Puerto Rico’s first specialty cheese eatery and tapas bar, Barra de Quesos will open this week in the Miramar sector of San Juan, after a $250,000 investment.
Owner Lila Avalo, who is a chemical engineer and life-long cheese enthusiast, said the new 1,700 square-foot restaurant will create 15 direct and about 40 indirect jobs.
In an interview during the “En Una Hora” program on 11Q 1140 AM radio, in which News is my Business participates, Avalo said the sit-down restaurant will offer patrons a variety of local and imported cheeses that they will be able to pair up with their natural partner: wine.
“This is a new concept with two propositions: a cheese shop and tapas bar,” she said of the new establishment near the Conservatory of Music. “When you visit, you will feel like you’re in Europe. We tried to use French elements in our décor. We’re going to have cheese wheels that will make your mouth water.”
The Barra de Quesos’ staff will be trained to make wine and cheese pairing suggestions, to make it a learning and gastronomic experience that’s very different to what we’re used to,” Avalo said.
Avalo’s experience with cheese goes back decades. She is one of the founders of the Vaca Negra cheese manufacturing operation in Hatillo, where she spent about seven years.
The cheeses produced at Vaca Negra will also be available at the shop, along with some 60 varieties of European cheeses, hams, breads, olives and other appetizers.
Avalo also owned Casa Lila, formerly located in Old San Juan, where she taught cheese-making classes to tourists and locals. However, that business closed when Hurricane María hit in 2017.
“I am a product of María. I lost my house and my job with the hurricane. I was actually rescued in the midst of the hurricane, but that didn’t stop me from pursuing my dream, which was owning a cheese shop,” she said, of her new venture that will open Friday.
In coming months, Barra de Quesos will also offer cheese-making workshops, she said.