I was staying at a resort a hotel, on San Juan, Puerto Rico's Isla Verde, located along the beaches of the Island's north coast. "I'm sorry sir, but we no longer carry them on the menu," she answered.
"That's too bad. They were really good," I said and started to look over the menu for another selection. The waitress laughed and then looked around. She leaned down and whispered in my ear, "You know señor if you want the best empanadillas on the island you should go to Piñones," she said.
"Piñones, huh? Can you recommend a restaurant in this Piñones?" Again she laughed. "Just go to Piñones. All the places to eat are good. Just pick one. You will see what I mean when you go. "
When in San Juan, with the exception of a few appointments, I normally don't make it a habit to venture far from the Hotels that are located in the more touristy areas far a few reasons. For one, maneuvering through the traffic can make Mr. Toad's Wild Ride look like a stroll in the park. Secondly, while English is spoken by nearly everyone, the further you get away from San Juan, the harder it becomes to communicate. But on this day, I needed a break from the hotel food. So, I decided to be a little adventurous. I jumped in my rental car and turned left on Highway 187.
The Piñones region is just east of San Juan and connects this larger metropolitan area with a small town called Loiza. It was later in the day and the setting sun behind me created a wonderful brilliance on the sandy beaches to my left. The surf was beginning to pick up and as waves crashed to shore the watery mist intermingled perfectly with the glow from the setting sun and created a remarkable vista. To my right, lining the other side of highway were plush mango groves and towering palm trees. It was a quiet, relaxing and comfortable evening drive. The scenery alone was worth trip and the hypnotic affect it had on me almost made me forget my original purpose for making the drive until I came upon little small stands and kiosks, lining both sides of the highway, many with open flames.
I then understood what the waitress meant when she said to just pick one. I had my choice of eateries. They were everywhere and they were all serving deep fried Puerto Rican delicacies. I pulled over to take advantage of the fare and for the next 30 minutes I was treated to a barrage of mouth watering, deep fried dishes with names such as alcapurrias, bacalaítos, pasteles, and of course empanadas that were so good they would even make Man versus Food's Adam Richman smile with pleasure. I topped my meal off with a refreshing, non-alcoholic Piña Colada (although the proprietor did offer me a little rum!). And all of this cost me just ten bucks.
Sometimes good things can be found off the beaten path.