Jose Enrique’s Top Picks for San Juan
Jose Enrique is one of the biggest names in Puerto Rican cuisine. Two years ago, he became the first Puerto Rican honored as one of Food & Wine’s Best New Chefs, and in 2013 and 2014 he was a semi-finalist for the James Beard Foundation Best Chef South award. Enrique’s casual but sophisticated namesake restaurant, located in San Juan’s La Placita de Santurce, opened in 2007 and showcases the area’s freshest ingredients. Enrique writes the daily menu on a whiteboard and entrees sellout regularly—try his signature crispy fried yellowtail snapper served with mashed batata (a local sweet potato), avocado and a zippy papaya mojo. The restaurant doesn’t take reservations, so prepare for a very worthwhile wait. And good news for those traveling to the island of Vieques (highly recommended, and only a 25 minute flight from San Juan): Enrique’s latest restaurant, housed in the boutique El Blok hotel, features refined riffs on Puerto Rican favorites, like mesquite grilled mackerel and bacon and eggs empanadas.
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La Plaza del Mercado
La Plaza del Mercado showcases Puerto Rican lively hood at its best—from music and dancing on the streets, to fresh coconut water poured over local rum.
Compostela is a great place to change speed for a bit. Sit down, enjoy great wine and amazing Spanish food.
Bodegas Compostela / 106 Calle Condado, San Juan, 00907, Puerto Rico / 787.724.6099
El Batey is probably one of the best dive bars in the world. I love grabbing a chichaito shot, a cold Medalla and hitting up the jukebox.
El Batey / 101 Calle del Cristo, San Juan, 00901, Puerto Rico / 787.725.1787
Even though the Gallery Hotel is in the heart of Old San Juan, once you’re inside its walls, it’s like being transported to another era.
Gallery Hotel / Norzagaray 204, San Juan, 00901, Puerto Rico / 787.722.1808
How to Spend a Saturday in San Juan
Drive 30 minutes from San Juan to see Apa [Ramos] and grab “breakfast” of spit roasted pork, which tends to help with the hangover. Then on the way back to San Juan fill up a cooler, set up music and grab a beach chair. After, a whole day of fun in the sun you’ll be ready for pork leftovers and hot sauce on the beach.
One Attraction You Can’t Miss
Credit: US Forest Service
El Yunque. Not only is it a short drive from San Juan, but there are a lot of great road side stops. Fresh natural juices, live land crabs, pork and chicken. The connection with nature at El Yunque rainforest is intense, almost mystical.
About Jose Enrique
Chef Jose Enrique is the chef and owner of the celebrated restaurants Jose Enrique, Capital and Miel, all located in San Juan, Puerto Rico. His cooking is defined by his heritage incorporating traditional Puerto Rican products and elevating every dish with his bright, sharp, fresh flavors.
In 2013, Chef Enrique was named one of “Food & Wine’s Best New Chefs” as well as being chosen as a semi-finalist for the 2013 and 2014 James Beard Foundation Best Chef South award. Both of these awards mark the first time in history a Puerto Rican chef has received these honors.
Born in Santurce, Puerto Rico, Chef Enrique is a graduate of the Culinary Institute in Hyde Park, New York and has worked in New York, Florida, New Orleans, as well as Belgium and France before returning to Puerto Rico.
In 2007, he opened his first restaurant, Jose Enrique, in La Placita de Santurce, a neighborhood known for it’s vast local market, creative energy as well as being the artistic center of Puerto Rico. Shortly after opening, the restaurant was named one of Conde Nast Traveler’s Best New Restaurants.
For the past seven years, Chef Enrique creates a tightly edited, seasonal daily menu incorporating Puerto Rican products. He often adds dishes during service if purveyors show up in the kitchen with this latest catch or find. He’s known for his seafood preparations such as whole fried fish (often red snapper) with root vegetables and avocado/papaya relish, house made pork sausage, beef dishes such as his take on the Puerto Rican classic Carne Guisada where he uses Filet Mignon in the beef stew, as well as his much in-demand Mojo sauce.
In 2011, Enrique opened his second restaurant, Capital, a boisterous brasserie with accents of creole cuisine. The café Miel opened in 2012 providing premium Puerto Rican coffee, breakfast and lunch, also featuring local honey.
Enrique’s most recent project is El Blok restaurant which opened in October 2014 in El Blok hotel, a gold LEED certified boutique hotel located on Vieques. Inspired by the beach restaurants of St. Tropez’s heyday, El Blok’s restaurant menu is based primarily on the wood grill and rotisserie. The focus of the menu is on the small plates and appetizers, with the large format entrees being an intentionally simple choice between Pompano fish, Roasted Chicken, Pork Porterhouse, and Flank Steak, all cooked over indigenous Sour Orange wood. There will be a large selection of Puerto Rican starters: ceviches, little fried bites and tastes, including a Charcuterie with conch salad, smoked marlin and lobster sausage and the Blok Scotch Egg with longaniza sausage and creole sauce.
Like Jose Enrique’s lauded eponymous restaurant in San Juan, El Blok restaurant places emphasis on locally sourced products including coffee, organic greens, and heritage pigs raised specifically for the chef, producing a healthy, minimalist, type of cuisine that is accented with the flavors of the Caribbean. Serving excellent cocktails and Jose Enrique’s own Puerto Rican “moonshine” made from sugar cane, the bar is the focal point on the large open terrace, which is shared with the reception area and the restaurant.