Old San Juan is a town of many things. The culture is thriving, and people are friendly.
While wandering down the charming cobblestone street, you’ll encounter numerous small restaurants, including Vaca Brava, serving some of Puerto Rico’s finest food.
Let me put it like this — if the red-eyed bull just outside the door doesn’t give you a hint that you’re about to walk into a carnivore’s haven, then the life-sized ceramic bull you pass is sure to hit the nail on the head.
The Best Place to Eat in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico
As you walk into the new rustic-style building of Vaca Brava in Old San Juan, you are greeted with a wonderful sense of ease as you pass through to the tables in a cool 78-degree room.
The textured, tanned walls have a nice rustic feel to them as you peer around at all of the paintings, mirrors, and pictures of cattle looking back at you.
I must admit, it was a bit creepy at first sitting down and having your potential meal looking at you as you feast on their fellow brethren, but as soon as you begin to see the food come out from behind the scenes, all thoughts immediately go aside and your stomach goes awry for your upcoming meal.
Taking a seat and perusing the Vaca Brava menu for a moment, my buddy Scottie and I were greeted by a very nice and informative waitress who briefly went through all of our options.
It all looked so good, and being hung over from the previous night before (they sure do know how to party in San Juan), I ordered a Screwdriver and allowed the waitress to choose what we were going to eat!
What can I say? I like stepping out on a limb like that!
The fried plantain turnovers stuffed with ground beef at Vaca Brava Restaurant were quite a treat when dipped in a side of hot sauce or, better yet, this homemade sauce they made that tasted as it consisted of mayonnaise, ketchup, onions, and a variety of other herbs.
Either way, you had it — you just couldn’t stop at one as they were a mouthful of juicy, fulfilling deliciousness! Conveniently enough, as I had finished off my screwdriver and taken the last bite of these little critters, my appetite was just building up as our waitress brought out the main course.
Standing as proud as the 14,000-foot walls of the Maroon Bells out in Colorado when La Vaca Ensarta came out and presented herself, I was already defeated, and I must say, this is the best restaurant in Old San Juan. The main course (such a wise pick from the waitress) was a towering beast of sweet, tender chicken breast and pulled steak wrapped in a crispy layer of bacon.
But it doesn’t stop there. This juicy flap of meat sat vertically atop a bed of french fries accompanied with bacon bits, onions, green peppers, garlic, and many other herbs, then was smothered in a cheddar cheese topping.
To take things to the next level, they even covered the entire thing with a very sweet mushroom sauce. Oh, my friends, if there’s a dish in restaurants in Old San Juan that’s truly to die for, then I have found my main course to lay me down for all eternity!
We watched the waitress with extreme eagerness, she grabbed the steak knife and began cutting through this massive beast — oh, how the juices just came out of each stroke of the knife. I had to refrain from just jumping in there and start gnawing on the thing!
Lo and behold, as she placed two thick slices on our plate and dismissed herself, we feasted! I could barely get down the entirety of my meal. Come to think of it, I actually had to order another screwdriver just to wash it down!
The texture of the meat, the flavor, the smell — everything at Vaca Brava Restaurant was just exquisite! Even the service was excellent. From my experience, usually, you have to go into that whole “vacation” mentality and give everything twice the amount of time you would back home for it to come out, but not here.
This massive mound of a buffet came out in no time, and they didn’t spare any details in its preparation.
As we finished up, the waitress came out with the final course of our meal — three cheese flan with a side of strawberry cheesecake ice cream decorated with chocolate, cinnamon, and fresh pistachios.
The flan didn’t take on the typical characteristics of your everyday flan. This one had character, a unique quality found only in Vaca Brava, Puerto Rico. With every bite, you could taste the individual flavors melt in your mouth.
Then, with a side of strawberry cheesecake to compliment your curious cinnamon & pistachio kicking in some extra flavor, my full stomach wasn’t so full anymore.
By the time it was all said and done, we signed the check and left the restaurant as two very content individuals.
Satisfied and Eager for Exploration
As for now, our bellies were full and ready for the next adventure — exploring the El Yunque Rainforest!
Exploring the culinary delights of Puerto Rico? Make sure to indulge in the local flavors, and visiting Vaca Brava is a must-try for an authentic experience.