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San Juan

mahi mahi parrot club san juanSan Juan has a truly cosmopolitan restaurant scene, with culinary options from around the globe. But if you're looking for local favorites, you'll find plenty of arroz con pollo (chicken with rice), empanadillas (fried turnovers filled with meat or seafood) and many varieties of plantains. Medalla Light is the local beer, and while Bacardi is the better-known rum produced in Puerto Rico, the locals prefer Don Q -- an equally (if not more) venerable brand.

The Parrot Club is the restaurant that inspired San Juan's gourmet revolution, and while it's a bit more passe these days, it's one of the few in the trendy SoFo (south of Fortaleza restaurant district) to open for lunch. It's known for its Nuevo Latino cuisine, and it hosts live Latin jazz on Saturday nights.

Also in the aforementioned SoFo area, one of the hip restaurants of the moment is Marmalade, which offers a U.S.-inspired menu -- think Maine lobster, Colorado lamb shank lasagna and wild Alaskan halibut -- as well as a wine bar.

Nearby is Kudeta, which, with its pan-Asian cuisine, feels like something out of Bangkok, serving up dishes like paella valenciana risotto and shrimp curry.

Aguaviva is another trendy place; the specialty here is seafood, and it has an extensive oyster/ceviche bar. (Note the whimsical, jellyfish-like chandeliers.)

Belly up to the counter at La Bombonera and order a freshly squeezed glass of orange juice and one of its delicious mallorcas (or, for lunch, a classic Cubano sandwich). The circa-1902 bakery/lunch eatery is open all day.

Baires was an unexpected find on our last visit to San Juan. The Argentinean-themed restaurant has live music some nights and delicious fare, ranging from grilled sweetbreads and steaks to pasta.

Dragonfly, a fabulous Latino-Asian restaurant, offers "Dragonfries" -- French fries dusted with cinnamon and ginger -- as well as a selection of dumplings, sushi and other Asian dishes.
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