The trend of dining at food trucks, seen across the U.S., is now increasingly popular in Puerto Rico especially in the hip and fashionable city of San Juan.
Food trucks are popping up like mushrooms and are quickly gaining prominence on the island of enchantment. They draw everyone from hungry college students and office workers searching for quick meals to discerning foodies who know that sometimes the best food doesn’t always come from a fancy restaurant. San Juan has two popular food truck spots – Lote 23 and Miramar Food Truck Park.
Lote 23 has turned a once abandoned lot, wedged between two building, into a culinary oasis located in the art and music district known as Santurce. With four terraces, a stage, and plenty of parking spaces, Lote 23 showcases a variety of kiosks and Airstream trailers serving tacos, pizza, donuts, burgers, popsicles, noodles, cocktails, coffee and more.
Large table umbrellas and overhead canopies, as well as outsized industrial fans, provide diners with plenty of shade and cool breezes. Culinary offerings provided by veteran as well as up and coming Puerto Rican chefs include:
Panka which serves Peruvian street food with a creative twist; noodles or rice bowl with meat and veggies made by Wok It!; Dorotea’s Pizza and it’s wood fired thin crust delights and homemade cocktails; Sr. Bigotes Mexican tacos; Pernileria Los Proceres serving roasted pork inspired options and craft beer; savory buttermilk dipped fried chicken at Hen House; Caneca a mobile cocktail house serving fresh juices and top shelf liquor; donuts by Do de Donas; El Joint Burger serving beef, lamb and salmon sliders with innovative toppings; espresso, specialty coffee, and experimental coffee drinks by Café Regina; Belgium-inspired fries at Bayard; La Alcapurria Quema’s Puerto Rican soul food; Poke bowls at El Jangiri; tasty desserts at La Postreria; lobster and salmon mac & cheese as well as variety of gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches at Lolo’s Mac & Cheese; Croqueteria serves all types of gourmet croquettes; and Señor Paleta with its fresh fruit popsicles.
Lote 23 is open Tuesday, Wednesday, and Sunday from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. and on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday it closes at midnight. Average price, depending on the kiosk, ranges from $9 to $12.
This facility hosts two weekly events. Cine 23 is held every Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. where international, documentary and short films are shown on an outdoor screen. Santurce Yoga held every Sunday at 9 a.m. in collaboration with El Estudio. Also on weekends guests can expect to enjoy live music.
El Miramar Food Truck Park at Stop 15 is like its counterpart, transforming the palate of the Puerto Rican diner and adding much-needed entertainment thanks to the island’s Millennials.
The Meatball Company offers its customers a variety of delicious handcrafted meatballs made out of chicken, beef, pork, and lamb served up in sliders, subs, and gyros.
Yummy Dumplings makes an assortment of tasty dumplings filled with chicken, skirt steak, pork, sweet plantains, and malanga, among other combinations. Its sauces include peanut, ginger soy, and spicy mustard as well as Korean tacos.
Peru Rico has a variety of Peruvian treats, and its ceviche is to die for. The empanadas fried plantains, yucca fries, and fried mahi mahi are packed with savory depth.
Pa’l Pita’s specialty is yummy gyros filled with skirt steak, lamb, or chicken.
Que Toston serves a delicious twist on Puerto Rican classics like arroz con pollo (yellow rice with chicken), fried cheese and arepas (corn cakes), not to mention its canoas (sweet plantain canoes) and patacon (fried green plantains used as bread substitute) with plenty of delicious toppings.
Miramar Food Truck Park opens every Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 12 p.m. to 11 p.m. and Sunday from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. Average plate varies from $5 to $15. This venue holds activities such as Movie Nights, BBQs and BYOB.
Food trucks in Puerto Rico were only known to serve inexpensive food like hamburgers, hot dogs, and tripletas (a skirt steak, ham, and pork sandwich) and local staple foods like comida criolla consisting of rice, beans, stews, pork, and plantains.
This pattern changed in 2012 when a different breed of food trucks —pioneers Yummy Dumplings and El Ñaqui — began offering casual gourmet food like ribs, Korean style chicken, pulled pork, Asian style skirt steak, wings, salads, sides, and soup.
These food trucks threw the old and familiar menus out the window and started introducing innovative flavors to their customers. Both trucks quickly gathered a cult-like following and their success inspired others to take a chance and start up their own food trucks.
Today, there are around 80 food trucks all over the island, most are in the San Juan metro area but there are fantastic food trucks everywhere from Caguas to the popular beach towns of Aguadilla and Rincon — and the number grows monthly.
Diners now have everything in Caguas from Mexican food at La Chilanguita in Gurabo to El Churry (also located in the towns of Carolina, San Juan, Luquillo and Levittown) with its special tripletas on sobao sweet bread to Persian food at the Mill Urban Bistro to mofongo, plantain soup, nacho criollos and pasta at La Mancha de Platano. And FOK Brewery serves up craft beers and microbrews with unique flavors. Another food truck inspired by traditional Puerto Rican cuisine is Cosechas, which elevates its cooking with modern and innovative touches. Try the turnovers, skirt steak, fried pork, steak sandwich, fried plantains, soup of the day, sweet potato gnocchi and rice and beans. Absolutely delicious!
In Rincon, Fire Island Surf & Turf Co. in Rincon provides casual street grub from tacos and tosadas to kebabs and sandwiches and Jack’s Shack shines with its grilled tuna tacos, homemade veggie burgers, acai bowls and gluten-free chocolate chip cookies.
On the northwestern coast, there is yet another much-visited food truck park called the Aguadilla Food Truck Park. This casual gastronomic retreat features mouthwatering delights from Tako-G which features Japanese street food fare with everything from ramen noodles to pho; succulent gourmet burg ers at Bluefin; Tuk Tuk and its amazing Thai food; Ribs Smoke Shack with plenty of BBQ options; and Demitasse with its gourmet coffee and artisan ice cream.
The Aguadilla Food Truck Park opens from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. and every Sunday from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Slowly but surely, these food trucks have done the unimaginable: reshape the Puerto Rican palate. Whether you are looking for a slice of pizza or a new gourmet creation, you will definitely find a food truck for your inner foodie in Puerto Rico.