Image: La Piccolo Fontana
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La Piccolo Fontana restaurant in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
updated 1/8/2007 12:51:12 PM ET 2007-01-08T17:51:12

Best Classic Creole Cooking
In his new location in Old Town's Museum of Art of Puerto Rico, Chef Wilo Benet at Pikayo, Av. José de Diego 299 (tel. 787/721-6194), holds forth. He's a master specialist in the criolla cooking of the colonial age, emphasizing the Spanish, Indian, and African elements in his unusual recipes.

Best Wine List
The luxurious Vineyard Room in the dazzling Ritz-Carlton, 6961 State Road #187, Isla Verde (tel. 787/253-1700), serves a refined California/Mediterranean cuisine, but we'd go there just for the wine list. The countries best represented on the wine carte are France, Australia, Germany, Italy, Spain, and even South Africa. The California selection will make you think you're back in the Napa Valley. There is also a good selection of the increasingly fashionable wines from Chile.

Best Newcomer of the Year
The savory cookery of Brazil is today served at Bossa Nova, 358 Calle Fortaleza (tel. 787/722-0093). Its house specialty is reason enough to dine here: a Brazilian-style Rodizio, consisting of five different grilled meats.

Best French Cuisine
Against a Moorish and Andalusian background, Trois Cent Onze, 311 Calle Fortaleza (tel. 787/725-7959), serves a classic French cuisine with many innovative overtones. Great attention is paid to color, flavor, and texture of each dish.

Best for a Romantic Dinner
Out in Miramar, Augusto's Cuisine, in the Hotel Excelsior, Av. Ponce de León 801 (tel. 787/725-7700), lies on the 15th floor of this hotel, offering a stunning and panoramic view of San Juan at night. Not only that, it serves one of the best French and international cuisines in the Caribbean, backed up by an extensive wine list.

Best Nuevo Latino Cuisine
Parrot Club, Calle Fortaleza 363 (tel. 787/725-7370), wows tastebuds with its modern interpretation of Puerto Rican specialties. Even San Juan's mayor and the governor have made it their favorite. Husband-and-wife team Emilio Figueroa and Gigi Zafero borrow from a repertoire of Puerto Rican and Spanish recipes, and they also use Taíno and African influences in their cuisine. Their ceviche is the best in town, and their Créole-style flank steak is worth the trek from Condado Beach.

Best Burgers
Patrons freely admit that El Patio de Sam, Calle San Sebastián 102 (tel. 787/723-1149), is not always on target with its main dishes. But they agree on one thing: The hamburgers are the juiciest and most delectable in San Juan. The Old Town atmosphere is also intriguing -- you almost expect to encounter Bogey and Bacall.

Best Asopao
Soul food to Puerto Ricans, asopao is the regional gumbo, made in as many different ways as there are chefs on the island. Some versions are too thick to be called soup, such as the seafood variety at La Bombonera, Calle San Francisco 259 (tel. 787/722-0658), in San Juan's Old Town, which is more like a stew. One popular version of asopao includes pigeon peas, although the one with chicken is better known.

Best Spanish Cuisine
You'd have to go all the way to Madrid to find Spanish food as well prepared as it is at Ramiro's, Av. Magdalena 1106 (tel. 787/721-9049). The chefs take full advantage of fresh island produce to create an innovative cuisine. In fact, the style is New Creole, although its roots are firmly planted in Spain. Their fresh fish and chargrilled meats are succulent, and any dessert with the strawberry-and-guava sauce is a sure palate pleaser.


Best Local Cuisine
Devoted to la cocina criolla, the term for the often starchy local cuisine, Ajili Mójili, Av. Ashford 1006 (tel. 787/725-9195), features food that islanders might have enjoyed in their mama's kitchens. Try such specialties as mofongos (green plantains stuffed with veal, chicken, shrimp, or pork) or the most classic arroz con pollo (stewed chicken with saffron rice) in town.

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Best Hotel Restaurant
In 1997 San Juan City Magazine bestowed best hotel restaurant status on Ristorante Tuscany in the San Juan Marriott Resort, Av. Ashford 1309 (tel. 787/722-7000). It has continued to maintain high standards that won it the accolade in the first place. We've found it even better in the early 21st century than it was in the 1990s. The chef searches the markets for some of the best and freshest ingredients to whip into succulent northern Italian cuisine that is smooth and refined to the palate.

Best Italian Restaurant
In Wyndham El San Juan Hotel & Casino, La Piccola Fontana, Av. Isla Verde 6063 (tel. 787/791-0966), takes you on a culinary tour of sunny Italy. Plate after plate of delectable northern Italian food is presented nightly -- everything from grilled filets of fresh fish to succulent pastas. Service is first-rate, and the welcome warm.

Best Late-Night Dining
If you have hunger pangs late at night, forget the fast-food joints and head to Amadeus, Calle San Sebastián 106 in Old San Juan (tel. 787/722-8635). It offers Caribbean ingredients deftly handled with a nouvelle twist. And it does so Tuesday through Sunday until midnight. An attractive, trendy, generally young crowd arrives late to feast on the refined cuisine, enjoying such delights as Cajun-grilled mahimahi.

Best Family Meals
Ciao Mediterranean Café, in the InterContinental San Juan Resort & Casino, Av. Isla Verde 5961 (tel. 787/791-5000), offers an excellent and reasonably priced menu. Many tables are placed on a private boardwalk adjacent to the beach. Pizza and pasta are favorite dishes, and you can also choose from a large selection of other Mediterranean fare.

Best Pizza
At Via Appia, Av. Ashford 1350 (tel. 787/725-8711), you should try the special: a delectable blend of sausages, onions, mushrooms, pepperoni, green pepper, and bubbling cheese. Or sample a pizza with meatballs or one with vegetarian ingredients.

