It was the last day of our week-long family trip to San Juan, Puerto Rico and now nearing lunchtime. While strolling through the beautiful streets taking in the colorful architecture and history we were each getting pretty hungry. You know…that kind of hunger where your blood sugar is getting low and you are one notch away from becoming really cranky. Yeah, that. And now we were trying to find a lunch spot we ALL agreed upon. That already has disaster written all over it.
At least my mom, dad, brother and I are all vegetarian, so that helps. But, as we walked through the blue cobblestone streets of Old San Juan and found ourselves standing in front of the Hard Rock Cafe, I already knew exactly how this story was going to play out.
“Let’s just eat here” my brother said.
“No way” I annoyingly shot back!
My rule of thumb: when in a new location, try something local or highly recommended. Why on earth would you want to eat at a chain restaurant when there are probably many amazing local establishments with awesome food, potentially within the vicinity?? I would never willingly choose to eat at the Hard Rock back at home, why would I ever eat here on vacation?
After a short bicker session between us that was broken up by my dad, I offered to take a quick peek around the block to see if I could come up with an alternative. I knew there was a ticking time bomb of about three minutes in which I needed to find an alternate option before my brother made the executive decision for all of us. I was literally praying to the Vegetarian Food Gods to bless me with something, really anything, and spare me from having to eat at the Hard Rock Cafe.
Well, I am here to tell you that miracles really do happen and my prayers were answered! Seriously, the place I randomly found was heaven-sent. I stumbled upon the adorable restaurant called Verde Mesa and quickly ran up to the window to look at the menu. They had a wonderful assortment of vegetarian and organic offerings and I knew this was going to be our place.
I went back and got the family and we were immediately seated at a table. There was still a weirdness in the air as we ordered our meals in silence (I think my brother was still cooling off from our spat). As our food arrived, and still unsure if this place was going to be good, one by one we were all astounded at how amazing each dish was. Then we all started sharing our own dish and making sure each person at the table got to try it. Now, all we could talk about was how tasty and delicious this food was and how sad we were to have only discovered it hours before our flight home.
While absolutely everything we ate was awesome, there were two stand-outs: the freshly pressed pear-ginger juice and the protein power sandwich.
If you follow my blog, you know my obsession with anything that has pear in it (read my post on pear martinis here). The fresh pear-ginger juice was so refreshing and light and packed with flavor. What probably made it amazing were the pears; grown in a tropical climate on a local organic farm really does make a difference. Couple that with the spiciness of the ginger and you are experiencing a little bit of heaven. Even if you aren’t as into pears as I am, I highly recommend this drink.
Unfortunately I don’t have a picture of the power protein sandwich, so you will just have to imagine it (or better yet, I will just have to go back to San Juan to take a picture of it)! The sandwich is served on thick pita with marinated tofu, hummus, raw and roasted veggies, balsamic dressing and provolone cheese. I just remember that as I was eating this sandwich, I was thinking it was probably one of the best veggie sandwiches I have ever had. If you are vegetarian, you know that is a tall order for a sandwich!
Check out all the great reviews of this restaurant, and even the sandwich, here on Yelp.
Honestly, if you are in San Juan, it would be a disgrace to miss out on Verde Mesa. Make sure you make at least one visit, if not more!