If a restaurant is promoted as a mesón gastronómico, you know it’s going to be good.
Most tourism hubs in Puerto Rico, like San Juan and Rincón, have a huge range of excellent restaurants which are easy to find, have English-language menus and bilingual servers, and offer consistently great service and food. It can get a bit trickier to know where to stop for lunch as you explore the central mountain range or small fishing towns along the coast where there’s typically less tourism (aside from locals out on a daytrip).
That’s why the Puerto Rico Tourism Company (PRTC) established the Mesones Gastronómicos program in 1987. Participating restaurants, all of which are in regions outside of the metro area, have been endorsed by the PRTC as offering excellent service, high-quality food, and maintaining their facilities in the best possible conditions. You’ll recognize which restaurants are endorsed by a large sign outside that reads Mesones Gastronómicos that also has the name of the PRTC in Spanish (Compañía de Turismo de Puerto Rico).
All of the restaurants currently listed serve authentic criollo food (Puerto Rican creole), some leaning more towards meat-centric dishes (particularly those restaurants located in the central region of the island), while others focus more on local seafood and fish (the coastal towns). What they all have in common are classic Puerto Rican staples like rice and beans, mofongo, tostones, and other specialties.
As you drive around the island, you’ll see signs listing the different region names such as Porta del Este, Porta del Sol, and so on. These are tourism regions and the mesones gastronómicos are divided by this particular designation.