Out of all the restaurants in a city, 10Best narrows the options to those places with the most appeal and the best reputations. We offer carefully vetted selections to let you explore San Juan dining on your own. If time is really tight, though, and you don't have the leisure to look through all our offerings, we present our San Juan Best Restaurants list. Here, we distill the best businesses down to a special selection of ten. These places promise a stellar experience and a taste of the city that you just can't miss.
Carli Café Concierto
This dark, sophisticated spot in the baroque Banco Popular also offers a terrace with great views of the ships in the harbor. Black and white dominate in a bistro space accented with marble tables and a Steinway grand piano. Owner Carli Mu�oz used to play with the Beach Boys (among many other groups) and entertains nightly at the caf�. The menu is a continental tour that includes seared loin of lamb and duck rissol�. (787-725-4927)
Asian-fusion dining meets Greenwich Village NYC attitude and settles in Old San Juan. From the front door, which is guarded by a beautiful hostess, to the dark red, ultra chic, dimly lit interior complete with fabulous drapes and lamps, this is one of the places to be seen in Old San Juan. If you dare, try the drink of the house called "Dragon Punch." Bar snacks include the unexpected surprise of root vegetable chips and the seafood ceviche. Crab cakes, grilled meats and a heavy emphasis on yucca, pumpkin, squash and other indigenous vegetables are a hallmark of the menu. (787-977-3886)
La Casita Blanca
The name means small white house. And it's just that simple character that makes La Casita Blanca such a great spot. Locals love La Casita because of the generous portions of Puerto Rican fare. Favorites include the veal fricassee and pastelon de amarillos in a genuine fonda. The grilled shrimp is also popular. Fried plantains, rice and beans come with your meal. (787-726-5501)
If you and you're main squeeze want to drink and dine at the same time, head to Aguaviva. When first stepping inside, an über-cool ceviche bar welcomes you with fresh oysters and a variety of ceviche plates to order while the main menu awaits to delight you later. Mahi-mahi in guava balsamic syrup and fried red snapper with lobster in plantain mash and butter are just part of their seafood extravaganza. As for drinks, pineapple mojito and watermelon sangria are a must-try. Once cited amongst the best new restaurants in the world, Aguaviva is surely an exciting choice for couples in Puerto Rico's historic Old San Juan. (7877220665)
La Casona Restaurant
Owner Manolo Caamaño has been serving authentic Spanish cuisine since 1972 in this renovated European mansion. Enter through the arched doorways and feel welcomed into the heart of the home. Paella studded with seafood, grouper prepared in Basque-style, and hand-crafted desserts will please the palate as the strolling guitar player provides the background music. (787-727-2717)
What better place to enjoy an authentic Puerto Rican meal than at the city's oldest restaurant? Established in 1848 this spot has been lovingly run by the Rojos family since 1900. The house special is asopao, a thick stew made with rice and chicken, lobster or shrimp. Sample fresh gazpacho for a starter and save room for some flan for dessert. (787-722-3261)
311 Trois Cent Onze
Casablanca, Paris and Provence via Puerto Rico. Such is the experience upon entering the heavy wooden doors that conceal this former cinema warehouse from the bustle of SoFo. Limoges china and crystal hold the chef's creations which are steeped in fine French tradition with touches of the island. You'll find escargot and sole meuniere in addition to spicy sausage and salmon carpaccio with citrus. (787-725-7959)
Under the spreading canopy of the city's oldest banyan tree, steps away from the lovliest beach on the island, resides what some consider the finest Asian restaurant in San Juan. Chefs slice, dice and juggle ingredients and condiments with aplomb. If you prefer sushi, the locals rave about the selection here. (787-791-8152)
Right on Magdalena street, in the Condado area, Cielito Lindo makes you believe you have arrived in Mexico with its décor and authentic Mexican flair. Homemade mole and freshly chopped ingredients for its 'Super Nachos', burritos, fajitas and their tasty tequila are just some of the main positives. Cielito lindo opens Mondays through Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. It is a great alternative to visit with the family. ((787) 723-5597)
About Melissa Alvarado Sierra
Melissa is a native Puerto Rican who enjoys sharing her island experiences and discoveries with readers everywhere. She studied Journalism and Art in San Francisco and London and has worked throughout the U.S., Europe, the Caribbean, and Central and South America. A contributing writer and photographer for Lance Armstrong’s Livestrong Foundation, she writes regularly for USA Today, AND Magazine, and Houzz.com. Her work has also appeared in California Home + Design Magazine, on LovetoKnow.com, and on Fashion TV.
Read more about Melissa Alvarado Sierra here.