El Taino Restaurant Fails to Fail Customers Any More
Over the years we've gone to places we've loved for free and we've gone to places we liked well enough without any consideration. Heck, we've even gone to places without consideration we've hated, but imagine this; we've gone to places by invitation and for free that we've also strongly disliked… this is one such place.
When you invite us to come out you're free to state your terms upfront. You can say anything you like, but if a guaranteed favorable recommendation is what you're after we won't promise it. We get so painfully little in terms of cash compensation from ads and donations, we'd be half-mad to accept it, so we never do. Nothing personal, it's just that these self-serving suggestions fall on deaf ears.
So when we accepted the request to cover the El Taino Restaurant, located a convenient mile from the entrance to the Camuy caves, we were gracious in our acceptance, if not a bit hesitant.
They've been there for 30-years, in continuous operation by the same family, but there were a couple of immediate red flags thrown out for our observation.
First of all was that the father of the family, and historical proprietor, spends his days handing out fliers at the entrance to the Camuy caves. It's odd, since a 30-year business shouldn't have to spend its time humping for business like that, but maybe he just loves doing it, right? The restaurant is huge, so capacity is tremendous, perhaps he just wants to earn an extra nickel or two while socializing socially, right?
The restaurant, however, is only open for business Wednesday through Sunday and only during roughly the same hours as the vastly, duly famous caves. This means that locals don't eat there, which is really odd on account of a triple-decade history of offering lunches and dinners of traditional Puerto Rican fare at affordable prices.
Once at the restaurant we began to understand all of this. The prices are easily double what you'll find elsewhere and everybody wandering in looks as lost as we did, which means that everybody there is an accidental tourist of a dinner guest, at best.
What we had amounted to a dinner of $20 a head and I've got to say (and the rest of the Perplexing Staff agrees) it was outright terrible. Even the kids' meals, which were priced pretty high, were nothing we'd eat. Not the wet fries, not the cold chicken fingers, and not the rice & beans, all of which are things we normally like, regardless of temperature or sickly moisture.
So after a meal as expensive as we've ever had in Puerto Rico and twice the cost of our favorite ones, every last one of us left hungry. That's really, really bad, especially considering we were invited guests and got the whole sh'bang for free, with extra-special attention on account of our having been pre-invited guests.
Above - This is a shot of the highly stylish part of the restaurant. This part doesn't have air conditioning, so it's pretty much closed to customers, no matter how handsome it looks.
The conclusion we came up with was that, with the mediocre service, lackluster food and outright terrible prices, there's no doubt as to why they have to promote the heck out of this place, despite 30-years of market presence and exceptionally grand exposure. No wonder they were so eager to get us in there to write a review… sadly, we don't promise good reviews, not even for a meal ticket.
There are many restaurants within a five-mile radius of the Camuy Caves, and I can only speak for one of them, and it's the El Taino Restaurant, and all I can say can be wrapped up in one word. That one word may be "don't" or it may be "yuck" or perhaps even "Rip-off", assuming that's one word, but in any case, it's no place to invest your time or money once you know better. And if anybody tells you we give unfair reviews based on our costs, prices or other considerations, let this be your indisputable proof against that notion.
And for that, at least, we offer no apology... even though it surely means we'll never be asked back again. Hey man, so it goes. If they were half as gracious to patrons as members of the media, they wouldn't have needed us and that's the bottom line.
Above - Here you can see the kids meal. The cups are all disposable, which is irresponsible, and the food ain't much better. Clearly the chicken is prefab frozen garbage, and the home-sliced fries are wet, greasy, yucky sticks of carbohydrates on their best days, which are not likely to have been this day.