Dine on seafood in an oceanfront bungalow at El Quenepo (148 Calle Flamboyan; 787-741-1215), an Esperanza newcomer where traditional Puerto Rican dishes get a cosmopolitan upgrade. Local conch becomes rich, New England-style chowder ($12), while shrimp and lobster are served in a fried breadfruit shell ($34). There’s a pricey, mostly European selection of wines, but the cocktails and local beers are bargains.
Treat your taste buds to an eclectic meal at Next Course (Route 201; 787-741-1028), chef Buddy Stone’s global restaurant inspired by his extensive travels throughout Europe and Asia. Here, you’re likely to find wontons and tempura sitting alongside ceviches and risotto. For dessert, the locals’ favorite is a homemade ice-cream sandwich ($9) made with still-warm chocolate chip peanut butter cookies.
Dine with chatty locals at El Patio, an unpretentious, Formica-filled diner in Isabel Segunda. Dinner might be flash-fried local shrimp ($19) or hefty Argentine steaks ($19) with a side of rice and beans ($4). Owner Gui Sanchez and his family have run the eatery since 1993, lending it an authentic, homespun feel that you’re unlikely to find in some of the island’s glitzier restaurants.