Submitted by Don Doman.
This article is dedicated to Antonio Edwards, Jr. – Tacoma Poet Laureate 2009-2010 who always speaks proudly of his Puerto Rican heritage and attorney Noel Shillito, the only person I know who was actually born in Puerto Rico.
I was looking for restaurants in Lakewood, so of course I visited Google. The most intriguing listing was the OSJ Restaurant. In listed reviews, people either loved the Puerto Rican food, or they hated the slow service. From the address I could tell the restaurant was located in Ponders Corner. It was just across the street from where I grew up. Peg and I would be having lunch and then be on our way to the movies for a 1:10 showing. I was a little uncomfortable that OSJ didn’t open for lunch until 11:30 and the complaints about slow service. We parked our Volvo right by the door and waited for the “open” sign to be turned on. I needn’t have worried.
The fun and exuberant Jasmine greeted us and made us feel right at home. It wasn’t until she said, “Old San Juan” that I realized what the OSJ stood for in the restaurant name. We were a little unfamiliar with the food, but Jasmine helped us. We just wanted to sample and share. From the menu you get the idea they serve lots of mofongos, but we were uninitiated in the world of mofongo. We ordered three shrimp mofongos. Interesting, but no home run . . . for us. Next time we might try the octopus mofongo.
“Mofongo is a Puerto Rican dish with fried plantains as its main ingredient. Plantains are picked green and fried, then mashed with salt, garlic, and oil in a wooden pilón.” – Wikipedia
I think we ordered Argentine Churrasco as our main dish, which featured mamposteado rice, chimichurri sauce, fried cassava, and a nicely cooked steak with peppers and onions. It was the special of the day so we saved six dollars. I think mamposteado rice normally comes with red beans, but since the rice was orange-ish, it might have been cooked with red beans. The cassava was sweet and worked well with the chimichurri sauce and steak. I will order this same dish, just for me, next time we visit. Also, a nice touch by OSJ is a military special they offer that saves 42% on a particular meal. I almost enlisted.
I’m not sure what we had for dessert, and I generally dislike flan, which usually shakes like Jell-O. What we had was flan-like, but stiffer . . . and more like a mousse as recommended by Jasmine. Peg and I both enjoyed out dessert.
The colors of the interior and the low lighting made photography difficult, but we loved the art work and the atmosphere. The OSJ is family owned. Jasmine is not part of the family, but was an excellent source of information and smiles. The restaurant is expanding next door and several of the contractors were there for lunch (always a good sign). We will gladly return for more Puerto Rican food. I was proud to see another successful restaurant doing well in Ponders Corner. They join the Pizza Casa and El Toro . . . and, my former favorite, the now gone Roma Café. The Old San Juan Restaurant is worth a trip across town. – facebook.com/OSJInternational/