After spending almost two weeks in Puerto Rico with our girls, instead of “visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads,” it was mofongo, tostones and ceviche doing the salsa in their dreams!
Puerto Rico is a foodie’s paradise and that goes for your little foodies, too. Whether it was yummy street eats or exotic gourmet food, we loved it all! Here’s a tasty tour of the 10 best restaurants in Puerto Rico for families, from Dorado to San Juan to Fajardo. Many have menus de niños (kid’s menus) and all are kid-friendly…and kid-approved! Buena comida!
THE 10 BEST PUERTO RICO RESTAURANTS FOR FAMILIES
Fajardo, Upscale Puerto Rican Barbecue
OK, first of all…how cool is it to find a chic, enchanting and delicious restaurant that is a re-purposed gas station!?! My kids enjoyed hearing all about it from our super-gracious and exuberant host Idalia. As we dined under stylish outdoor canopies filled with twinkling lights and a festive ambiance at La Estación, we were surrounded by happy eaters and kids allowed to be kids.
And the food? Muy bueno! To start, we sampled the green papaya salad and pinchos (small snacks). We all loved the grilled shrimp and chicken with guava BBQ sauce! Mmmm! Then, we were delighted by the beautifully-served seafood mofongo (mashed fried plantains with grilled seafood). An order of barbecue meats had a true Latin flair. And you should know that while there is no specific menu de niños, La Estación is very accommodating and can prepare typical kid fare such as hotdogs, rice and beans and plain meats.
Oh, and for us “big kids,” the tropical drink menu is outstanding! I loved my pineapple mojito, while my girls gave a thumbs up to their virgin piña coladas. Luckily, we saved just enough room for La Estación’s delicious desserts. We swooned over the bittersweet chocolate cake with candied popcorn and the baby banana empanadilla.
Even before we took one bite, we found this restaurant delicioso! Oh, that ocean view! Incredible! With tables indoors or outdoors, Di Yukas is sleek, modern and simple. The focus here is on the food. It was hard to decide what to order among the tempting treats from all over the world — Asian, Peruvian and Latin cuisines. While my hubby, teenager and I loved our shrimp tempura maki, ceviche and local island bacalao (cod) fritters, my youngest absolutely devoured her “hometown” chicken fingers and mac & cheese. Everybody was happy.
Fajardo, Carribean Fusion
The night that we were ready to embark on our bio-bay excursion in Fajardo, we discovered Kasavista, located directly across the street from where we needed to meet our tour. Relaxed and open, with both outdoor and indoor seating, this restaurant was a delightful place for a delicious meal. Our whole gang loved the Appetizer Sampler (crispy grouper nuggets, calamari, fried Puerto Rican cheese and sausage) and spicy rice balls. Even though Kasavista specializes in seafood, we couldn’t resist the roast chicken with manchego cheese and Serrano ham. Great dish! Great spot! Great night!
Condado, Carribean Fusion
I scored some major “cool points” with my girls when we showed up at Oceano in Condado Beach. This super chic and clubby spot feels like South Beach. You can dine in the gorgeous main room or on their balmy deck overlooking the beach. And as cool as it is, they were very welcoming to our young foodies.
Now to the food…Amazing! Not just delicious, but creatively innovative as well. It’s Caribbean-Puerto Rican with all sorts of taste-tempting twists. My girls will tell you DO NOT MISS the buttermilk-soaked yucca-crusted calamari! My girls usually have very nice table manners, but we all fought over that last delectable piece! Our other favorites were the ceviche, churrasco steak Latin eggrolls, sweet corn soup and Palermo pork with a guava glaze. We were wowed! Even the kids’ menu is inventive — Oceano’s macaroni and cheese was topped with delicate sprouts. For dessert, we went wild for the key lime pie with a chocolate crust. Stylish design, spectacular food, excellent service. A cool place in a hot spot!
Old San Juan, Breakfast/Lunch
In a beautiful old building with soaring ceilings, Aromas is a convenient and delightful stop when sightseeing in Old San Juan. You know the food is good when the place is filled with locals. The kids felt the highlight was the Mallorca, a grilled ham and cheese sandwich in a sweet roll sprinkled with powdered sugar — lots of smiles. For me, the highlight was the “Best Cup of Joe in Puerto Rico!” The aroma in Aromas comes from the famous 100% Puerto Rican brewed coffee. Really, really good!
