A few months ago I had the honor of speaking with Wilo Benet, a celebrity chef in San Juan and the owner of the famous restaurant Pikayo (now closed) and Wilo Eatery & Bar. Our conversation was about Puerto Rican restaurants, the Coronavirus and more. Not only was he a profile in entrepreneurship and perseverance but he was also a model in humility. His pride for the island comes through in his enthusiasm. If you want to read that article or watch my interview with him, you can do so here.
Towards the end of our chat, Wilo shared some “must visit” restaurants on the island. In the interest of supporting restaurateurs on the island during a precarious time for the hospitality industry, I thought I’d share them here with you. Tell us below in the comments if we missed your favorite or if you’ve been to any of these.
1. La Estación
Ranked as one of the 21 best Puerto Rican restaurants on the island by Condé Nast Traveler and a top ten restaurant in the Caribbean by Fodor’s Travel, La Estación serves locally sourced “Nuyorican BBQ” in Fajardo. A mix of traditional BBQ with Caribbean flavors, everything is made on site since 2006. We wound up drooling while reading the menu. And, from what we’ve heard from a very reputable source, the brisket rivals that of Katz’s Deli in New York City.
Carr. 987 Km 4.20 Las Croabas, Fajardo, Puerto Rico 00738 | 787-863-4481
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2. Hen House
The Hen House is a southern-style fried chicken restaurant in Condado, San Juan, with an additional location in Santurce. As you’d expect from the name, they serve chicken. Not just any chicken though — it’s been called the best fried chicken sandwich by experts and fans online. Their pollo frito comes on bread or as tenders and is served with a side of mac & cheese or loaded fries among a list of other sides. If you’re in Condado, put this fast casual Puerto Rican restaurant on your list for lunch or a midday snack.
1451 Avenida Ashford Local 100-B, San Juan 00907-1511 Puerto Rico | 787-307-3477
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3. Mario Pagán Restaurant
Mario Pagán Restaurant is a fine dining experience brought to you by Chef Mario Pagán, representing a fusion of native and international ingredients. Granted, we haven’t been here, and were a bit intimidated by putting it on our list. One look at Trip Advisor changed that all. Review titles such as “Better than NYC! Gourmet food,” combined with comments like, “To say the food is amazing is an understatement” pointed us in the right direction. Plus they make chocolate soufflé. Chocolate soufflé. Go here.
1110 Ave Magdalena, San Juan 00907-1701 Puerto Rico | 787-522-6444
At the Condado Vanderbilt Hotel is the 1919 Restaurant by Michelin Star-rated Executive Chef Juan José Cuevas. Also serving local products, they create flavor-forward food in a world class ambiance. When asking to describe 1919, guests use words like “paradise,” “phenomenal” and… “anniversary.” Any restaurant where people go to celebrate an anniversary is special. And, although they don’t have a chocolate soufflé like Mario Pagán (above), 1919 has been called the finest dining in San Juan. If you have a special occasion, and you choose to go to 1919, please tell us how it is. If you’ve been, comment below so we all know.
1055 Ave Ashford Condado Vanderbilt Hotel, San Juan 00907-1128 Puerto Rico | 787-724-1919
5. Wilo Eatery & Bar
After 28 years running the famous Pikayo, Wilo Benet, who also inspired this piece about Puerto Rican restaurants, has brought his flavors to his new fast-casual concept, Wilo Eatery & Bar. The new restaurant, located in Guayanabo offers Wilo’s gourmet flavors in his new chic casual concept. You can dine-in or takeaway to try Wilo’s famous Puerto Rican cuisine with his signature touches. If you always wanted to visit Pikayo but didn’t have the chance, we recommend visiting Wilo Eatery & Bar to taste for yourself why Chef Benet’s food is so special. And, it seems they have a soufflé.
B5 Calle Tabonuco 00907 Guaynabo, Puerto Rico | 787-665-0199
(Cover photo: Bistec al Plato at Wilo Eatery & Bar. Photo: Wilo Eatery & Bar.)