“¡Cuidado con los pajaros!” said the counter guy, as he pointed to my food on the table outside. I quickly figured out what he was saying, meanwhile birds were descending on our food.
After shooing the feathered scavengers away, my dad and I dove into our roasted chicken and Magna beers at El Verde BBQ. It’s the very definition of roadside dive as we could almost touch the cars going by. Following the advice of Anthony Bourdain, we had taken a chance on the place, pulled in, and began eating without fear.
Randomly, a grizzled man plopped down at our table. He said a greeting in Spanish that my dad responded to in between bites of juicy chicken. One reason I choose Puerto Rico for this father-son trip was because my dad taught himself Spanish. I figured he’d enjoy getting to use it.
Then the old man spoke to me in English: “It’s good that you bring your dad here. My dad is 90 now and we see each other often. That is good.” He also told us how long he had lived in the Puerto Rico, how much he liked his homeland and he offered some of his thoughts about life in general. Then he said goodbye and left.
As he got into his truck, all of the workers waved goodbye. We soon learned that the man we were talking to was the owner of the restaurant.
I liked his style. No showy welcome to his restaurant, no attempts to win our attention with a free beer and no questions about what we thought about the food. It was just a pleasant conversation from a pleasant man while eating pleasant food.
In the space of an hour, Puerto Rico taught us three lessons: watch out for birds stealing your food, random roadside dives are delicious and always welcome a stranger to the table.
- Written by Greg Stroud