When it comes to food, New York City has everything. People have immigrated from all over the world to NYC, and they’ve brought their recipes and their cooking with them. Somewhere in the city there’s a neighborhood for every ethnicity you could think of, and for Dominicans that neighborhood is Washington Heights and Inwood in Upper Manhattan. These neighborhoods are home to nearly 100,000 Dominicans, so it’s no surprise that that’s where the majority of the best Dominican food can be found. From breakfast to slowly stewed meat to plantains to milky desserts, here’s a list of some of the city’s best Dominican restaurants.
Nano Billiard Café is not about looks. It’s on the ground floor of a residential building, and it’s technically a billiard hall serving lunch specials in the afternoon. At night it can get a bit rowdy, but during the day their $3.50 lunch specials – like stewed goat, pork with rice, stewed meats with olives, or whatever is on the menu that day – are nothing short of fantastic.
In Washington Heights in Upper Manhattan, El Lina is a local favorite that’s been around for over three decades. Come here if you’re ready for a serious meal – your best bet is to order a lot. Don’t skip their seafood, try camarones al horno(hot buttery shrimp), or if you’d rather opt for meat, go for the fried chicken. Don’t skimp on the sides either, the rice and beans and fried plantains are worth the trip alone.
When Dominican restaurants in NYC are discussed, Malecon is usually the first place brought up. It was started 30 years ago by two brothers who wanted to bring their family’s home cooking to the neighborhood, and it’s still one of the best places to eat a Dominican breakfast in NYC. If you’ve never had Dominican breakfast get the cuatro gulpos,which translates literally to ‘four hits.’ It comes with mashed plantains, fried eggs, Spanish sausage and fried cheese, and may be one of the most satisfying things you can eat.
If you need to satisfy your sweet tooth, try Esmeraldo Bakery, just a few blocks from Malecon. It’s a tiny space that holds only about six people, so chances are you’ll be able to spot it from the line out the door. Everything will look delicious, but go for the bizcocho dominicano (a white cake with pineapple jam) or pastelitos de guayaba – pastries with guava.
A Dominican meal wouldn’t be complete without tres leches, so get yours from Bizcocho de Colores. Run by Daisy Lebron who opened the shop in 1999, Bizcocho de Colores is the neighborhood favorite for tres leches cakes. While tres lechesis delicious to begin with – a sponge cake combining three milks; heavy cream, evaporated milk, and sweetened condensed milk – Daisy adds rum, vanilla and whipped cream to make it even more sinfully inviting.
A small simple restaurant serving tasty food, Leche y Miel was opened in 2014 by husband and wife team Rideiby Peña (the chef) and Altagracia Peña. Both have Dominican roots, and Peña’s approachable home-style cooking shows it. Some favorite dishes here include the slow-cooked oxtail and the mofonguitos: fried green plantains made into small chips topped with shrimp and parmesan.