San Juan Smokehouse: a plate of two worlds

San Juan Smokehouse opened in November of 2017 and serves southern style food with a twist of Caribbean. It is located at 1026 Chestnut Street in downtown Bowling Green.

Chris Dimeo

San Juan Smokehouse is, as one might glean from its name, a thorough mix of things. The restaurant, located at 1026 Chestnut Street in the building that once housed the Brickyard Café, serves a mash-up of down-home Kentucky barbecue and fresh, flavorful Puerto Rican cuisine.

While its cozy farmhouse style of interior decoration would suggest otherwise, San Juan Smokehouse is actually outstanding in its ability to bring a refreshing feel and flavor to a city that already has over 300 restaurants.

The food is really what sets this eatery apart from the crowd. And at that, its Caribbean eats are its true shining gems.

Alongside barbecue staples like ribs and pulled pork, Caribbean dishes like yucca fries, stuffed avocado and jerk chicken make San Juan’s menu memorable.

Every meal starts off with a complementary bowl of chicharrones, or seasoned pork rinds: a novel yet comforting appetizer that gets you in the mood to try something new.

Another appetizer that I can’t imagine the San Juan Smokehouse experience being complete without is the yucca fries. Made from yucca, a potato-like plant native to the Caribbean, they taste just like French fries but less greasy and with the slightest fruity hint.

The most outstanding item on the menu, in my opinion, was the pastelon. Basically lasagna with pressed plantains instead of noodles, this dish is wonderfully surprising, with the familiar qualities of lasagna, but with a more potato-like texture and a fruity zing.

My one criticism of the menu is a slight over-preponderance of slaw. A unique item that San Juan Smokehouse offers is its fresh, zesty slaw, made with onions, peppers and other fresh vegetables. While delicious, this side dish showed up a little too much in my meal. Just about every dish had it mixed in or on top as a garnish, and some dishes, like the tacos, contained more slaw than any other ingredient.

This restaurant is also a bit on the pricey side. Whether the food is worth the price tag or not might be up to the individual, but if you aren’t watching your pennies closely, it’s easy to spend upwards of $15 or $20 per person here.

All things considered, San Juan Smokehouse is a gem in terms of its novelty and the unique, delicious menu it serves up. However, it isn’t for those who are shy with their wallet or appetite. It’s a place to try food you might not find anywhere else in Bowling Green, and to have an experience you’re not likely to forget.

If you’re hungry and looking to try something new, look no further than San Juan Smokehouse.