The town of La Parguera is situated in the southeastern end of Puerto Rico’s main island and is most famous for it’s bioluminescent bay, one of three such bays in P.R. On the weekends, people flock to La Parguera to snorkel, scuba dive, or just enjoy a day on the water exploring the mangrove-lined channels and islands in the bay. We visited on a Monday and found a sleepy fishing village that had a similar feel to New England seaside towns in the off-season. The harbor was quiet and many of the restaurants were closed, which is not unusual for a Monday in Puerto Rico. El Karacol is right on the town square, and is hard to miss, just look for the oversized drink cup on the roof emblazoned with the name of the house specialty, the sangria cono. The restaurant has a diner feel to it, with simple cafeteria-style tables, a back room full of videogames and walls covered in photographs and memorabilia.
We must have stuck out like the pair of gringos that we are, because when we walked through the door, the owner immediately greeted us in English. We grabbed a table, and as per his recommendation, ordered two of their signature sangrias. They were served in a large red cup, like you find at a keg party, and were very strong. Besides the usual fruit and red wine, we’re pretty sure they contained a healthy dose of rum. Strong as they are, they’re remarkably refreshing on a hot day.
Since we had such good luck with the sangria, we asked the owner what we should order for lunch. He suggested the Grouper and the Pulpo, or octopus. All the entrees at Karacol came with a choice of rice sides, and the owner even brought us out some deep fried corn fritters as an appetizer. KD had the lightly fried grouper, served with a sprinkle of chopped herbs and onions. The fish was fresh and mild, and paired well with the side of seafood rice. While good, it was a fairly standard rendition of fried fish. This would be a great selection for the less adventurous eater, who just wants a good, simple meal.
While some people might find octopus a daunting ingredient, if it is prepared right, it can be excellent. Karacol obviously knows its cephalopods. The pulpo was sauteed with onions, and served with a simple but flavorful, olive oil based sauce. The simple preparation really let the unctuous, almost fatty flavors of the octopus shine. The contrast between the smoky, slightly chewy skin, and the tender buttery interior of the meat was really intriguing. The sweet onion flavor helped offset the richness of the meat and olive oil, and added the right amount of bite.
El Karacol offers fresh, unpretentious food in a location just a few steps away from the ocean. Rustic as it was, we thought the pulpo was one of the best seafood dishes we sampled in Puerto Rico.
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