The Bottom Line
- If you're on the hunt for roast pork, head for Varita .
- If it's beef you're after, Varita will show you how it's done in Puerto Rico.
- Chicken on your mind? Varita's roast is fall-off-the-bone tender.
- Surprisingly affordable, considering the pedigree.
- Vegetarians, this isn't the place for you (although there are decent salads).
- The pulled pork with crispy pork skin appetizer had my friend swooning for more.
- The bar is another nice touch at Varita, with plasma screens and the only micro-brew in Puerto Rico.
- If you have space for it, dessert includes flan de queso, or cheese flan, pecan pie, and guava cheesecake.
Guide Review - Review of Varita Restaurant in San Juan
All ovens at Varita are wood-burning. The restaurant's decor has tables fashioned to resemble butcher blocks (made from recycled wood), columns formed of pressed coconut fiber, and even one section of roof made out of zinc, like a typical lechonera. But it has none of the austerity of an old-fashioned steakhouse; rather, it has a welcoming warmth, a casual, modern decor, and prices so reasonable you wouldn't think you were enjoying the creations of one of Puerto Rico's most celebrated chefs.
As for the food, as you might have guessed by now, meat is the star of the show (although there are options for those who want something else). The Puerto Rican stalwart, lechón, is a specialty here, spit-roasted in an oven big enough to carry several of them at once. Pernil, another classic made with pork shoulder, is another highlight. At Varita, you'll find a mix of typical island comfort-food specialties -- like pionones, which are delicious plantain and beef fritters, served with a mayo-ketchup chipotle sauce -- as well as Chef Benet's own brand of home-cooking -- try anything with corned beef, one of the chef's favorite foods. You really can't go wrong with any entree from the beef, pork, or chicken menu, but just in case that's not your thing, the bacalao, or salted cod, with a coconut polenta is a terrific alternative. At Varita, you should come hungry, eat hearty, and leave happy. I know I did.