If you don’t have the time to fly over to Puerto Rico, stay here and taste authentic Puerto Rican food at El Coqui restaurant, 5443 E. 22nd Street (just west of Craycroft). The restaurant is named after the coqui frog, beloved in Puerto Rico. Photos and metal/wood mementos of the small frog are displayed in the restaurant.
Some friends who have visited Puerto Rico invited me to dinner and we were all surprised at how delicious the food was. We tried the Ensalada de la Casa (house salad) with marinated grilled shrimp, the Pechuga del Pollo (grilled chicken breast), and Templeque coconut pudding. The latter was very similar to our haupia coconut dessert back home in Hawaii. But the other two dishes were uniquely Caribbean and not like Polynesian cuisine at all.
El Coqui opened a few months ago and is a family style restaurant, with live music on the weekends. Next time I’m aiming to try the tilapia or salmon on the menu and their Fried Stuffed Plantains (like bananas I think). They even serve exotic guanabana (sour sop) and tamarindo drinks.
The restaurant is open Tuesday to Saturday, 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sunday 11 to 9 p.m. Closed Monday. Phone # is 520-790-5357.
Viva el coqui?
Note: The coqui frog has invaded the east side of the Big Island of Hawaii where I am from, and is causing a community wide effort to slow their spread to the westside of the island. Having no natural enemy, these tiny frogs have been multiplying rapidly and are considered an invasive species. Though beloved in their native Puerto Rico, Hawaiians are attempting chemical eradication (and other methods) with little success. In the long run, the loud chirping at night (dusk to about 3 a.m.) may have to be tolerated and accepted.
I hear them increasing in numbers every time I go home for a visit and believe me, they are LOUD. Sometimes you can’t hear the speaker at a meeting if there are coqui frogs outside the building (decibel readings have been measured at 80 to 90). According to the Hawaii Dept. of Agriculture website, the problem is that “In some areas, populations may exceed 10,000 frogs per acre, which consume more than 50,000 insects per night. As such, coqui may endanger native Hawaiian insect populations, including plant pollinators, and compete with Hawaii’s native birds.”
As far as I know, the coqui frog has not spread to any of the other Hawaiian islands as yet.
Viva el coqui, but not in Hawaii.