth, I could probably eat this all the time and not get sick of it. The color alone would bring me back. I also ordered a fersh green juice here to counter act all the beer and wine I had and later would be indulging in.
For the flight back home we stopped by FreshMart again and loaded up on carrots, hummus, mixed nuts, fresh fruit and granola bars.
Eating in San Juan with specific dietary needs was a seemless experience and as easy as it gets with options on every corner. The food here really blew my mind and makes it all the more appealing of a place to visit.
Happy New Year everyone!