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As mainland chains disappear across Puerto Rico, homegrown restaurants pop up in their place

El Vigía. Photo courtesy of the Carrión family

During my husband’s family reunions, “El Vigía” is often mentioned: A patriarch of sorts, El Vigía is a vigilant presence looking after several generations of the family in their hometown of San Juan, Puerto Rico. Idyllic, sentimental tales about dearly departed El Vigía are told through misty eyes. Yet, El Vigía is not a long-lost family member. El Vigía (translation: “the lookout”) was the family home, as deeply beloved and mourned as the ancestors who once inhabited it.

Built in 1921 in Santurce, then considered the rural outskirts of San Juan, El Vigía stood on a sizable parcel between Loíza…

You’ve been to this place

Illustration: Alexa Miller

In Whateverwhere, USA, in a busy entertainment district indistinguishable from anywhere else, another small-plates New American restaurant is soft opening to hard praise and fanfare. A gaggle of well-dressed folks giggle in this dimly lit, generically trendy place, feting the precious food.

These people will press themselves against a long, impressive bar, harrying unflappable wait staff for cocktails dead people drank long ago. They will squeeze into dining booths, ordering from an obscurantist menu. Plates will arrive, with more color than sense, Technicolor vegetables sitting in bewildered jus. …


Food from every angle: From Medium x Mark Bittman

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