CULINARY GUSTO

Que Viva Trattoria! is a delightful new “tropical trattoria” at one of Rincon’s best known lodging spots, The Lazy Parrot Inn.

20

Apr
2019

Rincon: Puerto Rico’s new culinary sanctuary

By Peter Martin 3753 0
2019

Rincon has long been known for its legendary surf breaks and astonishing sunsets, but this magical west coast town has quietly transformed into the gastronomic darling.

Located on a knot of land jutting out from the island’s west coast, the town springs from the surrounding sea in an inspired mash of lush hills, tropical forest, and verdant valley, ringed by a palm fringed, white sand shoreline.

Mother Ocean, which gives life to this town of eternal summer, provides a different look behind each beach; it can be elegant in its tranquility, its gentle current shimmering in the sunlight like thousands of gems, or it can turn tempestuous, unleashing its beauty in towering waves that thunder ashore with furious wild whitewash.

Its geography, or more specifically breathtaking beauty, has brought a confluence of culinary influences beyond the local comida croilla cuisine, that head mix of Caribbean, African, and U.S. flavors. Restaurant trends you’ll find in town are similar to what’s going on in top culinary cities. This is happening as more and more vacationers fall in love with Rincon and decide to call it their home, and a growing number of chefs come in their wake to join a growing number of island chefs who call this west coast hamlet their residence. So regardless of what flavor you are looking for, Rincon has you covered with a spot that will deliver.

Rincon has some of the finest hotel restaurants and steakhouses in all of Puerto Rico, and fabulous authentic French, Italian, sushi, and other ethnic restaurants, as well as inventive local and American fare. You’ll also find gourmet cafe and health food, world-class pizza, amazing food truck fare and fabulous food and artisan markets in the downtown plaza. Rincon is the envy of no other coastal town, with top notch seafood and comida criolla restaurants, and it has among the most sophisticated wine and local craft beer offerings, and one of Puerto Rico’s best local craft brewery.

Rincon’s culinary offerings have kept pace with its broader tourism growth in recent years, which entices visitors with an eclectic mix of boutique hotels and guest houses that wow with comfort and friendly, attentive service. But its dominance as a purveyor of fine food and spirit still seems sudden and surprising, and it comes with the realization that everywhere you turn; there is something delicious to be had. Perhaps nowhere is this more apparent than the winding narrow road of the downtown plaza to the lighthouse and the famed Tres Palmas and Marias beaches, with food stands offering everything from crafted fruit and vegetable juices to gourmet fruit bowls and coffee stands to homemade power bars and healthy burritos.

The charming west coast is one of the prettiest coastal towns you can find, and it seduces its visitors in so many ways – miles of palm-lined beach, pristine tropical forest, and dramatic outlooks of breaching whales and crashing surf. This just makes getting dazzled by its culinary offerings all the more delightful and satisfying.

With such a varied dining scene, there is no typical Rincon restaurant, but Cowboys Cantina and Outside Grill may best capture the bold spirit and adventurousness of its culinary culture. Just minutes from Rincon’s main thoroughfare, Cowboys nonetheless seems far away –that “remote beautiful place approaching perfection.” A ribbon of road threads a knot of steep hilltops cutting between ocean and green pasture vistas and then a steep side road descends to the restaurant’s dramatic setting on a 20-acre cattle ranch, surrounded by tropical flowers and trees and lush hillsides.

  • The 20 oz. Cowboy steak at Cowboys Cantina & Outside Grill is tender as butter and grilled to perfection, and the churrasco, filet mignon and other steaks served here are of equal quality.
  • The Chateau Rose at the stunningly beautiful Horned Dorset Primavera has a French-tropical inspired menu.
  • Downtown Rincon features Tinto Wine Shop, the area’s best wine boutique, with a strong collection of wine, gift baskets and other items.
  • Downtown Rincon features Tinto Wine Shop, the area’s best wine boutique, with a strong collection of wine, gift baskets and other items.

 

The wood and tin-roof establishment is the epitome of cowboy chic, with the friendliness and enthusiasm of the staff matching the crispness of their typical western attire. The charming owners are often on hand to greet diners, which only underlines the heritage of hospitality and family tradition that permeates this restaurant.

A large bar running along its back wall has a huge television that broadcasts the sporting event of the moment or music or sporting events involving horses. Right off the airy main dining room and surrounding terraces is an adjacent field that holds seasonal rodeo events and Sunday horse rides but is always a great place for kids to play during meals. This might be one of the best places in Puerto Rico to dine on a weekend afternoon, equally appealing to sports fans and families, but the illuminated grill house has a distinct beauty at night, as does the journey “up the road and down the hill” to get here.

