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The treasured flavor and culture of the iconic Luquillo Kiosks

No trip to this town is complete without a visit to the famous kiosks, where many culinary experiences await

April 17, 2024 - 11:00 PM

¡Viva la tradición! La historia de los kioscos de Luquillo

¡Viva la tradición! La historia de los kioscos de Luquillo

Descubre por qué este lugar es considerado un paraíso gastronómico.

Lee la historia en español aquí.

Luquillo.- It is impossible to talk about Luquillo without thinking of its famous kiosks, a conglomerate of 60 businesses located along the coast of Balneario La Monserrate. Their savory foods and beach atmosphere have turned it into an iconic area, not only for local cuisine but also for Puerto Rican culture.

The Luquillo Kiosks, recently recognized by the Puerto Rico Tourism Company (PRTC) as a Special Gastronomic Center of the Eastern Region, is a testament that clearly reflects the evolution of the economy over time.

They started setting up in the 1950s with simple structures crafted from straw and wood that were reminiscent of traditional huts, offering the beloved fried treats that made them famous.

“During that period, the municipality of Luquillo built straw kiosks in the beach area and later relocated them to where they are now. They did it to cater to people with limited means, mostly from Barrio Fortuna,” explained Elizabeth Cruz, a retired vendor who spent 33 years working in the area.

Over time, the owners began transforming their spaces, replacing the thatched roofs with zinc sheets, among other improvements, as some kiosks suffered damage from fires caused by their stoves.

Out of the total 60 kiosks, more than 40 are still in business.
Out of the total 60 kiosks, more than 40 are still in business. (XAVIER GARCIA)

Similarly, Hurricane Hugo, which battered Puerto Rico’s eastern area on September 18, 1989, destroyed the few original structures that remained.

“When Hugo hit, I had already rented kiosk #45, and the sea surged in, reaching the avenue. Hugo knocked down all the wooden structures; there were a few made with concrete, the one I had rented was in concrete. But there the owners began to rebuild them,” Cruz recounted.

This marked the start of a transformation, not just in terms of physical structures but also in the culinary offerings available to the public. Even now, businesses stand out with their traditional displays brimming with fried treats like the famous alcapurrias (stuffed fritters), taco pastries and empanadillas (turnovers) stuffed with a variety of meats and seafood, and the coveted piononos (plantain cups) and rellenos de papa (stuffed potato fritters).

However, many restaurants have joined the scene in addition to these kiosks to offer both traditional Puerto Rican and international cuisine, along with shops selling souvenirs and beachwear.

“Of course, we affectionately call them kiosks, but they are full-fledged restaurants where you can still find bacalaíto (cod fritters), alcapurria, pionono, and other meticulously crafted high-cuisine dishes,” commented Luquillo’s Mayor, Gerardo “Jerry” Márquez.

Héctor Morales, owner of Terruño (kiosk #20), a restaurant specializing in artisanal cuisine, was among those who wanted to revolutionize the traditional offerings found in these places. Although he wanted his establishment to be unique, Morales recognizes that the essence and success of this gastronomic zone comes from its traditional roots.

Aerial image of the Luquillo kiosks
Aerial image of the Luquillo kiosks (Suministrada)

“I think the kiosks have grown a lot; I’ve seen it firsthand since 1950. We’ve always said that those who originally operated the traditional kiosks paved the way for us restaurant owners. So, they remain very important in the ‘Luquillo Kiosks’,” acknowledged thee owner of Terruño.

Currently, out of the total 60 kiosks, roughly 44 are still in business, with 2 undergoing restructuring to resume operations. Meanwhile, approximately 16 kiosks are abandoned, waiting for designation as public nuisances.

“The growth in the kiosks is clear; there’s a varied gastronomic options constantly arriving—not limited to just meats and seafood. There’s a new Mexican place opening soon, we have Peruvian and Colombian cuisine, and we’re getting new hamburger and pasta places. As long as the government and other entities continue to support us, the growth will continue, we can keep moving forward,” said Morales, owner of Terruño.

“Even though I’ve retired from business, I spent 33 years fighting for the recognition of the kiosks because it’s such a strategically important space; there’s a stunning view of the beach behind them. It’s the only place where you can dine right by the sea in the northeast. You always see people from all over the globe: Chinese, Japanese, Americans, Europeans. I believe the kiosks have much more to offer, as long as the government supports them,” said Cruz, who rented spaces #49 and #45 over those three decades, and later acquired kiosks #10 and #11, of which she is still the owner, although she does no longer operates a business there.

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