Two years after Hurricanes Irma and Maria, San Juan is a sustainably farming, boundary-pushing city that’s staying true to itself.
By ALIZA ABARBANEL
Hope tastes like plantains and pernil. Two years after Hurricanes Irma and Maria hit Puerto Rico, rebuilding efforts have led to an increased emphasis on sustainable farming, breaking up the colonial legacy of industrialized agriculture and reliance on imported food while also doubling down on native ingredients. Now local farmers enjoy steady business from seasonally minded chefs pushing the culinary heritage of cocina criolla. Both farmers and chefs are powered by a resilient spirit that can be witnessed in real time, as La Placita de Santurce is packed once more with dancers balancing flaky empanadillas and Medalla beer. At these upstart and legacy spots, the food of Puerto Rico has never felt more Puerto Rican.
The Healthyish Hang
Tucked behind the eclectic Pública community art space, Cocina al Fondo trades in the unexpected. Chef Natalia Vallejo creates quietly healthy food with a fittingly artistic eye, like silky bowls of sweet-corn panna cotta and terrines made with candy-striped beets and goat cheese. Thoughtful design touches, like plush oversize cushions perched on ample teak benches, inspire hang-outs fueled by arancini-like malanga buñuelos and a glass (maybe two) of cava. Whether you’re swinging by for Saturday brunch or seeking a nightcap, you’ll feel the urge to linger a little longer. This is the kind of place where we yearn to be a regular.