Gluten-free San Juan

I wanted to do a quick write up on the restaurants we visited in Puerto Rico before they slip out of my head. I learned on this trip that I need to be a lot better about researching restaurants before a trip to find gluten-free friendly options, but hopefully these reviews will be helpful to some celiacs heading to PR in the future!

Mango’s Ocean Park
We arrived in Puerto Rico after a very long day of traveling. Transferring in America takes up a lot of time! We were also jet lagged so we slept in for a long time and then spent around an hour trying to figure out where to go for breakfast before we landed at Ocean Side Cafe.

I enjoyed a nice fruit salad and eggs. We really liked the coffee here too and we would have come back again, but every other day we got up earlier and this place doesn’t open till 12, so we never went back. 🙁 It was a shame because this was one of the only places in PR we found that served fresh fruit, which was a little disappointing for PR in general.

La Chola
This was the first restaurant we went to dinner for with my new diet and it wasn’t really advertised as gluten free, so I was nervous. The wait staff spoke some English, but the menu was all in Spanish and I had no idea what I was ordering. The guy thought it would be OK, but as we waited for dinner I was terrified what would come. I honestly felt sick to my stomach anticipating what would arrive for dinner. Kay realised I was freaking out and told me it would be fine, but my anxiety was getting really out of control.

I was really close to crying by the time the waiter brought our food, which happened to be delicious by the way. It turns out we had ordered ceviche and it was totally fine to eat. I loosened up a little once we were eating and that was when I started to realise that I’m nervous before my food comes and was much happier to not be thinking about food on that trip.

We went to Basilia’s on our second morning after figuring out that Ocean Park was not open. Basilia’s is kind of like an old school diner. The food is good and hearty, but not super special. The first time we went here for breakfast I was using my Spanish GF cards and made sure to be very clear that I could not have any bread or anything like that. They were very friendly and accommodating.

The second time we came for breakfast, I ordered an omelette that didn’t mention any bread and I freaked out when it came with both toast and french fries, which I also refused to eat. I pushed them all on to Kay’s plate and brushed the crumbs off my plate with a napkin before starting to eat. That was where I learned my lesson of always mentioning celiac and gluten to the waiter no matter what is on the menu.

We also came here for dinner one evening because we knew the food was pretty good and easy for me to find something to eat. For dinner I had mofongo (mashed plantains) with shredded pork and it was oh so good. It was a little uncertain whether fried food would make me react, but I seemed OK with the plantains.

Pinky’s had a lot of good reviews on Yelp and promised GF eating, so we went there the third morning because we figured we shouldn’t just go back to Basilia’s. Really, we should have done just that. We waited in line to be seated because the restaurant was packed on a weekday and then the menu basically only had a cob salad for me to eat. Yay…. I mean, not.

The worst part was that Kay’s breakfast  gave him some food poisoning, so he lost his breakfast later and felt a bit sick all day. We did not return to Pinky’s again. The food was overpriced for the lack of quality.

La B de Burro
This place was really close to our guest house and actually had pretty good reviews for tacos. I was also a bit nervous about ordering here because it seemed like the staff didn’t know

We decided to indulge in some churrasco on the last evening in PR. We figured that a meal full of meat would be pretty safe and we were right, although we might have overdosed on beef. The first two cuts of beef were very, very good, but after that there was a lot of filler meat. There was also way more meat than two people could ever eat and it wasn’t worth stuffing mediocre meat down our throats.

We ordered pina coladas with dinner, something I rarely indulge in, and by the end of the meal we were both supremely stuffed. I’m glad we got a chance to have some churrasco here because we didn’t end up going again with Kay’s brother in Miami.

Eating gluten-free in San Juan was not terribly hard, but breakfast was definitely the hardest meal. We went to a cafe one day and asked about breakfast. While we were waiting for coffee, the waitress had already started a continental breakfast for us without letting us know that there was no menu, only a set meal with toast and more toast. Kay noticed her putting a bunch of toast in the toaster and told her we were sorry, but we’d have to go eat somewhere else.

It was definitely frustrating to arrive at places hungry and then have to find a new location for breakfast and dinner. That’s why planning gluten-free options is so important!

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