The food is all about the open pit barbecue, and how that smoky flavor infuses the delicious grilled steaks, chicken, ribs and tuna that are the mainstays here. The 20 oz. Cowboy steak (bone-in rib-eye) is tender as butter and grilled to perfection, and the churrasco, filet mignon and other steaks served here are of equal quality. There are typical Puerto Rican and American appetizers, from burger sliders to fried island cheese cubes, and delicious sides including mixed rice and beans with cilantro and sweet plantains, grilled sweet potato topped with cinnamon, and grilled corn on the cob and a different daily grilled vegetable. The desserts are also well-executed takes on classics like key lime pie and amaretto cheese cake, and a hot chocolate chip cookie that – like the rest of the Cowboy’s dining adventure – will bring out the kid in you.

If you can’t get up to the highlands, Rincon has lots of other options for steak lovers, including Parrilleria Vacas Gauchas, an Argentinean-style steakhouse right down the hill that fans insist is the best of the bunch because of the consistency and quality of the food and the service.

  • Vacas Gauchas in Rincon
  • Vacas Gauchas in Rincon
  • Vacas Gauchas in Rincon
  • Vacas Gauchas in Rincon
  • Vacas Gauchas in Rincon

 

It has a cozy, minimalist interior, with super cool paintings of friendly faced cows. Outstanding rib-eye, skirt steak and other cuts, and delicious pork tenderloin and tuna options prevail. Here too the offering is about excellent renditions of genre classics but there are also unique menu surprises. Everything from the grilled potatoes to the codfish buñuelas in cherry tomato escabeche to the house sangria is fabulous, and the service matches the excellence pouring out of the kitchen. The wine list is short but provocative, and there are satisfying options for a broad variety of tastes.

Among the best steaks in town can be found at La Ana de Cofresi restaurant, a family run restaurant at the Hotel Cofresi that has been delivering wonderful steaks, seafood and Puerto Rico’s traditional cocina criolla since 1965. This place is all about the classics and consistency, which is why it has been able to retain loyal clients over decades and win new fans all the time. La Ana has been serving the finest quality steaks in town for decades, and the veteran kitchen hands doing the preparation add to the flavor. It also offers a wide variety of fresh fish and other seafood, and local classics like stuffed mofongo and asopao, and house specialties include fresh fish served in plantain crust with cilantro cream sauce.

  • The location at La Ana de Cofresi is blessed with a serene west coast location overlooking a fabulous beach with the best sunset in town.
  • The location at La Ana de Cofresi is blessed with a serene west coast location overlooking a fabulous beach with the best sunset in town.
  • La Ana de Cofresi’s house specialties include Jumbo Shrimps with capers sauce.

 

La Ana is as well known for its fresh fish as it is for the quality of its steaks. The restaurant is named after the mother ship of famed Puerto Rican pirate, Roberto Cofresi, known for his generosity toward the poor, distributing his loot among them. Check out the 1979 mural of Cofresi’s history by a local Puerto Rican artist inside the restaurant. Both the restaurant and hotel are family run and have among the friendliest staff not just in town but in all Puerto Rico. The location is also blessed with a serene west coast location overlooking a fabulous beach with the best sunset in town. La Ana is an air conditioned room right off the property’s glorious back deck. Have a cocktail on the back beach bar during the glorious sunset before dinner.

Like La Ana, several of Rincon’s finest restaurants are waterfront. The Chateau Rose, ensconced at the stunningly beautiful Horned Dorset Primavera, is one of the prettiest dining rooms in the entire Caribbean, and the French-tropical inspired menu is always up to snuff. It’s the perfect spot for a serene lunch or heavenly dinner in enchanting surroundings. The property is erected on century-old breakwaters and seawalls and features seafront terraces, Spanish-Moroccan inspired villas, and a grand hacienda that houses the restaurant, which offers diners views of the sublime sea and shimmering pool.

The restaurant has a variety of changing fixed price menu options, which offer diners such delights as escargots vol au vent with pancetta and Pernod cream, pan seared tuna with basil-potato puree and an eggplant Portobello ragout or duck breast with foie gras and raspberry. The deserts — from sorbets to soufflés — are also divine.

The Tamboo Seaside Grill is famous for being one of the best beach bars in the Caribbean and all of America, but it is also one of the best places anywhere that you can dine with your feet in the sand. The restaurant spills out of the back deck of the charming Beside the Pointe Guesthouse overlooking the fat, white Sandy Beach, which is replete with swaying palm trees, surfers, and other beach lovers at play. There’s always something going on at the deck bar, with island rhythms pouring out over the sound system or provided by the talented musicians who perform live on weekend nights. Grab an outside terrace table, where the ocean breeze and rhythm of the pulsating surf rule for a more romantic meal.

