Chef Juan Jose Cuevas has traveled the globe to work in kitchens such as three Michelin-starred Arkelare in San Sebastian, Spain; Blue Hill in New York City; and the Pluckemin Inn in Bedminster, New Jersey. Last October, the Puerto Rico native returned home to run 1919 restaurant in the newly renovated Condado Vanderbilt Hotel. Cuevas spent months building relationships with farmers and fishermen throughout the island so he could source the best produce to showcase on his locavore-centric menu. Here, he shares his favorite Puerto Rico haunts.
“Chef-owner José Rey is one of the hardest working people I know. He is so passionate about his restaurant and the product he is putting out that it’s a rare thing not to see him there. It’s nice to know he’s in the kitchen taking care of you. Compestela has the largest and, what I consider to be the best, wine collection in Puerto Rico and it complements the traditional Spanish menu perfectly. My favorite dish is the fideo, a paella made with short strands of pasta instead of rice that’s usually found in Barcelona. Rey serves his with fresh seafood.” 106 Puerto Rico 37, San Juan, 1/787-724-6099, bodegascompostela.com
Marmalade Restaurant & Wine Bar
“Marmalade is so different from a lot of the restaurants on island. Chef Peter Schintler is similar to me in his use of mostly local, fresh products and his menu has a real eclectic, international feel. A lot of it is really light and refreshing so it’s perfect for those hot days in the sun. His menu includes meats and seafood, but he has a completely separate vegetarian menu. He’s doing really inventive things with vegetables. For example, one of the specials I had recently reminded me of a ceviche but was made with a mix of different green vegetables and a chile-herb vinaigrette.” 317 Calle Fortaleza, San Juan, 1/787-724-3969, marmaladepr.com
Farmers Market at Plaza Las Americas
“My philosophy for 1919 is to create a menu with hand-selected local, artisanal, and homemade ingredients. The Farmers Market at Plaza Las Americas helps make this possible every weekend. There are about 40 farmers offering their products and the market gives me a great opportunity to network with them. I get to find out what they’re offering and I’m able to tell them what my goals are for the restaurant and what I’m looking for so we can better work together each week.” 525 Ave. F.D. Roosevelt, San Juan, 1/787-767-5202
“I go to Oceano for the views and the breeze off the water. It’s a laid back bar right off the beach in Condado and it’s the perfect place to unwind after a long day.” 2 Vendig St., Condado, 1/787-724-6315, oceanopr.com