Top 10 Lechoneras of Puerto Rico

Lechón, lechonera, succulent, Pig, Puerto Rico

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James Beard, the American cooking authority, was not impressed with Puerto Rican cuisine when he was posted on the island during World War II. “I have always felt that food in the Caribbean is perhaps the worst in the world,” he wrote in his memoir, “Delights and Prejudices.” He would certainly change his mind if he could enjoy the work of the island’s modern chefs. But even back then, Mr. Beard noted one culinary saving grace: “Fortunately we had available ‘lechón asado’, the traditional roasted pig with its crisp skin and deliciously tender meat.”

Lechones (pigs) were originally brought to the island from Spain during Christopher Columbus’ second voyage in 1493, and they have been a staple in Puerto Rican cuisine ever since. Add to that a change in rule from native Taíno to Spanish to the American commonwealth it is today, and Puerto Rico’s eclectic menu reflects its historic roots with Caribbean flare. In addition to pork, the “lechoneras” serve mile-high platters of traditional dishes, from “amarillos” (sweet plantains) to “morcilla” (blood sausage). So what is a “lechonera”? Well, essentially a restaurant that specializes in roasted pork from a spit, or as Cindy Price wrote in the New York Times, “A party with a pig.”

“Lechoneras” can be found all over Puerto Rico, and several highways are known as “Rutas de Lechón” (Pig Routes) for their abundance of pig roasteries. However, the most famous is Route 184 in Guavate (Cayey), some 30 miles south of San Juan in the Sierra de Cayey mountains.

“Lechón asado” is Puerto Rico’s unofficial national dish. It’s served year-round but is particularly prevalent during the holidays – especially Christmas and Three Kings Day, marked on Jan. 6. But it’s not just roasted pig, because “Lechón asado” is a craft, a ritual, a celebration. The result, as Mr. Beard pointed out, is a whole animal, its skin brown and crisp, the meat beneath moist and juicy. Each morsel tastes of smoke and spice. The pork is customarily accompanied by “arroz con gandules” (rice with pigeon peas), “guineos” (green bananas) and “morcilla”.

For visitors who do not eat pork, there are many other tasty dishes on the menu, such as tender chicken, sausage and turkey, which is served with a variety of side dishes, including rice, tostones, beans and “mofongo” (a Puerto Rican dish with African influences, made from mashed, unripened plantains).

Guavate: Home of the Lechón

Guavate, located south of San Juan, is not the only place on the island for find great “lechón”, but it’s probably the most well known. The road up is just lined with “lechoneras”, or in simple words, a mini pork highway. Everyone you ask will have their favorite place. Some people like the first ones you come to on the road – delicious and easy in / easy out, but you can keep going up and up. The road eventually tees at Road 763. Turn right and then you will start getting into the serious “lechoneras”. Here is where the street party is – tons of people, bands and food (usually Saturday, Sunday and holidays).

Top 10 Lechoneras of Puerto Rico

Lechonera El Mojito

Very popular in the "Ruta del Lechón", for serving it crispy, with crushed rice, sausage, ribs and beans stewed in chicken broth. Came in expecting to get locally "lechón", walked out with an experience like no other. The bar is rustic (of…
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Angelito’s Place

A large, sturdy, roadside building, Angelito’s is the anchor of the ruta de lechón in Trujillo Alto. Many days, the line from the butcher table snakes out into the parking lot—because locals know that Rivera is a stickler for ingredients.…
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La Estación

Kevin Roth, a native New Yorker and graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, make one of the best "lechones" of the Island. La Estacion has been family owned and operated since 2006.  At La Estacion, Roth combines his love for Puerto…
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Lechonera Los Flamboyanes

For the last 21 years making traditional food in a space to share with the whole family. A very tasty "lechón" and interesting place. The pig is usually roasted for about 6 - 8 hours which ensures that the pork is pact with flavor, moist…
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Lechonera El Cuñao

“My father started this place over 60 years ago,” said Güiso López, owner of El Cuñao (“the brother-in-law”). The eatery makes one of the best gas-cooked pig in Puerto Rico, with a thin layer of fat beneath the cuero and nicely moist meat.…
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Lechonera El Rancho Original

Forty years serving one of the best best roasted pork of Puerto Rico. Here you can enjoy a pleasant atmosphere for your family, at the edge of the creek and dance music for everyone. In addition to the traditional food, you can buy the best…
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Lechonera Los Pinos

Years ago in his travel show, Anthony Bourdain touted this “lechonera” as the best roasted pork he had ever had. Since founded, Los Pinos never disappoints, having always great roasted pork. It is not fancy or high-end place, but a must if…
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Lechonera Los Amigos

Simply delicious! The "lechón" is so tasty and mouth watering and the arroz con gandules is so flavorful. For those who prefer white meat, delicious roast chicken is always available. Don't forget to try some of the plantains and other…
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El Rancho de Apa

Luis “Apa” Ramos is known by some as “El Rey de lechón asado” (the king of lechón) - and it’s not only locals who swear by his pig. Chef Eric Ripert flies Mr. Ramos up to New York each year for a "lechón" feast at his Michelin-starred Le…
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Lechonera Sazón Alvarado

Family dedicated for more than 50 years to the local pig industry. Today, the Alvarado family undertakes in his business in the preparation of 100% local roasted pig (supporting local pig farmers). In addition, Sazón Alvarado offers a wide…
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