  • Tamboo Bar & Seaside Grill’s Catch of the Day with Puertorrican “Mamposteao“ Rice and grilled asparagus.
  • The Tamboo Seaside Grill spills out of the back deck of the charming Beside the Pointe Guesthouse overlooking Sandy Beach.
  • The Tamboo Seaside Grill spills out of the back deck of the charming Beside the Pointe Guesthouse overlooking Sandy Beach.
  • The Tamboo Seaside Grill spills out of the back deck of the charming Beside the Pointe Guesthouse overlooking Sandy Beach.
  • The Tamboo Seaside Grill spills out of the back deck of the charming Beside the Pointe Guesthouse overlooking Sandy Beach.
  • The Tamboo Seaside Grill spills out of the back deck of the charming Beside the Pointe Guesthouse overlooking Sandy Beach.
  • The Tamboo Seaside Grill spills out of the back deck of the charming Beside the Pointe Guesthouse overlooking Sandy Beach.

 

The Tamboo made a name for its self with its succulent guava ribs, grilled fresh Caribbean lobster and catch of the day and pub fare. But the menu is always evolving, delivery heath food like sautéed vegetable towers, crafted veggie burgers, and quinoa salad bowls, as well as more sophisticated fare like corn crusted avocado grouper fillet, mustard and chive pork loin, and peach mint curry salmon fillet. This is a fun spot, but the flavors are as infectious as the tropical rhythm and laughter of happy patrons, which flow as consistently as the pulsating waves outside.

Que Viva Trattoria! is a delightful new “tropical trattoria” at one of Rincon’s best known lodging spots, The Lazy Parrot Inn. Enjoy delicious wood-fired Neapolitan pizzas, pastas, and salads at the amazingly laid back poolside location, with a vista of the green hills of this west coast town. The place is run by couple Eloy and Melissa, whose passion for their project shines through in the superlative flavors and first rate service.

  • Que Viva Trattoria! is a delightful new “tropical trattoria” at one of Rincon’s best known lodging spots, The Lazy Parrot Inn.
  • Que Viva Trattoria! is a delightful new “tropical trattoria” at one of Rincon’s best known lodging spots, The Lazy Parrot Inn.
  • Que Viva Trattoria! is a delightful new “tropical trattoria” at one of Rincon’s best known lodging spots, The Lazy Parrot Inn.

 

Ingredients are fresh, locally sourced, and prepared to perfection, whether it’s the roasted pepper pizza topping or a craft cocktail. Eloy’s carefully nurtured mother dough gives the pizza crust a distinct pop and deep mellow flavor, and they are perfectly grilled in an Italian pizza oven that is also a piece of art. Que Viva Tratorria! waitresses and bartenders also delivered first rate and enthusiastic service. The restaurant team also makes their own local hot sauce and has created a unique spice of salt and dried local pepper flakes that compliment a salad or a pizza. Both the restaurant and Lazy Parrot Inn are commitment to an eco-friendly experience, evident in sustainable practices like solar energy, salted water pool, a farm to table experience to guests.

If you had to pick a Cheer’s of Rincon, you know that place where everybody knows your name; it would likely be the Shipwreck Tavern, located at the Black Rock Marina. “Rincon’s favorite eatery” invites patrons to “dine with the mermaids and drink with the hearty seafaring captains.” This fun spot with a quality pub menu is super friendly and a great place to find out what’s going on. There are excellent guava chicken wings, mussels, calamari, and octopus appetizers. The Shipwreck also offers fat delicious burgers, heroes, pasta and salads, as well as complete steak and seafood entrees. It has some awesome local choices and daily changing specials. It’s a favorite spot on the return from a diving trip or a day catching waves.

  • Shipwreck Bar & Grill in Rincon
  • Shipwreck Bar & Grill in Rincon

 

La Cambija is a simple, open air restaurant by the public beach that serves up delicious seafood and cold drinks during lunch and dinner. Experience the glories of local coastal cooking, with fresh mahi mahi or tuna tacos, shark kebobs, grilled grouper, Caribbean ceviche or seafood paella. The unpretentious, friendly place is also known for its margaritas, mojitos and ice-cold beers. The house hot sauce packs flavor and has a nice kick, and it’s THE SPOT in town for fried fish turnovers called empanadillas. The spot is only open weekends, Friday through Sunday.

