One night in Puerto Rico, we finally decided to try one of the more hip places to eat for dinner. Dinner was a little later than usual to avoid the crowds, but most places on the Condado strip were packed like sardines and trying to find a restaurant with seats available was becoming more than a challenge. Fortunately, we ran into Yerba Buena, a Cuban and Caribbean place known for their wicked Mojitos. Luckily, most of the people were sitting at the bars, but with the open-air seating and the warm breezes coming in from the ocean, our waiter gave us the coolest seats in the house: a gliding / swinging table that faced the streets.
We ordered appetizers that included ceviche and fried minced shrimp with dough, which was filling enough, so I only had a few bites to save my appetite for the main course. My husband ordered a beefsteak plate with rice while I had their minced meat Havana style (pictured above) which came with some shaved yuca croutons that were so good, I actually asked for more (after pilfering my husband's portions). My meat had a fried egg on top, which reminded me of breakfast, but the combination with the spiciness of the meat was perfect. My meat tasted like a Latin version of a meatloaf, but there's something in meat that just makes it stand out among other meatloaves I've had before. For our son, we ordered the chicken chunks on their appetizer menu and he was happy with that, even though we still had to cut everything up in bite-sized pieces. There isn't really anything tailored for children, but you can choose any of the meats on their appetizer section. Moreover, the staff at Yerba Buena will be more than happy to make a kid-friendly portion for your child, if you need it. Combined with excellent service and good food, I'd be more than happy to pay their slightly expensive prices.
Like most of the restaurants in San Juan, Yerba Buena's drinks were fresh and made to order; juices for children tasted like they were squeezed from the fruits in the backyard and some were a little too tart without sugar. Unlike the heavily pasteurized and modified drinks we have in the U.S., the ones we ordered at the restaurant were delicious and healthy. Our waiter told me that it's better to drink things that are fresh, rather than something that was heavily processed in a factory. After all, it's cheaper and sometimes more beneficial to your health. If only I could remember that as a mantra when we headed back to the States. Unless I wanted to squeeze a lemon and make fresh lemonade myself, I wasn't going to get anything as close to the freshly-squeezed taste most places offered with their drinks.
Since we were enjoying ourselves for dinner, we also opted to try some of their alcoholic beverages; the famed Mojitos, namely, and we weren't leaving Puerto Rico without guzzling one. The Mojitos at Yerba Buena were true to its namesake; their drinks were made with the actual spearmint, or Yerba Buena mint, that are found in Cuba and the surrounding area. Unlike other places were I've had Mojitos (sadly, before I had my kid), I don't remember them tasting quite as good as the ones at the restaurant. Our server told me that Mojitos originated from Cuba, so as a native Cubano, he knows what it takes to make a real good Mojito. The bartender was also from Cuba, or so he says, but I think that Yerba Buena found a way to perfect their version.
Yerba Buena is a fantastic restaurant to try for their Cuban and Caribbean infused food, but it's also an ideal spot to watch scores of beautiful people wandering the streets of Condado at night. Like other places we've eaten at, there is absolutely no rush to eat your food and if you want to keep the table all night, by all means, do. After dinner, you can order a cup of their excellent, but strong coffee and check out their desserts menu. Because we succeeded in stuffing ourselves silly, we couldn't try any of their sweets. As for prices, Yerba Buena is a little on the steep side, with our bill easily topping over $90 USD, but the food and service is well worth it. Our son loved the gliding table we sat at, and enjoyed his food, although it was getting close to his bedtime. It was actually pretty rare to see families out late with little children, but we made an exception for him because we were all on vacation. Overall, I would highly recommend this Cuban joint in the Condado strip.