Eating Puerto Rico: Beachside Cuisine

Flag of Puerto RicoSoleil
Rte. 187, Km 4.5,
Piñones, Puerto Rico

Ceviche.jpgThe Eaters took a daytrip from San Juan to Loiza, a predominantly Afrodescendant town east of San Juan, known for its colorful mask makers. We got a recommendation from the locals to go back west along the coast and visit Soleil, an unsuspecting beachside restaurant with supposedly some of the best food along the ten-mile road between Loiza and the capital. Soleil itself was an appealing but expansive open-air wood structure with two floors and simple tile tables. It was certainly a upmarket take on the typical wooden beachside shack. The menu was, as one might expect, seafood-heavy with a smattering of pasta, meat and salads.

M ordered conch ceviche – one of his favorite dishes. It was served in a martini glass, garnished with tomatoes, lettuce, and tortilla chips. M is more used to the really acidic juices they use for Peruvian ceviche (his all-time favorite), so the more tame acid levels in Soleil’s disappointed him a little, but the dish was still good. The conch was perfectly prepared into nice little bite-sized morsels, and the tortilla chips provided an edible way to scoop up the extra lettuce and tomatoes that accumulated at the bottom of the glass. For $12 it was probably a more generous helping of ceviche than you would get elsewhere for the same price.

L ordered the lunch special of beef empandas with a side order of rice and beans (arroz y habicheulas) for only $7. The empanda was ridiculously huge, covering nearly the entire plate. It was certainly a good value for $7, but the size was frankly frightening and we didn’t expect it to be very good. However, the beef was surprisingly tender and tasty, making for a nice empanada. The rice and beans were passable, and tasted very, very strongly of pork. However, the real draw was not the food, as can be seen below.

Beach

Hay Cocos Frios [No name provided]
Route 187
Puerto Rico

Cocos Frios

At least that’s what we called it. Along Route 187 there are a plethora of small food shacks, most of them catering to locals and beachgoers. It being a weekday when we hit the beach (or maybe because it was February), most were closed. However, as we drove along the highway our eyes were caught by the following sign “We have cold coconuts!” Of course, that was all we needed to turn around in the nearest driveway and speed right back. The sign belonged to a small roadside shack, with a stack of coconuts and an expansive grill area set up.

We sidled up to the counter and ordered a batch of cocos frios, one for each member of our group. The coconuts had a small hole cut in them, with a straw to drink up the sweet coconut milk. The coconuts provided delicious and refreshing drink for a hot, humid day. The best part however, was when you had finished the milk; at this point you brought your coconut over to a silent fellow with a machete whose only job, ostensibly, was to split the coconuts open. Doing this, he also chopped off a sliver of the husk to use as a scooping spoon for the coconut meat.coco The coconuts were quite young, so the meat was not very ripe or coco-nutty. But the experience in itself was worth the stop. Some of our group additionally ordered alcapurrias (a steal at $1) – spicy ground beef inside a hush-puppy like fritter which got rave reviews. I am quite disappointed I have neither a photo of the shack or the machete man (I could have sworn I took some).

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