  • La Cambija in Rincon
  • La Cambija in Rincon
  • La Cambija in Rincon
  • La Cambija in Rincon

 

Sushi fans, don’t worry, Rincon will not disappoint you! In fact, Pool Bar Sushi has become an iconic Rincon experience. The splashy tropical spot has full bar and outdoor tables on a deck surrounding the pool. Surfer chic stylings include showing surfer flicks on a giant screen and an ability to make flavorful tropical drinks. Pool Bar Sushi has glorious handcrafted, unique sushi and tempura roll creations that are artfully arrange on spiffy platters. There’s the simplistic mango tuna roll, the sublime cinco (snapper cucumber and avocado) the amazing boca (salmon, scallion cream cheese and coconut wasabi) and a crispy delicious vegetable tempura roll. Pool Bar Sushi also has a short but tasty dim sum menu. The sesame seared catch of the day in a wasabi buerre blanc is almost always right on and you can’t go wrong with the ginger pork potstickers. This weekend (Friday night through Sunday night) only restaurant is the perfect place to enjoy a rum punch or other Caribbean cocktail classic.

Perhaps, nothing says a place has arrived as a culinary destination than hosting a permanent food event, and Rincon’s weekly Farmer Market in its downtown plaza every Sunday morning through afternoon is one of the best in the land of Puerto Rico. There are stands dedicated organic honey and yogurt, Puerto Rican coffee, fresh juices and fruit smoothies, organ vegan cakes and other scrumptious baked goods and array of farm to table glories. You can find guava plum tars, banana cheesecake, fresh tomato bruschetta and avocado salad with foccacia bread, miso noodle, and basamati rice bowls and gluten free crepes with fresh vegetables and herbs in a dazzling pumpkin sauce. Artists and artisans also participate, hawking wood cut prints, handmade jewelry and other crafts. Another festival, Rincon’s Art Walk, is Thursday night street festival for artists and artisans that also offers plenty of food and culinary attractions.

The thriving Sunday and Thursday festivities on the plaza underline the transformation of Rincon from an area of dated retail shops to a thriving culinary center, with charming cafes, upscale pubs and cutting edge eateries.

One of the most popular downtown foodie stops is Cafe 413, which is always crowded, and with good reason. Equal parts coffee shop, health food restaurant and sports bar, the spot has something for everyone and is worth a stop any time of the day. There’s amazing coffee, artisan beer, fresh fruit smoothies, salad and vegan specials and spectacular international tapas and entrees, and delicious American classics burgers. Surfing competitions and shown on big screen televisions, and live musical performances take place on weekends. There are also art shows and other performances.

If you get thirsty downtown, make sure to stop into the Rincon Beer Company, which has the biggest selection of craft, tap beer in Western Puerto Rico. It has a broad selection of island craft beer, including productions from Old Harbor, Del Oeste and Cerveceria India breweries, as well as the tasty Boqueron Farm House and Oscar Blue Beerito brews. It also carries Bell’s and other craft beer produced in the U.S. and Europe, and will soon re-launch its own in-house craft brews that were knocked off-tap by last year’s Hurricane Maria. The company also features house infused liquors and craft cocktails, as well as a board of scrumptious munchies to help the ease the liquid down. Teetotalers should not despair because the company has wonderful home-made ginger beer, rosemary lemonade, fresh squeezed juices and other non-alcoholic beverages. There’s live music on Thursday nights, to coincide with Art Walk, and other live events including open mic performances.

Downtown Rincon also features Tinto Wine Shop, the area’s best wine boutique, with a strong collection of wine, gift baskets and other items for the wine lover. There are competitive prices on a wide variety of wines, and the staff is as friendly as they are knowledgeable. Be on the lookout for the periodic wine tastings and pop-up dinners that take place here and includes some of the best of the town’s culinary talents.

Mangia Mi is a fun fabulous place on Rincon’s central plaza that serves fresh, expertly prepared Italian food in a modern, welcoming bistro environment. The staff is super-friendly and knowledgeable about the food and wine offerings, and you can watch the group of chefs employ in the throes of their passion as they make pasta from scratch and carefully cut and dice your salad ingredients from within the kitchen adjacent to the bar. With a name that translates to “Eat Me” and employing the moniker “a place to get sauced,” Mangia Mi does not take itself too seriously, but don’t let that fool you about the quality of the cuisine; it’s outstanding. Operating under its trilogy of “pasta-wine-love,” the restaurant has an ever changing “chalk board” changing menu loaded with antipasto, pasta, pizza and baked Italian entrees. The herbs and vegetables are fresh and locally sourced and it prides itself on fresh prime fish, seafood and cuts of beef. We loved everything from the home-made sausage and roasted the stuffed dates, eggplant parmigiana and fresh fish. In the early evening, there are amazing happy hour wine and bar food specializes that make a great tasty deal, and perhaps is the only reason in the world not to be watching the sunset. Chef Rebecca White, one of the two co-owners, was a winner on the Food Network’s Cooks vs. Cons and her food still cries victory every night.