Although many travelers may be familiar with “La Ruta del Lechón” in Cayey, Puerto Rico also has a lesser-known gastronomical route. Located on State Route 156 in the town of Orocovis, you will find “La Ruta de la Longaniza.” This winding road nestled in the mountains of La Cordillera Central, the mountain range traversing Puerto Rico, is known for its longaniza.
Longaniza, a long, thin sausage, has roots in Spain and Portugal and was brought to the Americas by the colonizing countries. Many countries throughout Latin America have adopted longaniza and added their unique touches. Puerto Rico is no different. The Puerto Rican longaniza is made with pork, adding annatto seeds for a beautiful orangy hue. Served grilled or fried with side dishes or in “arroz con longaniza,” a traditional rice dish made with sazón, adobo, sofrito, and other spices, longaniza is a beloved ingredient in Puerto Rican cooking.
This route is busiest during the weekends when many locals take the time to go on “chinchorreo” with their families, hopping from restaurants and bars along a specific route. Route 156 is in the heart of the mountains of Puerto Rico. The road to Orocovis is picturesque, surrounded by mountains, made green with lush tropical vegetation. Toro Verde, home to the second-longest zip line in the world, is only a 15-minute drive away from the route. Pack your bathing suit because you may want to go for a dip at el Charco de Doña Juana, a majestic waterfall.
Bring your appetite before you head to Orocovis because you want to be able to sample several of the stops along the way. The first stop should be La Sombra, the pioneer of “La Ruta de la Longaniza” and the oldest establishment on the route. It was founded in 1936 by Don Pedro Ortiz y Doña María, and it has been in the family ever since. Upon the death of Don Pedro in 1956, Doña María continued the operation of the restaurant with her fourteen children. La Sombra features a variety of longaniza options aside from the classic pork. From chicken to fish, they truly get creative with their longaniza.
The route is not only about sit-down restaurants, but there are plenty of “colmados,” little shops that offer food, snacks, and cold beers. Sip a Medalla (Puerto Rican beer) and enjoy pincho (meat skewers) with longaniza and tostones at Cafetín Los Amigos, one of the first establishments you will encounter as you enter Route 156 in Orocovis.
Make room for dessert with Gustitos del Campo, a coffee and ice cream shop located right along the route. This cute bakery offers sweet treats like donuts, fruit bowls, and cakes made in-house. Catch a second wind with a cup of Puerto Rican cafesito. The neighboring towns of Ciales and Jayuya are known for their coffee production.
Although not located on Route 156, Las Cabañas de Doña Juana is a short detour from “La Ruta de la Longaniza.” An open-air hut makes the vibe communal–you may leave making a new friend! The specialty here is barbecue. Indulge in ribs made on an open wood fire with a side of rice and crispy tostones (fried green plantains). Sip a piña colada or a mojito while taking in the festive atmosphere.