It was my first morning in San Juan, and I was determined to test out a mallorca; a sweet bread that Puerto Rico is famous for. My research tells me that the most renowned breakfast place is La Bombonera, and I set out on the hunt for this little morsel.
After wandering down Calle de San Francisco (literally the street of San Francisco…or Saint Francis Street if you really want the English translation) I am accosted by a guy who clearly moonlights by talking to tourists on the street, who he then latches onto and bombards with information about the city. His day job is working at the Tourist office, so he is able to give me a few tips, and of course I know I am expected to give him one in return. I fork over $2 and he asks for another dollar (“for a coffee; I’m broke”). I suggest he has enough for a coffee and say my good byes.
I pull up a stool alongside the locals at the counter, and the menu displays a mix of the usual stuff (bacon, eggs, fruit) along with various types of mallorcas. My head spins as I read that they serve it plain, or with various combinations of ham, cheese, eggs, bacon and other brekkie delights, which I couldn’t understand as my limited research had turned up the fact that it was sweet!
I played it safe and ordered the plain mallorca, grilled. It automatically comes with powdered sugar on top. It was mouth-wateringly good, much like a brioche but lighter, but as I eat I watch longingly as they prepare the savoury versions…
They start with a snail-shaped bread like this (but without the sugar). You can buy these ones to take away.
And fill them up with savoury items, then put it onto a grill. When it’s all done, they sprinkle sugar on, cut it in half and serve it.
I quickly realise that playing it safe was a massive mistake; I should have ordered one of the savoury ones, dammit!
Not to worry. As I head off along Calle de San Francisco toward one of the two forts that San Juan is famous for (and which you are meant to visit; I never actually get to either fort, by the way…), lady luck shines upon me: less than a block from La Bombonera is Cafe Mallorca, the second most famous place in San Juan for breakfast!
Do you remember that scene from the first Lord of the Rings film where they stop riding, and the hobbits pull out their pans, ready to kick off some home cooking. Aragorn looks on, horrified, and exclaims “But you’ve already HAD breakfast!”. The hobbits explain: “But this is second breakfast!”
Life is short. In I go.
After chatting to some helpful locals, I order a coffee (cafe con leche), a ham and cheese mallorca, and a small fruit plate (well, I had to do SOMETHING to compensate). When the mallorca arrives, I must say that I found the combination of sweet and savoury rather scrummy (so much so that I took myself back to La Bombonera on my final day to knock over another one).
After second breakfast was done, I hitched a ride on the free bus that trundles around Old San Juan. As I waited, and gawked at the beautifully restored colourful buildings, it seemed that hanging over balconies, checking out the street life in Old San Juan, is something of a local pastime.
On the journey, I noticed this rather intriguing poster, advertising a local restaurant, Cafe Aureola. Could this be a strip club?