As I was organizing the binder of local restaurant menus that we have for guests at the Rainforest Inn, I became intrigued with the variety of restaurants in the nearby town of Palmer. Palmer is at the main entrance of El Yunque National Rainforest, about a 20 minute drive from the Rainforest Inn. Because of its location at the main entrance to “El Yunque”, the town of Palmer gets frequented by a lot of tourists on a daily basis. The influx of tourists coming to this small town has led to several interesting and eclectic restaurants opening on the main street, the “calle principal”.
On a Tuesday afternoon, Bill dropped me off in Palmer to explore the food scene. My first stop was Lluvia, a sit down restaurant open for breakfast and lunch. The interior of Lluvia was very aesthetically pleasing, with a clean and spacious look. They also had AC, which is a big plus for those summer days in Puerto Rico where temperatures down in the lower elevations can be high.
I ordered a salad that had romaine lettuce, walnuts, goat cheese, dried cranberries, chicken, red onion, (sorry Bill and Renée it wasn’t vegetarian), and balsamic vinaigrette. It was really tasty, and I had a refreshing watermelon juice that paired well with the meal.
My next stop was at a vegan juice bar called Degree 18. The restaurant opened in 2016, but recently had a change of ownership. The owners are passionate about vegan food, as well as showing vegans and non vegan skeptics how delicious and innovative the cuisine can be. In the future, they hope to expand to other areas of the island.
I felt right at home at Degree 18. Seating is outdoors only, but there are plenty of umbrellas and canapés to ensure you find a shady spot to enjoy your meal. As a lover of vegan food, I was eager to see what yummy concoctions this place had in store for me. All ingredients used at Degree 18 are as fresh as possible, and some are even grown on their own property.
For my meal at Degree 18, I ordered the pink tide smoothie bowl. The base of the bowl had bananas, strawberries, raspberries, and mango. It was topped with blueberries, bee pollen, hemp seeds, and granola. It was very refreshing and delicious! The portion was a good size, and I actually couldn’t finish it because I got quite full.
The menu at Degree 18 features a wide variety of smoothies, smoothie bowls, juices, and vegan grub. In true Puerto Rican fashion, you can add hard liquor to any smoothie or juice for a slight up-charge!
Bill and Renée told me about their amazing veggie burger with a curry sauce. They also get their lentil wrap. I went back a couple of days later with my family (visiting Puerto Rico that week and hiking in the rainforest) and got their curry sauce veggie burger. It was amazing and my family was impressed with their meals too.
Another thing I liked about Degree 18 was the friendliness of the staff. They are eager to give customers information about all the wonderful things this island has to offer, and answer any question you might have whether it be related to the juice bar or not.
The next food establishment I checked out in Palmer was Mi Vida Cafe. I was still too full to try anything, but I ordered a coffee from the bar. Bill tells me this place has great fish tacos, as well as a good selection of fine whiskey.. This place definitely attracts locals and tourists alike. They serve traditional Puerto Rican food, as well as other unique dishes. They will serve your veggie or beef burger with tostones for the bun if you are gluten free.
The owner sources his coffee straight from the island, it’s Adjuntos coffee from Puerto Rico Coffee Roasters in the central mid-west zone of Puerto Rico. Unlike other restaurants in the area, Mi Vida was able to reopen right after hurricane Maria due to a backup generator.
For my last stop, I headed to Peccas, a gourmet ice cream and coffee shop. This is one of Bill’s personal favorite spots, so I met him there for a quick treat. Unfortunately, I was too full to order anything. Bill, however, got what he likes to call the “Rainforest Inn” frappe, a concoction he invented that which is made with whiskey coconut ice cream and fresh espresso. I had a taste and it was heavenly.
The interior of Peccas is very cheerful and vibrant, which proves to be quite inviting to costumers. They have a minimalistic menu, and it appears as though ice cream flavors rotate on a daily basis. They also serve dessert crepes, as well as espresso drinks. Peccas appeals to the tourist that wants a unique, artisan ice cream experience. Better yet, it’s a woman owned business!
A few other perks about Palmer is that parking is very accessible, as there is a large parking lot across the street from Mi Vida. Additionally, all restaurants are within walking distance from each other on the same street, so it’s easy to check several out at once! From visiting Palmer, I was able to get the full foodie experience I had been craving since coming here. Overall, my culinary journey in this small town was very positive. This is definitely a stop guests at the Rainforest Inn don’t want to miss!