The capital of Puerto Rico offers countless delights to explore, and they all begin with a good breakfast. Like many visitors, I was drawn to Old San Juan, the city’s historic colonial section, for its colorful buildings and culture. Some of my most memorable meals were had while fueling up to walk the walls of El Morro or visit the farmer’s market.
Here are three different ways to start your day in Old San Juan with a delicious desayuno.
Old San Juan can feel extra touristy when the cruise ships dock and the local flavor is hidden somewhere behind all those shopping bags. For a dose of authenticity, stop into Cafetería Mallorca near the Iglesia San Francisco. The place will probably be packed, but the staff keeps it moving. Sure, tourists are there but so are nurses, suits, and other San Juan locals starting their day. Trumpet music might float in from the street as dishes clank at the bustling counter. Servers wearing black vests and bow ties present strong coffee and the alluring signature dish. The mallorca is a bun served with a sweet or savory filling, toasted lightly on a panini press, and dressed in powdered sugar. It’s the kind of accessible, affordable place that feels like won’t change from one visit to the next. As long as the ham and cheese mallorcas are hot, that’s fine with me.
300 San Francisco St., San Juan 00901
Caficultura is the type of stylish cafe that appeals to tourists and the internationally hip. Patrons sip creative brews under chandeliers from this prime people watching corner of Plaza de Colon. Some of the creations are downright decadent, yet expertly crafted. The Caficoco (pictured at the top of this page) includes smooth coconut notes with a sprinkle of cinnamon. The french toast with pineapple marmalade should not be missed. It might look like a sugar high in the making, but the pillowy french toast topped with coconut and powdered sugar delivers a satisfying, balanced sweetness. If you’re looking for something stronger, every barista has their own cocktail on the menu. The Flaming June is inspired by the famous painting that resides at the Museo de Arte de Ponce, and just like its namesake the cocktail is on fire!
401 San Francisco St., San Juan 00901
La Terraza De San Juan is located on what I consider San Juan’s most photogenic street. You don’t need to be a guest at this stately Spanish colonial hotel to enjoy its rooftop restaurant. Head there early to snag a shaded seat, because the views aren’t the only thing that’s hot on this roof. Cool off with fresh mango and pineapple or opt for a classic mallorca. When you’re sipping a mimosa and soaking in views of the Old San Juan and the surrounding ocean from above, breakfast really is the most important meal of the day.
262 Calle del Sol, San Juan 00901