Swerve the bland hotel buffet and head out to eat in the Dominican Republic’s colonial capital of Santo Domingo for hearty, flavor-packed food that generally won’t break the bank. A mix of Spanish, African and indigenous Caribbean elements, dishes are often built around rice and beans, come in huge portions and have deep-fried green plantains on the side – so there’s no chance of going home hungry. Here are the capital’s culinary hotspots no visitor should miss.
There’s some tough competition for the best steak in Santo Domingo, but Mediterranean-focused La Cassina might just clinch the victory. Their melt-in-the-mouth meat attracts rave reviews – especially when paired with the attentive service, top-notch wine list and unmissable pasta. Just be sure to save room for the Italian-inspired desserts and a final rich espresso, both equally worthy of the acclaim at this excellent restaurant.
Don’t be put off by the fact this restaurant is now a local chain with three locations across the city. It’s still a great place to try all the local Dominican favorites without blowing the holiday budget – all to the smooth sounds of lively local music. There’s a decent, well-priced buffet at lunchtime, as well as good local beers and must-try dishes including sancocho – a hearty meaty stew. Visit the outpost on Avenida George Washington for sea views as you dine.
You can’t quite eat a three-course dinner here, but sweet-toothed tourists should not miss the chance to feast on some of the city’s best Dominican chocolate at this much-loved café. Everything is locally grown and organic and the chocolate coffee takes some beating. Book in advance and you can join the Chocolate Experience first – to learn just how chocolate is turned from bean to the bar we all love.
It looks like a standard fast food joint, but locals will tell you that Pollos Victorina is a much-loved local institution. Open since the early 80s, it serves fried chicken with the restaurant’s own signature sweet and sour sauce for quick Dominican dining that won’t come with an eye-watering bill. Grab a side of bollitos de yuca – cassava buns stuffed with oozing cheese – and finish with excellent ice cream.
Why commit to one restaurant when you can sample food from several? Local families love to gather at this street food hub in the heart of Santo Domingo – particularly popular after work for anyone looking to feast on a budget. There are all sorts of different trucks parked up, but favorites include those serving Middle Eastern, Cuban and Mexican dishes – plus the ever-popular loaded burgers at Los Jefes.
It’s worth eating at this restaurant – close to the Colonial Zone – for the view alone as this popular open-air café is right on the waterfront overlooking the ocean. Originally a small stand selling beer and empanadas, it has now expanded to focus on traditional Dominican food and creole classics. Think handmade sausages, octopus in butter, garlic and parsley sauce and fantastic shrimp fajitas served with the restaurant’s delicious homemade guacamole.
If you’re out to wine, dine and impress, this dimly lit romantic restaurant is the only place to book. Unusually, it’s wedged inside a natural limestone cave created billions of years ago that used to be occupied by the Taino Indians – and later by the buccaneers. Today, diners can expect black-tie clad waiters, soft salsa music, a ceiling studded with stalactites and a menu of Spanish-influenced dishes with seafood a specialty – all down a 40ft (12m) spiral staircase.
This is an updated rewrite of an article originally by Sophia Mills Francis.