And just down the street was another treat for the kids, Señor Paleta, an all-natural ice pop shop with many exotic fruit and other flavors. We all grabbed a pop and headed for a break from the sun across the street in the shaded park where we enjoyed a panoramic view of the San Juan Bay.
Dorado, Puerto Rican
“Luis, fried cheesecake, and the frogs” — that’s what my girls said they remembered most about La Terraza. For me, in addition to the flavorful (complimentary) hummus and chips, chicken mofongo, grilled shrimp and crab cakes, it was unwinding on the outdoor deck surrounded by lush trees.
Now to Luis, the owner — he thoroughly engaged us all with colorful information about the island. The fried cheesecake? Undoubtedly my older daughter’s very favorite dessert in Puerto Rico…or maybe anywhere! And the frogs? The coqui frogs surrounding the deck softly serenaded us into soothing relaxation. And if relaxing isn’t your thing, on Thursday nights La Terraza also offers free salsa dancing lessons for the entire family on the outdoor terrace. Talk about “Dancing with the Stars!”
Dorado, Casual Puerto Rican
While my family loves going to the hip, fancy restaurants, sometimes the most memorable meals are those shared with the locals. Katrina’s is just such a place. It’s “the real deal!” We didn’t even bother showering off the sun tan lotion…we went right from the beach to this lively local hangout. It didn’t look like much from the outside, but once we joined the scene and grabbed a table where we could feel the cool ocean breezes, we knew we had found someplace special.
Based on our server’s advice, we ordered the menu items made fresh that day in the kitchen. The Sofrito seasonings danced in our mouth as we sampled our appetizers of empanadillas, tostones and rice and beans. They were so addicting we ordered a second round…and made that our dinner. In addition to really enjoying our food, the girls had a lot of fun hearing Katrina’s parrots repeat “HOLA!”
Now, we live by Philly, so we know Italian. And I have to tell you La Grappa was truly a gourmet Italian gem right there on the island! This is a “can’t miss” restaurant with impeccable service, colorful graphic design and food to match. With only 10 intimate tables, make a reservation before you leave home.
We began our feast with some incredible homemade rolls, which the girls and I couldn’t stop popping into our mouths. Standouts included the succulent sepia (cuttlefish served calamari style), delicate eggplant parmigiana and a fabulous pork special. But ask my younger daughter what is a “must try,” and she’ll tell you Grappa’s melt-in-your-mouth chocolate ganache cake. She’s still talking about it!
San Juan, Rum Bar & Puerto Rican Tapas
This classy spot is one of the restaurants in Caribe Hilton. The newly-opened Caribar offered a romantic setting with top-notch service; yet it’s definitely kid-friendly. Just steps away from the gorgeous pool and beach, it’s right next to a grassy area where the kids are free to play. And we all found the food to be great!
While they were very willing to accommodate the girls with all kinds of kids’ favorites, my little foodies wanted to try various “tapas with a twist.” We ALL shared the flatbread en canasta (with pork belly, caramelized onion and queso blanco), yucca fries, quinoa hummus plate, shrimp cocktail and ropa vieja with corn arepas.
And a special historical gourmet note: Caribe Hilton is the birthplace of the piña colada. We all read through the evolution of this delicious cocktail on the drink menu (and then Mom and Dad continued their “research”). My girls enjoyed sampling the restaurant’s creative “kiddie cocktails.”
Old San Juan, Café/Chocolate
How do you top a “foodie Puerto Rican adventure” like this for your kids? We found the way…CHOCOLATE! The Cortes family has been making chocolate for over 80 years. They are the largest chocolate manufacturers in the Caribbean. We felt it was only right in the name of Puerto Rican culture that we visit Casa Cortes. Mmmm…and are we glad we did.
We ate like the locals and dipped a slice of tangy cheddar cheese in the thick hot chocolate. Oh boy! Now that’s historical! And this cheery café doubles as an art gallery, so there are treats for the eyes as well. Casa Cortes also serves breakfast, lunch and tapas. While famous for their chocolate, they could be equally famous for their amazing sweet churros that will send your taste buds on a trip to Spain!
Because you need a place to rest after eating all these delicious dinners, consider booking at one of these two kid-friendly resorts which our family loved: Caribe Hilton in San Juan or El Conquistador in Fajardo. I hope you readers appreciate all the “hard work” my family put in to find you these family-friendly foodie favorites. (By the way, none of us is complaining, just smiling thinking of each of the meals we relished.) Explore more of Puerto Rico at SeePuertoRico.com.
This article was originally published by Hilton Mom Voyage.