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NEIGHBORHOOD GUIDE

A guide to local favorites in Calle Loíza

  • By Jhoni Jackson
  • Photos by Dennis Rivera Pichardo
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Between the tourist zones of Condado and Isla Verde is the working-class Santurce sub-barrio of Loíza. Its main street overflows with restaurants, bars, clubs, coffee shops and boutiques, but its economic growth can be a point of conflict: Gentrification is well underway. Keep an eye out for some of Calle Loíza’s unique elements, including an open street library and murals.

Meet Jhoni Jackson

Jhoni, an Atlanta native of Cuban descent, relocated to Puerto Rico in 2012. She first experienced Puerto Rico with her abuelos during her preteen years. Through the friends and community she’s found, San Juan has become an unexpected but fulfilling home.

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Calle Loíza

Tres B/Tresbé
Its name a play on the colloquial “bueno, bonito y barato” (good, nice and inexpensive), this outdoor restaurant (built around shipping containers) serves an impressive array of frituras (the empanadilla selection is vast, including lobster and crab), plus other local favorites, like marlin skewers and churrasco a la parrilla (grilled skirt steak).
Tres B/Tresbé, 1765 Calle Loíza, San Juan
Gemileo speakeasy
Tucked behind a shop selling goods and tourist kitsch is the real gift: a speakeasy-style bar, with a staggering whiskey collection, a comprehensive wine room, tapas, and live jazz and Latin music on the weekends. Ask the owners about the collection of vintage liquor bottles encased in a corner — some date to 1960.
Gemileo speakeasy, 1808 Calle Loíza, San Juan
Len.T.juela
Vintage items, locally designed pieces and trend-driven selections coexist at this independently owned shop. You’ll find shoes, accessories, beauty products and clothes for all genders.
Len.T.juela, 1852 Calle Loíza, San Juan
Double Cake
Everything’s made from scratch at this bakery, where staff don throwback uniforms (think polka dots, bow ties and suspenders) and traditional Puerto Rican sweets get creative. Try the tres leches cupcake and the quesitos (small cream cheese pastries).
Double Cake, 1852 Calle Loíza, San Juan
El Tap
More than 14 local breweries are represented here, plus a slew from outside the island (46 taps of beer in total, and wine and sangria). Relax with a drink in a sunlit window spot or take a growler to go.
El Tap, 1969 Calle Loíza, San Juan
Ana’s Café Criollo y a la Parrilla
If this restaurant feels as cozy as someone’s home kitchen, that’s because it sort of is: Ana is behind much of the comida criolla served here, cooking everything with love, from early breakfast to late-night dinners.
Ana’s Café Criollo y a la Parrilla, 1909 Calle Loíza, San Juan
Volando Bajito
Korean fare meets comfort food at this rustic quick-serve restaurant off the main street, on the corner, and decorated with figurines of roosters and airplanes. Vegetarians will flip for the fresh fried cauliflower “wings” and the slaw-topped veggie sliders, while meat eaters will be more than satisfied with the drumsticks and (actual) wings.
Volando Bajito, 101 Calle Ismael Rivera, San Juan
Jhoni Jackson
Jhoni, an Atlanta native of Cuban descent, relocated to Puerto Rico in 2012. She first experienced Puerto Rico with her abuelos during her preteen years. Through the friends and community she’s found, San Juan has become an unexpected but fulfilling home.
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Dennis Rivera Pichardo
Dennis is a contributing photographer to The Washington Post based in San Juan.
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