Puerto Rico: Gettin’ Great Local Grub in Guavate

Not too often do we go out of our way, or take an unplanned day trip, to a place just to eat lunch.

Great eats in GuavateWe love good food, of course, but when we’re on an adventure we tend to focus, well, on the adventure. The activities. The excitement. The stuff to do.

But as has happened so many times during our visit to Puerto Rico, we talked to person after person who downright insisted that we take the time to visit a place south of San Juan called Guavate, which was known throughout the country and beyond for it’s incredible lechon, or pork. In fact, the town lies along what’s called la Ruta de Lechon, or the “Pork Highway”. We’d actually heard of it before, but again didn’t think enough of it to make time for a visit in our busy schedule. It was only after our friend Adria from Condado Insider offered to actually drive us down to Guavate did we agree to check it out. And, yep. Glad we did.

So if you’ll be in Puerto Rico and you find yourself hankering for some good eats, definitely take note of the following:

Guavate, Puerto RicoGetting there: Guavate is an easy drive, 45 minutes to an hour south of San Juan and just off the major highway. So if your time is limited, you can still get from San Juan to Guavate, have a quick lunch, and get back in just a couple of hours (depending on traffic in San Juan). But of course you’re cheating yourself if you don’t take a little extra time to soak up the experience.

We can’t speak for how it works at every lechonera in Guavate, but Los Pinos operates cafeteria style. You move down the line and pick and choose what you want on your plate. And though some of what you can order while at the restaurant is… well… shall we say exotic (as mentioned in the video), you can absolutely stick with the basics if you’re more comfortable with that. In fact, just the plain ol’, straight-up lechon (pork) is flat-out delectable. So pile up your plate, throw some plantains on the side and wash it all down with a cold Medalla beer and you’ll have no regrets.

Guavate, Puerto RicoFood safety: Again, not sure how it works in other places but the pork at Los Pinos all comes from locally raised pigs, and each pig must meet the same stringent USDA standards as those which give us pork in the US. In fact, Don Pedro took us on an impromptu tour of the back areas of the lechonera and showed us each step of the storage, butchering and cooking process. Everything was very clean and very well organized. We even went back into the walk-in cooler where the pigs themselves were hanging on hooks from the ceiling and yes, each was tagged with that familiar and comforting USDA stamp of approval. So no need to worry that your food’s not up to snuff from a safety standpoint.

Weekends are generally the best time to go, although that’s when the lechoneras are most crowded. As we’ve mentioned before we usually do our best to avoid crowds – but when a big part of the experience involves music and dancing and mixing with the locals, it can be a heckuva lot of fun. And that’s the case here. Everyone we met was super friendly and quick with a handshake and a smile. And the food line moved really quick despite the crowd. Good stuff.

Guavate, Puerto RicoThe pitorro was certainly a nice finishing touch to our visit, but since it’s technically illegal in Puerto Rico don’t expect anyone to just roll it out and offer you a taste. At least, that is, unless you spend some time getting to know the locals and the subject happens to come up. If it does, and you talk your way into a sample, get ready for a treat. It’s not at all throat-burning harsh like that good ol’ white lightnin’ that your uncle brews up in his garage. It’s got a bite, no doubt, but it’s sweet and smooth and most everyone has their own recipes and flavors. And you can tell they take great pride in it. Good, good stuff indeed.

In the end, we left Guavate with lots of great food in our tummies and great big smiles on our faces. Our thanks to Adria, Don Pedro and everyone at Los Pinos for showing us such a great time!


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