5 Bites of Vieques, Puerto Rico
What Vieques lacks in space (the island is roughly 20 miles long), it sure makes up for in culinary offerings. From beachside food trucks and bars to tucked-away, upscale restaurants serving creative Caribbean fusion, Vieques offers more than a day’s worth of tempting treats.
Brunch: Chef Mike Duffy is carrying on the family restaurant tradition his father started decades before (his father opened a guesthouse in Isla Verde on Puerto Rico’s main island and a string of restaurants in Vieques). The younger Duffy opened Duffy’s in Esperanza in 2007 on the Malecon, the island’s main restaurant, bar, and shopping strip, and it has been popular ever since. Sunday brunch offerings include cinnamon sugar French toast with Vermont maple syrup; chipotle pulled pork tostadas; a spicy lobster Benedict with house hollandaise, tomato, and fresh herbs; and a build-your-own Bloody Mary bar.
Snack: Vieques has a vibrant food truck scene with more than a dozen to try, but most locals agree no trip to Vieques is complete without stopping by Sol Food. Often parked at the entrance of Sun Bay, Sol Food serves pinchos (skewered meat) like garlic shrimp and chicken with garlic, cilantro, and vinegar, and empanadas in flavors like traditional beef with capers and green olives and ham with Cheddar, Swiss, and aged gouda.
Dinner: El Quenepo is one of the fanciest restaurants in Esperanza but it’s also one of the best. "It’s a landmark here on the island," said chef Duffy of Duffy's, who runs four restaurants in Puerto Rico, but admires the fare at El Quenepo. The oceanfront restaurant’s menu consists of mostly seafood dishes based around the catch of the day. Don’t miss the mofongo, a Puerto Rican fried plantain dish filled with vegetables or meat that every chef and grandmother claims to make the best version of on the island. The mofongo here is made with breadfruit (a potato-like fruit) instead of plantains.
Dinner: With so many great dining gems in Vieques, it’s hard to choose just one dinner spot. Though it’s a bit off the main thoroughfare on Route 201 between Isabel and Esperanza, Next Course is worth the drive or the task of hailing a publica, commuter vans that serve as the island’s public transportation. The globetrotting menu — which features everything from ceviche to Greek salad — is the creation of chef/owner Buddy Stone, whose passion for playing with flavors and presentation is evident in each dish.
Drinks: After a lazy day spent on one of Vieques’ dozens of white sand beaches (the tiny island boasts more than 40), head to Lazy Jacks for a frosty Don Q rum-infused frozen drink, and live music. They even serve bar food so you can enjoy a cheeseburger in paradise, too.
Lauren Mack is the Special Projects Editor at The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @lmack.