A couple months back, we took a trip to Puerto Rico. Before our departure, we got a book, a Lonely Planet guide to spark our culinary adventures on this Caribbean island just shy of the Dominican Republic. We had three days to explore and what we found was comida frita, or fried food, and we found it everywhere. Fried cheese, fried yucca, fried plantains, fried fish, fried dough, fried eggs and re-fried beans graced us with their presence multiple times over a three-day span. While some of the traditional dishes were pleasing, like mofongo and salted cod, they also left the stomach with something to be desired. There was the soggy and cold Puerto Rican breakfast we searched for on day one (and recommended by Lonely Planet,) there was the lunch at Luquillo Beach, consisting the cheapest smorgasbord of fried food $20 could buy (we had left our wallets in lockers) and the overpriced, lumpy and tasteless Italian meal we had near the strip of casinos. Then on the last day, we found exactly what we had been yearning for: Pan de Mallorca—an age old Puerto Rican treat, accompanied perfectly with a café con leche—and we found this local delicacy at an age old establishment called La Bombonera in Old San Juan.
Established at the turn of the century in 1902, La Bombonera is the definition of old school diner. The window display is filled with house-made pastries, the counter has rotating stools, the booths covered in red vinyl and the coffee machine churns out endless cups of coffee while presenting itself as the chrome version of the emerald city. The servers don red polo shirts, speak only Spanish and carry three cups of café con leche by the handle in one hand, and a plate in the other. When the sever arrived, Sanaë, fluent in Spanish, ordered two coffees, two Mallorcas (one with ham and cheese and the other with butter) and pancakes. So what is a Mallorca? In layman’s terms: a buttery, fluffy, incredibly delicious breakfast pastry, topped with a healthy helping of confectioners sugar and stuffed with savory meats or sweet jams. It is served toasted on both sides and warm, melting the contents inside. Named after its origin, an island owned by Spain in the Mediterranean Sea, Mallorcas pair perfectly with a Puerto Rican style coffee—a strong espresso with a bit of steamed milk—almost to the point where dipping is mandatory.
Our experience at La Bombonera was classic. This perfect breakfast made up for two days of lackluster food excursions. We got just what we wanted out of a local joint: a delicious meal and cultural experience without having to refill our wallets. Our only regret: just two ham and cheese Mallorcas would have been sufficient.
Photos from Our Trip…Outside of La Bombonera