Oktoberfest, by the numbers; the dirndl squeezes into Germany’s limelight; top-tier wedding cakes in Tulsa; Puerto Rico’s pork trail; a big balloon blowout in Albuquerque; golf with Iron Chef Morimoto
A trip down Puerto Rico’s succulent cerdo trail
It’s Wednesday afternoon in Guavate, Puerto Rico, and a mud-colored dog is lazily passing the day in a bit of shade outside Lechonera Los Pinos, one of the nearly two dozen pork palaces packed into this sleepy mountain town. Long famous for its lechoneras, roadside restaurants that proudly display eight-foot hogs roasting on spits, Guavate is still shaking off a weekend of too much cerveza and even more cerdo (roast pork).
“Muy gente. Muy, muy gente,” Jean Paul Martinez says, stretching his arms wide when asked what Guavate is like on weekends, when thousands of Puerto Ricans make the 45-minute drive here from San Juan. Martinez works behind the counter at Lechonera Los Pinos, one of the biggest lechoneras in town, and he’s quick with some recommendations: Mixed sausage, a combination of pork and chicken, is a personal favorite, he says, holding a machete the size of Babe. Another, of course, is the roast pork.
The lechonera tradition began in Guavate after one roadside shack experienced so much success selling pork to passing truckers that dozens more popped up. Today, there are more than 20 here, many of which have adopted similar décor: picnic tables, pool tables and at least one painting of a hog wearing a bib.
El Rancho Original is the last eatery before the road through town, PR-184, turns into a glorified hiking trail through the Carite Forest. It’s an outdoor cafeteria big enough to serve the 1,500 people who call Guavate home. “People come to Guavate to eat pork,” an employee says definitively as she assembles a mountainous plate of pork and rice. “The pork here is the best,” she declares, “and I don’t really even eat meat!” —ADAM K. RAYMOND
ILLUSTRATION BY PETER OUMANSKI