Raices in San Juan, Puerto Rico
Can anybody tell me what the word, "Raíces" means?
In Spanish it means roots, and in San Juan, Puerto Rico it means the hottest eating place in town!
Raíces has not only stayed true to the literal meaning of the word, but it's home-style perfection is what brings you home. The little restaurant that means roots, is more than just it's name. It is definitely a shining example of restaurateurs loving to cook, and sharing that love for Puerto Rico and their community. And this love is best represented through their food. What an amazing restaurant, and I cannot think of a more fabulous way to showcase someone's homeland, than to serve up the best authentic Puerto Rican food.
Raíces sounds like Rye-ee-says in English, and it didn't take long before the word was stuck in my family's head. From the moment we got off the Carnival cruise ship, we had one goal in mind. Find the best Puerto Rican restaurant in town. Well, that task was a lot easier than we thought it might be. Because not only did our customs agent recommend this restaurant, but our hotel bellhop, stewardess, and taxi cab driver too. Each one of them saying the exact same thing, "Raíces is the best restaurant in town." With word-of-mouth testimony like that, it wasn't long before we were surrounded by a beautiful Spring evening, in the heart of the "Old City" of San Juan.
The "old city" of San Juan is beautiful with it's quaint European atmosphere. The buildings are painted a dusty gold, to match the sandstone rocks of the fort. And, they clad the buildings in soft island shades of turquoise, mint green or lilac around the windows and doors. Fortunately for us the trees were in full bloom, and the fragrance coming off them made the area in which we were in become that more alive, it that was possible.
It wasn't hard to find Raíces either. You could not miss the hoard of people waiting for their names to be called, right outside the restaurant's front entrance. So upon arriving we followed suit, left our name and waited like the rest of them. We waited for a little over an hour for our names to be called. Way longer than what I'm accustomed too, but, I gather not as long as other people are use to waiting living in Chicago, San Francisco or New York. During that time we took a short stroll down several more blocks, to see more of the old town. People were bustling in and out of every side street, and there was music in every direction coming at you. I found the whole experience rather exotic and enticing. Never once did I feel unsafe, and never once did I feel confused by the language barrier. People understand the universal language of smiles, and gracious head nods that help to direct our way about the city.
Once inside the eatery, we pretty much let our waiter choose our dining experience for us. He ordered us our appetizers, salads and main entrée. My son Zach ended up ordering three of the house salads, because of their fresh homemade dressing. He couldn't get enough of it's zesty pepper and bacon flavors, shared in a cool, cucumber base. And, he hates cucumber! But not on this day. For his main course, Zach had the peppercorn flank steak, heavenly mash potatoes, and red beans and rice. Michael and I both had the customary Mofongo - a Puerto Rican invention of mush plantains, steeped in succulent fish or chicken broth with bite size bits of roasted carrots, peppers, onions, roasted chicken and herbs, or steamed shellfish. Oh my it was heaven!
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