My first reaction was: “Whoa!” That’s how my trip started when my friend picked me up at the airport and took me to Gallo Negro after I checked in at Condado Palm in Puerto Rico. It’s a hole in a wall hip restaurant, and the food is amazing. We started with a grilled local papaya, prosciutto, queso fresco and balsamic reduction appetizer. Then, I had The George: char grilled jerk chicken on a bed of udon noodles and edamame, topped with crème fraiche. She ordered the seared sesame tuna with passion fruit ponzu and avocado tempura. Both were freaking delicious!

by My Puerto Rico Experience

My friend moved to the island four years ago – she’s the Creative Director of a prominent advertising agency. She has truly become one of the locals. We’re both foodies, so I trusted her when she told me there’s a fresh, new and rising culinary scene in Puerto Rico. From food trucks to places with excellent products, and without the poshness of a fine dining cuisine, Puerto Rico is a foodie’s paradise.

She picked me up for lunch at El Ñaqui, a place near her office. It’s actually a food truck. I tried their signature sandwich (ñaqui – a word similar to “bite”), and their aioli french fries. Her plate was unexpectedly gourmet. She had candied quail with paprika glaze, marinated zucchini and manchego purple mashed potatoes. Amazeballs.

That same night, we went for drinks to Loíza 2050. It’s a pizza and whiskey bar. A guy’s heaven! At least for a dude like me; thin-crusted pizza with killer ingredients. You got to try the one with pork marinated in Jack Daniels in a coconut flour crust, food of champions!

Don’t think Puerto Ricans aren’t into the veggie stuff. You must go to El Departamento de la Comida if you are a vegan, vegetarian or if you’re just a fresh-healthy-food-freak. It’s in a warehouse in a rundown part of town but don’t be intimidated by its location. I ate sweet potatoes and yams with a poached egg, and eggplant in a red wine and tarragon sauce. Didn’t miss the meat at all. All the dishes are made with local ingredients; some are organic.

On Sunday, we grabbed a bite at La Mala Vida. It’s a must if you’re in Old San Juan during brunch hours. Make sure to try the Italian fried eggs, the Banana Nutella Stuffed Croissant and, and their unlimited Mimosa special.

If you’re planning to visit, make sure to include these restaurants on your travel bucket list. Trust me, you won’t regret those extra calories at all.

I also loved the Condado Palm. It’s a Best Western chain hotel in San Juan that offers a really comfy room for a really good price considering its location and how close it is to most of the places we went. My friend told me Ashford Avenue is the “it” avenue and therefore can be expensive. This is a no frills hotel, but it was perfect to rest after all the foodie adventures. It was the best choice for a hotel in P.R.