Great BBQ in Puerto Rico
If you believe that bbq originated in the south you’re right, only it started a lot further south than you thought. “Barbacoa” actually comes from the Taínos, one of the first settlers in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean. They used to smoke fish, sea turtles and other meats over a grid made of saplings. The Spaniards adapted the technique and spread the word up into Florida and the rest of the south and it became “BBQ”. We put together a list of some great bbq in Puerto Rico.
BBQ in Puerto Rico is very much still alive. The days of wooden grills are long gone but indirect smoking is an art form that more and more pitmasters are perfecting and adding a definitive Puerto Rican touch.
Most bbq joints are small and run by an inspired artisan. They range from restaurant ambiances to rustic roadside canopies. But if you’re a true ‘Q fan you know that the best places rarely have tablecloths or even tables.
We’ve searched high and low to bring you a select list of known and little known places for true barbacoa. Some only open limited days so call ahead.
San Juan Smoke House– right in La Placita in Santurce. Great ribs and even vegan options. It’s small but it packs a lot of flavor into every bite. Bonus is after your meal you can hang out at any of the surrounding bars.
Pollos Scharneco-Miramar. In the 70’s Scharneco was the chicken king in Santurce. This recently opened revival is doing it justice. Citrus marinated rotisserie chicken with an amazing collection of side dishes. Ponce de Leon Ave.
La Estación– Fajardo. A former gas station now one of the better bbq joints on the Island. Their nuyorican bbq mixes local flavors and ingredients with American traditions. Also great for fresh seafood.
Smokey Joes– Luquillo. Part of the kioskos on Luquillo beach. They’ve made Texans rethink their supposed bbq supremacy. They also make an amazing paella and have a beachfront vista.
Happy Pig BBQ– Juncos. This newest addition to the bbq scene is only open on Sundays. Great food and a great find. Call ahead and reserve, or for directions, 787-628-5590
La Manada Ribs– Guayanilla. This bbq ranch in the South only opens on Saturdays so reservations for this sought after experience are necessary. They even have a BBQ University so you can polish your techniques. 787-644-3000
Pidekai– Aguadilla. Very well executed bbq with a flair for great combinations. It’s easy to see why they’ve won a couple of contests.
Smoke and Joke– Arecibo. A food truck in Ocean View Food Park with all the classics. Great taste right on the ocean.
Humo Primitivo– Route 129, Hatillo. What’s better than great pork shoulder on the shoulder of the road. It may lack walls but this place is full of local flavor. Open Fri-Sat. Call ahead and reserve,they sell out quick. 787-529-2435
Lechón asado or spit roast pig is the quintessential Puerto Rican bbq dish but we’ll cover that in a future post. There are too many great spots to mention here.