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Live Boricua: Pork Highway and Chinchorreo Routes in Puerto Rico

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To "live boricua", is to live like a local in Puerto Rico. No matter where I am on the globe, I seek out the local flavors, native cultures, and try to understand a nation at its core...mostly through my stomach.


In Puerto Rico, visiting the popular Puerto Rican street food kiosks called chinchorros is exactly how you live the boricua way in the American territory south of Florida. In my opinion, no trip to Puerto Rico is complete without taking a food tour of these lively locales.


So while I was in Puerto Rico recently I looked up my friend Laura Beatriz, owner of the Sofrito Tours company, to show me the ropes on how to navigate the Chinchorreo routes in Puerto Rico. Together, she and I explored the coastline, the mountain roads and the city streets and we ate a lot.


With Laura's knowledge in Puerto Rico's history, and her insider tips on the most secret spots to eat, I definitely walked away more educated (and probably a few pounds heavier).


Let's dive into the Chinchorreo routes in Puerto Rico, the typical dishes you can expect to sample at each stop, and what surprises may lay in store for you on your gastronomic tour.


Vamanos!




In this article I explore:



roadside restaurant

What is a Chinchorreo in Puerto Rico?

In a nutshell, the Chinchorreo experience is a food-centric pub crawl. Often conducted in tours of 15 people or more like a big party bus, it's a communal activity full of eating, drinking, and occasionally even music and dancing. It's about as boricua as it gets.


The chinchorro, on the other hand, is the actual kiosk or establishment where you get your grub.


I had to try out this amazing gastronomic experience, but frankly where was I supposed to find 15 friends to join me?


That's where Sofrito Tours comes in. After loads of research, I wasn't coming up with any companies willing to do the chinchorreo routes with a small group, until I found Laura.


Let me share what I learned.



What Will I Eat on a Chinchorreo Tour?

Typical Chinchorreo snacks and food may consist of fried fritters, slow roasted pork, rice or yuca.


Here's some of the offerings:


Alcapurrias


fried banana shaped fritters

Delicious banana shaped fried things, these odd looking treats are absolutely delicious, and a must try when in Loiza and the beach route. Inside you can find many things, but we enjoyed yuca and meat in ours. YUM



Bacalaitos (Cod Fritters)


cod fritter at the beach

My first time I had these was at La Casita Blanca, and then I went home to write an ode to bacalaitos. Simply, I love these cod fish fritters. They are flat and fried, and in many cases can be as large as your head! My personal recommendation is to enjoy these with some mayo-ketchup, but apparently that isn't always the most "boricua" way.


Yuca and Batatas


potatoes and yuca

I really love the slimy, white yuca. It's similar to a potato I guess, but that's not a fair way to describe it.


Also, there is batata, which is a sweet potato. Read: potato that is sweet, not an orange sweet potato. This had almost a cinnamon sugar flavor - really nice!


Try these both with your Lechon.



Roast Pork (Lechon Asado)


spit roasted pork

The star of the show, a roasted pork can be spit roasted for hours before serving crowds until there's nothing more than a head left. This is some good eating, and if you like the crunchy pork skin - dig in, it's divine!



Arroz con Gandules (Rice with Pigeon Peas)


yellow rice with peas

The classic Puerto Rican household favorite, arroz con gandules is a simple yellow rice with small caper colored peas. Cutting the grease from the Lechon, it's a great addition to a pork highway meal as well.


Pasteles


tamale style food called pasteles

Pasteles come wrapped in paper and are similar to a tamale. Served hot, they are masa based packets of corn and meat. The taste is a little sour, making for an interesting add on to a pork highway meal.


What to Expect on a Chinchorreo Tour

Whether the big party bus or a small group, be reminded it is still a rainforest country so expect heat and bugs. Bring bug spray and comfortable clothing for the weather. Sturdy shoes are a good idea, and you're going to want to have a bottle of water on hand.


Bring cash for the vendors, who can be quite rustic and may not take credit cards. Puerto Rico takes US Dollars.


Depending on where you go, you may be deep into the woodsy bits of PR or you may just be pulling off the road at a roadside restaurant. Expect anything, but typically places have beer, sodas, water, credit card machines and clean bathrooms.


English is readily spoken, but having some rudimentary "foodie knowledge" won't hurt.



Chinchorreo Routes to Visit


Loiza and Playa Pinones (The Coastal Route)

Taking the coast road east of San Juan, it is easy to find dozens of kiosks and chinchorros along the route. Truth be told, any and all of them looked great. Some were advertising 'fresh and alive clams' and others had lines of people - indicating a worthy spot to visit.


These spots will be your best bet for seafood and fried fritters like the alcapurrias and bacalaitos.




sand coast view of beach road

Santurce and La Placita

Imagine a farmers market by day and salsa block party by night and there you have Santurce.


With an artsy vibe, this cool barrio (neighborhood) offers up local eats, cold Medalla and Magna beers, and ample opportunities for sampling kiosk treats.



Note: Sofrito Tours offers a taste of both of these routes and locations all in the same tour! Contact Laura to modify or customize your trip and she will be happy to work with you.





The Pork Highway

Also called the "Ruta del Lechon", the route follows 184 through Guavate and Cayey areas about one hour south of San Juan.


Taking the convenient express toll lanes cuts the time in half as a smooth highway experience lends way to mountainous vistas and green lush forests skylines.


Enjoy your Lechon - spit roasted pork - roadside anytime mid day, when there is plenty of pork available. Be aware many places close in the early evening/late afternoon.


Lechon or roasted pork

A heaping plate of food will include rice, pork, yuca, batata, sausages and a number of other great offerings. Try some or try them all, but note that your pork is ordered by weight! A pound of pork will easily feed two people with lots of leftovers.






How to Book Your Chinchorreo Tour

It is easy to book your tour with Sofrito Tours at any of the provided links.


With offerings starting at $85 and free cancellation, the tours are conducted by a historian with great knowledge of not only the history of the area, but of the island's best foodie offerings.


I've heard great things about their waterfalls tour too, but that's not all. Check out some of the other amazing tours to consider with Sofrito Tours including:



I personally got to enjoy some time in Cayey's beautiful plaza after munching on Lechon, and this can be a part of your tour too.


Book your chinchorreo tour with Sofrito Tours and mention Always Pack Tissues when you do! Have a great time noshing your way around Puerto Rico's Pork Highway and beyond.

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