Jose Enrique's Guide to San Juan, Puerto Rico

Ben Fink / Santaella

Chef Jose Enrique shares his top picks for where to eat, what to drink, and how to best experience San Juan and beyond.

After graduating from the Culinary Institute of America in New York and working stints at restaurants in New York, Louisiana, and Florida, Jose Enrique opened a restaurant in Puerto Rico to champion the use of local produce—which the island has always had in bounty, but the fine dining scene had long chosen to overlook. The commonwealth has since garnered buzz for creative chefs like Enrique who tinker with grandma's home cooking. With his spots Jose Enrique (176 Cll. Duffaut; 787-725-3518; and honey-and-coffee shop Miel (City View Plaza Lobby Torre II; 787-397-4404), the chef stands at the forefront of the burgeoning scene.

What neighborhood are you from, and how long have you lived there? Isla Verde. I was raised in Isla Verde, and still visit it often. Now I live in Santurce.

Where would you put up friends visiting town? Two nights in old San Juan at the Gallery Inn (Norzagaray 204; 787-722-1808;, two nights in the El Yunque area, and two nights in Vieques.

Where is the best place to find your hometown’s signature dish? El Boricua has great alcapurrias, a stuffed fritter with stewed land crab or beef (5 Cll. Saldaña; 787-764-0492).

What is your favorite restaurant to take visitors? Chef Apa’s Lechonera La Ranchera, which specializes in spit-roasted pork (Rd. 173, Km. 6.0, Hato Nuevo Ward, Guaynabo; 787-790-9988.)

Where can you find the best cocktails? Santaella (219 Cll. Canals; 787-725-1611; I go for bartender’s choice! They know what feels good that night. But by default, I order a rum and fresh fruit drink. Beer list? I find Puerto Rico to be more about the beers themselves than the places. Medalla is great for the climate in Puerto Rico. I love Orval but who doesn't. Wine list? Well the list at Bodega Compostela is amazingThey have so many great wines that go well with their food, and the climate in Puerto Rico. You will see a lot of young up and coming wines as well as an impressive list filled with great names and vintages! (106 Cll. Condado; 787-724-6099;

Where would you choose to splurge on a night out? Pikayo. It's located in the Condado Plaza next to the casino, which is great because you get to have a little fun as well! (Wink wink.) The views, as well as the decor of the room, have such a great feel. Chef Wilo Benet is one of the best things Puerto Rico has to offer—his food speaks for itself. (999 Ashford Ave.; 787-721-6194;

What is your go-to after-hours bar? La Factoría. The space is amazing—as is the case with most building in Old San Juan. It has such a great vibe, and the music and ambiance are always great. Their cocktails are top-notch (like Manhattans made with rum), and I try to order as many different drinks as I can! It has no sign, but it does have strings of lights. DJs often play late into the night (721 Cll. San Sebastian; 787-594-5698).

What’s the best way to spend a Saturday afternoon in town? I like going to Spanish bakeries, like Panadería España Repostería, known to locals as La España (Cll. Marg Baldorioty; 787-727-3860), or Kasalta (1966 McLeary Ave.; 787-727-7340;, to eat caldo gallego (Spanish stew with ham, chorizo, potatoes, and greens) and great sandwiches alongside freshly squeezed orange juice—and good conversation.

What is your Sunday morning routine in your neighborhood? It involves getting beer, fresh passion fruit juice for the kid, iced tea for the wife, nice slices of Iberico ham, Manchego cheese, and pickles, packing everything up and heading to the beach.

Where is the best brunch? Laurel (299 Ave. De Diego; 522-6444; It's located in El Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico, so you can check out se great art as well. The crispy pig ears are a must!

Where do you go for the perfect cup of coffee? Café Hacienda San Pedro. The coffee beans used here come from their own farm in Jayuya, Puerto Rico. Not only do they cultivate their own beans, but they roast them and make the coffee as well. Talk about farm to table, ha! (318 Ave. de Diego, 318 PR-37;

What’s your favorite view in town (that tourists might not know about)? In Old San Juan on the corner of San Justo and San Sebastian, you can see both bodies of water, The Atlantic and the bay of San Juan. It’s stunning.

What’s your favorite path or trail to follow on a walk? I like walking through the neighborhood of Miramar to look at the architecture. The trees there are also a huge plus.

What are your favorite offbeat cultural attractions? Checking out the murals in the area of Santurce. These works are made by both local and international artists, like Bik Ismo and D-Face.

What’s your favorite shop or boutique? Don Rey, a cigar shop in La Plazita de Santurce, carries local tobacco. It's great because the location is tons of fun. There is usually live music playing nearby, so you can light your cigar and enjoy great tunes, right on the street. (1 Cll. Roberts; 787-241-8605;

What’s the ultimate souvenir from your town—something you can only get there? A nice bottle of rum—either Barrilito 3 Star, or Don Q Gran Añejo.

What’s the best-kept local secret? Sorry. I don't kiss and tell, but it's just a scratch away…

In our Hometown Guides series, we're seeking the best restaurants, bars, vistas, and things to do in a given place from the people who know best—the artists, designers, chefs, and store-owners who live there. See more Hometown Guides »

Photo: Bodegas Compostelas