Rincon is a small, sunny, laid back surf town on the Northwest coast of Puerto Rico. Attracting hundreds of thousands of people from around the world each year with its unbeatable swell, Rincon has changed over the past several decades from a quiet local spot to a town buzzing with retro hotels, healthy California-style eateries, and a good portion of tourists who visit and never leave.
The roads are lined with spots to get your post-surf Acai Bowls, egg-avo breakfast wraps, iced coffee with choice of dairy-free milk, and local brands of kombucha, sauerkraut, wheatgrass, and adaptogenic powder blends. There’s an organic farm stand open seven days a week that offers homemade hummus, veggie burgers, and vegan cookies, in addition to locally grown produce. You can track down one of the many expats that go fishing to whip up a meal with fresh grouper, snapper, or mahi mahi. The restaurants range from side-of-the-road stop-and-go cafes with hippie decor to formal gourmet dineries with insane views of the Caribbean Sea, all with an slight Puerto Rican spin on healthy, American cuisine and a side of rice and beans, of course.
But there’s one restaurant in Rincon that has somehow managed to stand out: La Cambija. One of the only major establishments left in Rincon that is still owned and operated by locals, it’s a casual, open-air restaurant close to the town center with no view of the ocean, but a guaranteed hour-long wait if you show up past 6 p.m. (where you’ll sit at the bar in a mixed group of tourists and locals and take advantage of their $5 rum punch and Medalla beer deals until 8 p.m.).
So what exactly is the secret sauce La Cambija is using to attract droves of visitors to their doors? An authentic Puerto Rican (or criollo) style of of preparing fresh, local seafood at extremely reasonable prices. The menu at La Cambija is short and sweet: everything from your standard Rincon fish tacos to traditional Puerto Rican empanadas and a classic fillet of fish. You could order almost every dish with either chicken or one of the many fresh seafoods caught that day (grouper, mahi mahi, snapper, lobster, shrimp), and a list of side dishes that my abuela herself could not have made better. The spice profile—heavily revolving around the magical powers of garlic, olive oil, and sofrito—is enough to make you weak at the knees.
My recommendation? Order the pinchos (your choice of seafood, grilled on skewers) with a side of mamposteao (mixture of rice and beans slow-cooked to perfection), and enjoy that rum punch.