Looking for authentic Puerto Rican food? Look no further than El Taino
Jacksonville has been in need of a good Puerto Rican restaurant for quite some time. I was alerted to El Taino Bar and Restaurant by a friend of mine, so we made a point to get in there ASAP. My husband was born and raised in Puerto Rico so he was thrilled to hear about this place. We visited on a Monday evening for dinner and were promptly seated and given our menus while the waitress went to grab our drinks. I was very happy to see the variety of Puerto Rican dishes on the menu as well as many different mofongo variations! In case you are unfamiliar, mofongo is a traditional dish consisting of mashed plantains with chunks of chicharones mixed in. It can be served by itself or with different fillings. We were in the mood for other things on this trip, but we are going to make sure to come back to try the mofongo.
Our meal started with an order of Tostones. Typically, tostones are served alone with a sprinkling of salt. These were served as cups with different filling options. We decided on the shrimp tostones and were unsure what we would get. The cups were loaded with shrimp and some sort of chunky salsa. It was not spicy at all and had a nice flavor to it. The shrimp were cut into smaller pieces so it was easier to bite through as well.
For my meal I went with the Pernil, which slow-roasted marinated pork shoulder. I love pernil due to the seasonings used, and El Taino did not disappoint! The meat was juicy and packed with flavor in every bite. I was given a generous portion along with a small side salad and a monstrous side of Arroz con Gandules (rice with pigeon peas). As with any carb lover, the rice was my favorite part. It had chunks of pork alongside the gandules and tasted just like the rice I’ve eaten while visiting family in Puerto Rico.
My husband ordered the Bistec Encebollado, which is steak and onions prepared in a skillet. The steak remains super tender and juicy and the onions have a slight vinegar taste. His meal was also served with a small side salad and a gargantuan side of arroz con gandules.
Verdict: Loved it!
We were very pleased with every aspect of the meal. The restaurant is clean and has a nice outdoor section with a few tables, the service was wonderful, and the food was outstanding. I know Puerto Rican food might be new to some people, but it’s definitely worth trying. If you are unsure about what to get, I would recommend the Pernil for your first visit. This is definitely the best Puerto Rican meal we have had in Jacksonville as my husband has been raving about it ever since. For him it’s hard to find restaurants that taste like home, and I’m happy to say that he has found that in El Taino. We will definitely be back to try more things off of the menu and I hope to see you there!