El Horno de Pane
You’ll be hard-pressed to find a more diverse — and meticulously made — selection of bread anywhere else in Puerto Rico. The European-informed baking process for some styles takes as long as three days for the crew of self-professed “bread geeks” at El Horno de Pane, inside the Montemar Plaza shopping center. Try the monkey bread or pumpkin brioche French toast; eggs poached or scrambled served with ciabatta or sourdough; or peruse the irresistible danishes, croissants and other tempting baked goods.
BTW: Don’t let the inevitable crowd deter you; service is efficient.
El Horno de Pane, Calle Juan Calaf, Hato Rey, San Juan
Abracadabra Counter Cafe
This Santurce restaurant’s magic theme runs strong, down to its nostalgic carnival accents inside. On Saturdays and Sundays, the beloved “Magic Brunch” features offerings like veggie-packed omelets, fruit-and-Nutella pancakes, and croque madame or monsieur. Mimosas go beyond the typical orange juice (think passion fruit, tamarind, mango and acerola). Lunch offerings include wraps, panini and burgers, and on some occasions, breakfast is served all day.
BTW: Abracadabra has a small stage and doubles as an arts and music venue.
Abracadabra Counter Cafe, 1661 Ave. Ponce de León, San Juan
Panadería Repostería Moncho Pan Deli and Cafe
A few reasons make this deli, more than two decades old, a favorite: Its freshly baked pan sobao, a chewy, sweet bread. Its classic tripleta sandwich is upgraded way past triple-meat status with steak, turkey, chorizo, pernil (roast pork) and more. And the bakery’s staple sweets — pastelitos de guayaba (stuffed guava pastries), quesitos (a sticky, cream cheese-filled croissant) and doughnuts — are all made in-house.
BTW: Those flags, banners, license plates and the kitschy signage all over the place? They’re the owner’s travel souvenirs.
Panadería Repostería Moncho Pan Deli and Cafe, 145 Ave. Winston Churchill, San Juan
The greenery adorning the outside is telling: Omrkt is an agricultural oasis that’s both a local produce market and a sunlit farm-to-table restaurant next door, whose ingredients, picked right off the market’s shelves, are sourced from small farms still recuperating post-Maria. Dishes, all of them health-conscious, range from Asian to criollo to Mediterranean.
BTW: There are plenty of vegetarian-friendly options here.
Omrkt, 166 Ave. Winston Churchill, San Juan
La Placita de Santurce
At this popular plaza, restaurants and bars are clustered around a daytime market. Highlights include the Cuban fare at Asere and the San Juan Smokehouse for barbecue. Nearby, Paxx Caraballo Moll, named one of Food and Wine Magazine’s best new chefs of 2019, helms the kitchen at Jungle BaoBao, inside the neon, tiki-style bar JungleBird.
BTW: La Placita gets busy as the night progresses, with dancing patrons spilling into the streets. Arrive early to eat; stay late for drinks and entertainment.
La Placita de Santurce, Calle dos Hermanos and Calle Roberts, San Juan
This outdoor food park, a local favorite, is a patchwork of cuisines dished out of kiosks and Airstream trailers, serving everything from Puerto Rican frituras (fried finger foods, like the alcapurria, a stuffed yuca or plantain fritter), Belgian-style fries, pizza, Southern-fried chicken, heavy-duty burgers and Mexican cantina nachos.
BTW: Lote 23 also hosts events, which it promotes on social media, such as yoga sessions, film screenings, artisans’ markets and more.
Lote 23, 1552 Ave. Ponce de León, San Juan
Quality comida criolla — or traditional local cuisine — such as arroz mamposteao (Puerto Rican rice and beans) or bolitas de yuca (fried yuca balls), is served 24/7 at this go-to cafe for late-night meals in the Miramar area. If you’re looking to soak up too many Medallas (the popular local beer), though, go for the super-starchy mofongo (mashed plantains).
BTW: Los Pinos has a full bar.
Los Pinos, 655 Ave. Ponce de León, San Juan
Playfully named cocktails and a low-key vibe belie the fact that La Penúltima takes its bar seriously, with smart mixology (the El Bandolero has flavors of poblano, pineapple, lime and mole bitters), craft beers and carefully curated wine. This Santurce spot also serves up stellar food, like ceviche, cubanos and “disco fries,” with cheese, aioli and scallions, topped with a poached egg.
BTW: The patio with picnic tables is perfect for a late-night hangout.
La Penúltima, 1359 Ave. Ponce de León, San Juan