Just after Christmas we were invited by one of O’s friends, J and his family to join them for an excursion to the mountains – to the famous restaurant Vaca Brava close to Barranquitas. We had heard so many good things about this place, and had been meaning to go for a long time so we were really excited – as well as looking forward to a social gathering.
The weather had not improved since Christmas, it was still very grey and rainy but we were optimistic that maybe the sun would be shining in the mountains… We arrived around 2 o’clock to La Vaca Brava (the Brave Cow) after a break at McDonald’s in Naranjito where O and I were clever enough to eat a cheeseburger each, because we were in for a loooong wait for lunch!
We were told that there was at least a 2-hour wait for a table for 13 people, which was expected – the restaurant doesn’t accept reservations and is wildly popular on the weekends. Efforts have been made though to entertain people while waiting; the location is almost like a small theme-park with life-size dolls showing country-life such as the roasting of a lechón, and there are stands selling drinks, pinchos (brochette / kebab – served on a skewer) and all kinds of products, and a play area for children – unfortunately it was still raining, and people were huddling together under the roofs. Spirits were high though, and we were treated to an improvised parranda with people singing and playing typical Puerto Rican Christmas songs, while we munched on some pinchos and had a few drinks.
Everybody seemed to have come in big groups, and every time a family or group of friends got their table big cheers were heard, and people called out how long they had been waiting! We heard that some people had waited for 4-5 hours before being seated, but then again groups of 30-40 persons were being accommodated – no wonder the long wait! And everybody ran into a friend or two – O met a few colleagues while we waited.
When we finally got our table ~4 hours later our group had grown to 17 and it was a great mix of different family constellations and generations. Fortunately the service was very quick, once we had sorted out our orders, and soon the huuuuge plates of meat arrived! Even though we had seen the big portions being served while we waited, we had still miscalculated the sizes and ordered one plate per couple instead of 1 plate / 2 couples which would have been enough!! They say that hunger is the best seasoning and in hind-sight the food wasn’t that good, but we were starving… The food is simple; no fresh veggies, just meat with fries or rice and some extra toppings such as bacon, cheese or mushrooms. Too bad that the mushrooms were canned – I absolutely detest canned mushrooms which don’t taste the slightest like fresh ones! It is also cheap if considering that you can easily share the big portions among 4 adults (our dish cost $29,99).
Conclusion: it was a nice excursion and a great opportunity to socialise (and speak Spanish for me) but we all said that “been there, done that” was enough – we don’t have to go back.