leave your inhibitions at the door
Prior to our trip to Puerto Rico, I consulted with my friend and frequent commenter here – Max Doinel, for some local food recommendations. Being from Puerto Rico and his knowing my passion for all things swine-related, he said that I had to go to a lechonera – a restaurant that specializes in roast pork.
Heck to the YEAH!
We arrived in Puerto Rico on a Sunday at around 1pm and then were thrown into a shuttle with other people right away. So my hopes of going on a pork hunt in San Juan were quickly dashed. Then, as we were approaching the Ritz in Dorado, my hope of finding porcine pleasures were further put to the test when I saw this duo of restaurants
Because nothing ruins a foodie’s vacation more than the sight of an Applebee’s. I probably should’ve taken a panorama so I could get the Wendy’s in the same picture.
I asked the kid who was schlepping our luggage if there were any lechoneras around there. He said the best ones were in Guavate on “Ruta de Lechon” or “Route of the Roasted Pig.” (Hope still has a pulse.) But the restaurants weren’t open on Sundays and Guavate was 90 minutes away which would’ve cost me hundreds of dollars for a car to take me there. (Hope flatlines.)
But he did say that Alavara, a local dive bar, does serve roasted pork on Sundays along with other good food.
Dive bar is right… It was right across the street from that Applebee’s and I was a little concerned that there were more people there than at Alavara. But it was al fresco, the weather was nice, and it was a free vacation.
I started with a bottle of Medalla, the locally made beer.
Ok, so maybe the craft brew madness on the mainland just hasn’t hit PR yet.
I ordered their spring rolls with morcilla (blood sausage) and papaya salsa.
It was an interesting preparation and the wrapper was nicely done. However, the morcilla didn’t have much flavor and the papaya sauce was way too sweet.
But I easily shook that off as I didn’t go there for the spring rolls. I came for this –
Roast pork with a side of fried plantains.
Actually, I didn’t really care about the plantains. Which was good, because they were salty as all hell.
Nope, this was the prize…
When I was a kid, we had a roasted pig at just about every big family party. The big benefit to having the whole beast was… well…pork. But the next biggest benefit was that you could grab the meat off your favorite part or even mix them up to get the right mixture of firmness, flavor, and juices. The best part was always the crispy skin – I believe they’re called “cracklins” in the Carolinas – either alone or mixed in as a texture component.
This was good, but not great. The piece of crispy skin was fantastic, as expected. However, I’m not sure where the meat was from and it all seemed a little tough and slightly dry. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and say that the mix wasn’t right, that it could’ve used a few hunks from the belly area. Or it could very well just be that they didn’t know jack about roasting pork.
So the spring roll was bland, the pork dry, and the beer was at best the equivalent of Budweiser.
But hey, I was on vacation and it sure beat the places across the street.