Best Sunday Brunch
Both locals and American visitors flock to Palmera at the Caribe Hilton, Calle Los Rosales (tel. 787/721-0303), for its delectable all-you-can-eat Sunday brunch. Good food, glamour, and live music are combined here. The freshly prepared seafood alone is worth the set price, which includes champagne.

Best Aphrodisiac Cuisine
Take someone special to Ostra Cosa, Calle del Cristo 154 (tel. 787/722-2672), for a night of romance. Even if you aren't in the mood, the owner promises that you will be after consuming his dishes, which are "chock-full of aphrodisiacs." All the food is guaranteed to enhance your performance in the bedroom.

Best Ice Cream
On a cobble-covered street in Old San Juan, Ben & Jerry's, Calle del Cristo 61 (tel. 787/977-6882), is a block from the landmark cathedral, Catedral de San Juan, across from the entrance to the El Convento Hotel. This North American chain offers the best ice cream in San Juan. Any of the 32 flavors -- 10 of them low-fat -- taste particularly good on hot, steamy days, when their names, such as Chubby Hubby and Phish Food, seem especially ironic and/or flavorful, depending on your point of view.

Best Drinks
Even when we're just in San Juan waiting for plane connections and have time available, we take a taxi to Maria's, Calle del Cristo 204 (tel. 787/721-1678), in Old San Juan, for the coolest and most original drinks in the city. On a hot day, there is no finer place to enjoy a mixed-fruit frappé; a banana, pineapple, or chocolate frost; or an orange, papaya, or lime freeze.

For a complete listing of Frommer's-reviewed restaurants, visit our online dining index.

Frommer’s is America’s bestselling travel guide series. Visit Frommers.com to find great deals, get information on over 3,500 destinations, and book your trip. © 2006 Wiley Publishing, Inc. Republication or redistribution of Frommer's content is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Wiley.

Photos: Picturesque Puerto Rico

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  1. Eye on the word

    The Castillo de San Felipe del Morro in San Juan is a 16th century citadel. It was designed to keep seaborne enemies of out San Juan (thus the gun turret pictured). In 1983, the United Nations declared "El Morro" a World Heritage site. Today, it is Puerto Rico's best known fortress, with more than two million visitors a year. (Francisco Turnes / FeaturePics.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Hidden beauty

    Isabela is a coastal city in Puerto Rico whose main industries include tourism due to it's classic and secluded surfing beaches, panoramic views, rainforest, rivers, caves archaeological sites and more. (ervphotos / FeaturePics.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. A beacon of the times

    The Punta Higuero Lighthouse in Ricon, situated on POint Juguero, was built in 1892 by the Spanish and rebuilt in 1922 by the U.S. Coast Guard after a 1918 tsunami hit the coast of Puerto Rico that also damaged the structure. The lighthouse still works and employs an unmanned 26,000-candlepower rotatintg beacon. The beaches around the Punta Higuero Lighthouse are also popular surfing destinations, and visitors converge in the area to see the annual migration of humpback whales. (fotoamateur / FeaturePics.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Buried in history

    The Cementerio de San Juan (San Juan Cemetery), located between El Morro and the cliffs above the Atlantic of Old San Juan, is known for being one of the most picturesque burial grounds. The cemetery is also noted for its elaborate tombstones and the neoclassical chapel dedicated to Mary Magdalene, which dates to the 19th century. Many of Puerto Rico's earliest colonists are buried here. (tank bmb / FeaturePics.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Staying afloat

    Tourism is a big component of Puerto Rico's economy, and supplies about $1.8 billion annually, with millions of visitors visiting the island. It is estimated that about a third of the tourists come on cruise ships. (Ritu / FeaturePics.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Traveling back in time

    A church stands on the grounds of La Fortaleza in Old San Juan, the original capital city of San Juan, Puerto Rico. The old city is a historic district of seven square blocks made up of ancient buildings and colonial homes, massive stone walls and vast fortifications, sunny parks and cobblestoned streets. (Joe Raedle / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Withstanding time

    Old San Juan in Puerto Rico is the oldest settlement within the territory of the U.S., and spans just seven square blocks. Here, the La Fortaleza (the governor's mansion), a part of the old city wall and a gate are pictured. (tank bmb / FeaturePics.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Historical colors

    Colorful homes line the cobblestoned streets in Old San Juan, the original capital city of San Juan, Puerto Rico. (Joe Raedle / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Popular pastime

    Locals often gather at the many plazas of Old San Juan to chat and play dominoes. (Joe Raedle / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Room with a view

    In Old San Juan, one of the oldest cities in the Americas, embellished balcony doors, such as the one pictured, are not unusual in the city that dates back to 1521. Most buildings are more than 150 years old and are evidence of the Spanish architectural heritage. (capricornis / FeaturePics.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Natural beauty

    The El Yunque National Forest is the sole rain forest in the U.S. National Forest System, according to the park's Web site, and is relatively small at 28,000 acres. It features a year-round tropical climate and immense biodiversity. About 600,000 tourists each year enjoy all that the forest has to offer, including wildlife, waterfalls, hiking and camping opportunities, and more. (ervphotos / FeaturePics.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Guiding light

    A 19th century lighthouse -- called the Los Morrillos -- sits atop a towering cliff that overlooks the waters of Cabo Rojo, located at the southwestern tip of Puerto Rico. The cliffs around the lighthouse drop more than 200 feet into the ocean. The lighthouse was originally built in 1882 to guide ships from the Caribbean Sea to the Atlantic Ocean. Today, the lighthouse is completely automated, and a renovation cleared the interior of everything of historical significance. (ervphotos / FeaturePics.com) Back to slideshow navigation
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