Buena Vibra - Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico
For a few years now, I've known of the existence of Buena Vibra in Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico. I don't get to go out to Puerto Rico much, but when I do, I like to make it count when it comes to food and drink experiences. Last year, I tried to visit and it just wasn't in the cards. This year, I made it a point to come to the place that has evolved from a small shack of a restaurant to an expanded version with an inn above it. I've always heard nothing but the best things about this restaurant - from the staff, to the food, to the beers - it's world class stuff.
SPOILER ALERT: I wish I had made it back in 2015. If I could travel in time, I'd smack 2015-me for not having gone. Then I'd travel back to 2016 and make sure I'd gone twice.
To say that I've Facebook stalked this business for the past 2-3 years is a ridiculous understatement. There's been quite the number of times that I've drooled as I looked at their gallery of food pictures. Not only do they have quite the variety of delicious dish options, they made it known that they have an assortment of both local and American craft beers for the beersnob in some of us. Their selection of beer did not disappoint at all.
The service did not disappoint at all.
The food did not disappoint at all.
Nothing disappointed us there. And if you are wondering about a language barrier, do not - we met and spoke with two waiters fluent in English and happy to ask us where we were from.
And this leads to my very first point about the language barrier and the menu. The menu is entirely in spanish, but don't worry, the staff will happily explain to you what some of their best dishes are. We were easily recommended about 5 to 6 of the dishes that would surely excite our taste buds. Recommendations were given to us in picturesque detail. It was ultimately hard to choose, especially since we knew we only had one shot at this, so we made sure to pick out an appetizer and an entree.
So, cheese balls. When done right, they are excellence in the form of a small delectable sphere. They are fried visions of heaven by the dozen to be dipped in a sauce that will truly send your flavor senses into culinary ecstasy. They were perfectly golden and not over-cooked. They had absolutely no greasy after-taste with the center being perfectly gooey without the outside being way too hot to eat. This is my favorite all-time appetizer and the one thing that I MUST have whenever I go back to Puerto Rico. Here at Buena Vibra, they are done from scratch and they are EXQUISITE. Pictured with the "Bolitas de Queso" is the FOK Brewing Co's Hoppy Wheat. The lighter drinking wheat pale ale went excellently with the appetizer. Buena Vibra had it on tap, so why not?
Craft beer lovers, rejoice! You have not been forgotten! You'll be pleasantly surprised to see that this establishment has such craft greats like Bell's Two Hearted Ale, an IPA from Michigan. It was delightful to be able to grab a can of this and just sit back and sip while we waited for our meal. Because of how hot and humid it can be in Puerto Rico, you are better off with a beer that isn't as heavy in ABV and easily drinkable, so this particular one was a perfect choice.
Fancy a bottle? There are some frosty mugs for you bottle heathens out there that might want to grab a craft piece of excellence like Founder's Mosaic Promise. A beer that is smoother with a lighter hop profile can sometimes be just what the doctor ordered. On those much hotter days in Puerto Rico, this one is guaranteed to satisfy that craft thirst.
And then there was this... the entree. At Buena Vibra, you can order this as a Volcán de Guayaba. The centerpiece of this dish is grouper coated in coconut that has skirt steak in a guava sauce stuffed in the middle - hence the translation of "Guava Volcano". There's quite the good amount of skirt steak, so some is laid to the side as well. To the left, are the house potatoes. I'd love to tell you what they are, but we were so hypnotized with this dish that I honestly forgot to write down any notes about the potatoes.
The actual entree is the grouper/skirt steak combination and it runs for $30. The potatoes are a side dish ($4) that were recommended by the waiter and complemented the dish to perfection. Although the price tag sounds a bit pricey, the dish was shared by two people and there was still some leftovers.
The fish and the coconut crust on it were done perfectly. The skirt steak blended in really well with the guava sauce and was tender. Even the combination of the grouper with the sauce was something else. Honestly, I've never had anything like this before and I am glad that this was one of the options given to us by the waiter. This dish exceeded our expectations and makes me sad that such a thing as "getting full" or "calories" even exist, because I would have loved to try something else on the menu.
To say that Hops & Horns 100% recommends people to come to Buena Vibra in Cabo Rojo doesn't paint the full picture. If you live in any part of Puerto Rico and you haven't been - shame on you. I'll forgive you for now but know that all you need to do to rectify that situation is to simply make your way over to Cabo Rojo and see for yourself what this place has to offer. If you are visiting Puerto Rico and are fortunate enough to visit the western side of the island, plan a meal here. If you're a craft beer geek and are looking for a great place for food AND beer, this needs to be a blip on your vacation radar. I could go on and on about scenarios - point being: You need to come here if you are ever in Puerto Rico.
I wish I could go back again soon, I'd love to see what else Buena Vibra has on their menu. I'm thankful for the variety in their craft beer options. The service was out of this world, as well. Both the waiter and waitress that we met were very attentive, engaging, and passionate about working here. Next time I'm in Puerto Rico, I think you all know where you'll find me having a fantastic amount of food along with a frosty mug in hand.