Hubby and I traveled to Puerto Rico for the first time and being a recently diagnosed Celiac with left me more than a little anxious about our trip. Where would I eat? What if I there were no gluten-free options? How would I communicate my concerns without speaking Spanish? What if I got sick on our short 3-day anniversary adventure?
There was nothing to fear. San Juan turned out to be a wonderful place for eating Gluten-free filled with knowledge restaurant staff and helpful people. It was a pleasure visiting this beautiful island. I did not starve, and I did not get sick. Puerto Rico treated me--and my gut--well.
Seven highly-recommended options for eating Gluten-free in San Juan
1. Cafe Berlin, on Calle San Francisco Street in Old San Juan a few steps from a beautiful plaza filled with Artisans selling hand-made goods. We were lucky enough to visit while the cruise ships were in port. Our first morning in the old city, husband and I had the Big San Juan Breakfast (all Gluten-Free) and cafe latte--a wonderful start to our vacation. Breakfast included eggs, bacon, home fried potatoes, gluten-free pita bread, and gluten-free pancake with guava butter. Delicious.
2. Mesa Verde, on Calle Tertane, a few steps from our Airbnb in Old San Juan. After reading many reviews of area restaurants, we have zero regrets with this choice. Of all the places we ate in Puerto Rico, Mesa Verde makes the top of our list for flavorful food, fantastic service, and knowledgeable staff. This organic-based restaurant used locally sourced meats and produce. Dinner began with a special broccoli appetizer (Yes! Broccoli and I ordered it). My main course was a lamb stew to die for, and Hubby’s crisp duck with peanut sauce. Nearly everything on the menu was gluten-free, and they even had dessert to offer. We loved this place! Read the full review of Mesa Verde in Old San Juan.
3. The Stuffed Avocado Shop, on Calle San Francisco in Old San Juan, was an interesting and refreshing choice for lunch. After a long day of exploration, I was hot, dehydrated, and starving. Coming in at one of the most reasonably priced and fast meals, this is a not to be missed spot for great gluten-free food. Hubby and I shared a large stuffed avocado bowl filled with two fresh avocados, pulled pork, spicy chicken, ground beef, kale, pineapple, mango, crumbled local white-cheese, spicy mayo and cilantro cream sauce. Sound weird? I thought so too, but it was fantastic. Best of all nearly everything this in the place was gluten-free except two sauce toppings and seaweed salad. Otherwise, dig in!
4. Marmalade Restaurant and Wine Bar, on Calle Fortaleza in Old San Juan, a lovely stroll from our apartment was our choice for our anniversary celebration, and it did not disappoint. This was truly a culinary experience--5 courses with wine pairings--lovely atmosphere. The experience deserved a review of its own--Anniversary Celebration at Marmalade Perfect Gluten-Free Culinary Experience.
5. Sierra Restaurant, Courtyard Marriott Isla Verde Beach Resort offers an outdoor seating next to the most beautiful beach I've ever seen. The staff was wonderfully knowledgeable about Celiac disease and what was required for my food preparation. We sat eating Caesar salads with grilled chicken and local white-cheese (fried in separate oil to avoid cross-contamination) with the tropical breeze blowing over the sun-drenched white sand. Although we choose a simple lunch option, the menu was full of safe GF choices and staff willing to do whatever was necessary to help.
The view from our table at Sierra—Isla Verde Beach
6. Yerba Buena: A block from the San Juan Marriott Resort and Stellaris Casino in Condado we ate at a charming Puerto Rican and Cuban Restaurant thankful to finally dine on ethnic cuisine. Live music, wonderful staff, and a delicious menu make this places a worthwhile stop. Although there is not a gluten-free menu, and many items on the menu contained fried items cooked in a vat with gluten-containing foods, the staff was wonderfully helpful in identifying foods I could safely eat. The waiter even dutifully checked the drink mixers in the Mojitos and found to his dismay they contained gluten. Instead, we sipped on traditional Mojitos made with no mixers. I had a simple but delicious meal of skirt steak and traditional rice and beans. Unfortunately, there were no dessert options, but that did not take away from my experience. The helpful, and knowledgeable staff made eating authentic foods possible at this restaurant.
7. Supermax does not fit the category of restaurant. However, I thought it necessary to acknowledge the easy to walk to the grocery store in Old San Juan. Full of easily identifiable goods. We purchased many kinds of cheese, dairy products, salami, snacks, and wine. The ease of shopping in Puerto Rico, being a part of the U.S., made grabbing safe gluten-free foods at the local markets a breeze.
If you are a celiac wondering if you can eat safely in Peurto Rico, or just want to adhere to a gluten-free diet, fear-not, there are plenty of options. Go! Have a great time, try these restaurants, and a few more. I have many places on my list for my next visit!
So what about you, do you know of any great places to eat gluten-free in Puerto Rico?