Puerto Rico has an amazingly resilient population that has endured unbelievable hardships that have ranged from a collapsed economy, economic isolation as a result of the Jones Act, and an unprecedented mega-disaster (Hurricane Maria) that left most of the island without power for months and much of the infrastructure damaged and/or destroyed.
Yes, it can be tough in Puerto Rico for the Average Joe.
But, people have got to eat, and in that most basic of human needs, is opportunity.
To answer the call of the hungry, an armada of food trucks and innovative operators have rolled out throughout San Juan and the island of Puerto Rico, feeding the hungry and providing opportunities to the Average Joe operators who otherwise may not be able to find viable work.
The food truck operators work long, hard hours. Often the trucks are manned by one person who does the shopping, the food prep, the cooking and the cleaning. The trucks are hot from the open ranges and cooking flames. The Puerto Rico weather can play havoc with the customers who are dodging the tropical rains. And, the visiting tourist may opt for the cool of air conditioning over sitting under an umbrella in the tropical sun. For the food truck operators, a profit is not guaranteed by any means.
But, never underestimate a chef and his obsession with cooking!
For the average tourist, most food trucks will be overlooked. Tucked into side streets, alleys and parking lots, many of the food trucks are hidden from view, or located in areas the tourist won’t go. These food trucks cater to very specific neighborhoods and repeat customers, many of whom are known by name.
This Average Joe has had the pleasure of walking thousands of miles (literally) and has found many of these trucks by pure happenstance. Here are my thoughts and recommendations of as many food trucks as I could visit during my year long stay in San Juan.
Miramar Food Truck Park
1006 Ave Ponce de Leon, San Juan
Located in the Miramar neighborhood, within walking distance of the Marriott Courtyard, this food park is a well organized location which houses multiple food trucks. A paved parking lot, bathrooms, picnic tables and a canopy provide shelter from the elements.
When the sun goes down, the lights come on and music wafts over the crowds. Cool breezes make the evening hours extremely pleasant. This park is very popular with the locals.
I sampled the following trucks:
Las Cucharas Comida Mexicana – fresh pressed and grilled tortillas, stuffed with meat, cheese, tomatoes and cilantro make me a happy Average Joe! Good stuff here! You will not be disappointed.
This Joe loves the tacos!
The Pa’l Pita looks to feed Your Mediterranean hungers. Fresh served lamb, chicken and pita will be yours for the taking! I am sucker for a grilled pita and hummus!
The Meatball Company wants to be your go to truck for red meat; hamburgers, sliders and meatball subs. Try the loaded chili fires; delicious fresh fries served with a heaping of homemade chili and peppers; great stuff! And, enough as a meal for one!
1552 Ave Ponce de Leon, San Juan.
Located about 1 mile from the Miramar Food Truck Park is Lote 23. Lote 23 is situated within the heart of the Santurce neighborhood and is located on a renovated commercial lot. The well maintained lot houses a collection of food kiosks and airstream trailers with operators providing an extensive offering of foods and drinks.
Lote 23 has onsite security, well groomed and cleaned grounds, Big Ass Fans (honestly, that’s the brand name of the fans), picnic tables, and mesh coverings to block out the sun. I observed cleaning staff working the grounds to make sure the grounds are kept clean; the bathrooms were immaculate and misters are mounted overhead to help keep guest cool in the heat of the day.
The food variety’s are extensive here. I will have to make multiple more trips in order to give you my honest input. But for now, here is my recommendation:
El Jangiri – poke bowls and dumplings. Poke has become my go to meal and Jangiri offers a simple “tell us what you want’ and five minutes later here is your fresh made poke bowl. I am a tuna, avocado, pickled vegetables with a splash of ginger sauce kind of guy myself. Simple, heart healthy; but oh so delicious-
Scattered around the city, but heavily dominating in the suburbs are the roadside vendors; fruits, waters, desserts, fried pork. Each vendor normally specializes in just a few items. This strategy keeps the vendors nimble and ready to move from event to event, even if it is just rush hour traffic, and if the tax police should show up, they can quickly disappear.
Puerto Rico is an island that remains a mystery to most; an incredibly beautiful place that is home to an enduring population who looks to celebrate the best of what makes us human; food, art, and music. The food trucks are an amazing extension of this culture and one you have to experience.
As I continue my visit, I will continue to add to this blog post!