About thirteen years ago I randomly went into a restaurant that just opened in Old San Juan. It was a Latin fusion place long before you could find a ceviche bar in Ohio. There was live jazz music, black and white tiles, a vibrant bar area, and an overall feeling that you had been swept away into Havana in the 1920’s. The restaurant was called the Parrot Club.
A week ago, with an extra day in San Juan with nowhere to go and only places eat, I went back to the Parrot Club to thankfully find it just as I left it. The décor and atmosphere was exactly the same. The menu was tweaked, but not excessively changed. A part of OOF restaurants, the Parrot Club is an example of a Latin-Caribbean theme done right. They found a rhythm and just stuck with it. OOF now pumps out trendier and trendier restaurants every year throughout San Juan, but the Parrot Club is the one that feels most like a real place, not a place designed to become the place to be.
Their signature cocktail is the Parrot Passion, a frozen blend of Bacardi Limon, orange juice, and passionfruit juice, though their mojitos do the trick as well. To snack on, they bring out a bowl of plantain chips and a sauce – which I was told was Huancaina and wasn’t (I think they are confusing it with a green, aji based sauce served often in Peru). They menu relies quite a bit on South America, especially Peru, though Puerto Rican and Cuban dishes are still at the heart of the menu.
The lunch sandwiches are big and powerful. The Nuevo Cubano adds thick layers of sliced roasted pork and country ham, Gruyere cheese, pickles, and mustard to a Ciabatta roll. I couldn’t finish one on my own.
Other menu highlights:
-Taquitos de Cabrito – Tacos with Caribbean Braised Goat.
-Sorullos de Arepa con Queso Fundido – Corn fritters with melted cheese fondue.
-Arroz Frita Chifa Peruano – In Peru, this would just be Arroz Chaufa con Cangrejo y Chorizo OR Fried Rice with Crab and Chorizo.
-Ceviche de Mahi Mahi
-Pinchos de Pollo con Mofongo – A nice contemporary Puerto Rican dish. Small cuts of chicken in a Mojo Verde sauce and mofongo.
-Plantain Crusted Dorado – Mahi Mahi with a plantain crust in a aji Amarillo/beurre blanc sauce served with Peruvian Potatoes.
-Flan de Guaybana
-Dulce de Leche Brownies
The Parrot Club
363 Fortaleza Street
Old San Juan, Puerto Rico
Writer and photographer Nicholas Gill is the editor/publisher of New World Review. He lives in Lima, Peru and Brooklyn, New York. His work has appeared in publications such as the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, CondeNast Traveler, National Geographic Traveler, Afar, and Penthouse. Visit his personal website (nicholas-gill.com) for more information.