A taste of Puerto Rico in Hinesville

Published: Sep. 22, 2021 at 5:03 PM EDT
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HINESVILLE, Ga. (WTOC) - At a Hinesville restaurant, locals and visitors can get a taste of Puerto Rico.

JJ’s Bar and Grill is attached to the Econolodge off General Stewart Way. It’s hidden in the back of the hotel, but the owner says once customers find it, they can’t stop coming back.

“We do get people coming from all over the place - Savannah, Pooler, Brunswick,” owner Jose Espada said.

Espada opened JJ’s seven years ago after spending 24 years in the military. At the time, Espada says, Hinesville didn’t have a huge Hispanic population, let alone Hispanic restaurants.

“We had a Dominican restaurant back then, but as far as Puerto Rican and Puerto Rican dishes, there was nothing in town at that time,” Espada said.

The veteran, who would always travel to Savannah for food and entertainment options, decided it was time to introduce his culture to the City of Hinesville.

“A lot of people have learned about Latino food, not just Mexican food,” he said.

Like many businesses, JJ’s took a hit from the pandemic, cutting some of its staff.

“Initially, when the pandemic started, before we started receiving the loans. We had to shut everything down,” Espada said.

But Espada says the restaurant is doing better. Karaoke nights are popular again, and customers are back on the floor for weekly salsa and bachata dance lessons.

“It’s a place where they can come and have a good time.”

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