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Flip-Flop Dining: Six Low-Key Restaurants in Vieques


Vieques is an interesting mix of unspoiled, almost savage nature and manicured manmade beauty. The same dichotomy exists in the island's hotels and restaurants. As far as eateries go, you can enjoy an international gourmet meal or go rustic and chow down on some good comfort food. Here, we focus on this latter pursuit.

1. Orquideas Restaurant

Photo © Zain Deane

My favorite lunch spot in Vieques is Orquideas. Even though it has little to offer by way of Puerto Rican cooking, the gourmet sandwiches, salads and sides, made with fresh ingredients by Chef Beverly, are simple and delicious. Whether you eat in or order take-away for a picnic lunch, you can't go wrong with the food here.

2. Bananas

Photo © Zain Deane
Any place with a plaque proclaiming itself a "Gin-U-Wine Sleazy Waterfront Dive" won't care a whole lot about what its customers are wearing when they walk through the door. Which is a good thing, because Banana's is a popular, rustic island eatery that is almost a rite of passage in Vieques. It was one of the first tourist stops on the island, and it's durability has much to do with its menu and reputation as a late-night hotspot.

Consider that the half-pound burgers have never been made with frozen patties, or that the fish sandwish tastes fresh and crispy, and you begin to see why Bananas remains a crowd favorite. The menu is limited, cheap, and offers great views of the ocean. At night, the second floor is where the party's at.

3. El Resuelve

Off Route 997, which links Esperanza and Isabel II, in the Barrio Destino, lies El Resuelve. Another shack, this one is miles away from the beach and has probably never produced a hot dog in its existence. Rather, El Resuelve serves up hearty platters of pure Puerto Rican home cooking. Grab an aluminum chair and take a look at whatever's on the menu for the day. Chicken with rice 'n beans, fingers foods, or basic fish dishes can be had here. Chow down to the beat of raggaetón and salsa booming from the radio.

4. El Patio

Located at 340 Antonio G Mellado Street in Isabel II, El Patio is typifies no-frills island eating. The menu is written daily on a small blackboard, and can run the gamut of Puerto Rican classics (they have great seafood and fish dishes), but it's nothing fancy; just tasty and simply prepared food. For the money, you won't find anything better, and the fulfilling breakfasts draw happy crowds from all over the island.

5. Panadería La Viequense

At 352 Antonio G Mellado Street in Isabel II is a longstanding island institution. This hugely popular bakery and deli is the place to go if you want to take your flip flops and your lunch with you to the beach. Known for their mammoth and creatively crafted sandwiches (like the namesake Viequense, which combines pork, turkey, ham, pepperoni and pepinillo) and baked goods (especially their pan de mallorca), the panadería gets mobbed on weekends.

6. Belly Buttons Cafe

Located on the malecón, or boardwalk, a block or two away from Bananas, the unusually named Belly Buttons (named after the owner, not necessarily the body part), is a reliable spot for unsophisticated but belly-filling breakfast and lunch fare. Think omelets, sandwiches (a solid Reuben), French Toast and similar plates.

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