Dominican Republic Restaurants
Avenida George Washington (a.k.a. El Malecón) near Calle José María
Tel: 809 221 1764
A restaurant cooking up slightly more elegant versions of typical Dominican fare? A dining room composed of multi-level decks overlooking the ocean on Santo Domingo's famous seaside boulevard? Sounds like a tourist trap. But step inside, and you'll find the restaurant packed with locals, the ultimate endorsement of culinary authenticity. The menu cuts across the Dominican classics, from sancocho, a Dominican stew of chicken, fish, plantains, yuca, corn, and more, to a range of tropical juices to mofongo, fried green plantains mashed with garlic and your choice of meat (and your choice should be pork). However, in a highly un-Dominican twist, the restaurant refrains from serving liquor in order to remain open 24 hours a day. But no one seems to mind; the ocean view is intoxicating enough.
Open 24 hours, 7 days a week.
Tel: 809 240 6111
What is François Mitterrand's former chef doing at a restaurant attached to a relative bargain of a hotel on Playa Bonita? It may be an unlikely spot, but Gerard Prystasz has turned the place into what many consider to be the top restaurant in the Las Terrenas area—and one of the most expensive. The menu ranges from elegant takes on the extremely local, like dorado with coconut sauce (of which just about every restaurant in town serves some version), to classic French, like beef béarnaise, and rack of lamb à la provençale. The best part, of course, is the setting. As you sit either in the restaurant near the beach or in the pavilion nearly on it, you get a meal full of elegance without the stuffy formality. It's amazing how good French food tastes with a side order of gentle Caribbean waves.
Open daily, noon to 3pm and 7:30 to 10 pm.
Dominican Republic 809 757 0614
The car ride to Blue Moon Retreat is worth a trip in itself for a rare glimpse into a lush Dominican interior overlooked by the tourism boom. The hilltop farm's location is perfect not only for its views of the Atlantic but because the surrounding microclimate supports the cultivation of most of the ingredients on the Indian fusion menu: yucca for the pakoras, spices for the chicken tandoori, and fruit for chutneys. Even the cocktails are muddled from plants grown on-site, such as orange, lime, passion fruit, and mango. Because space is limited (call far in advance), each night at Blue Moon feels like a word-of-mouth party, with small groups mingling on pillows and taking impromptu dips in the pool when the mood strikes.—Aaron Barker
Hours vary; call or e-mail in advance.
Playa El Cortecito
Tel: 809 552 0645
A series of smoldering outdoor planchas (grills) serves as the kitchen at this casual, thatch-roofed beach restaurant. Staffers cook up simple, inexpensive, and deliciously prepared fish and shellfish hereincluding a meltingly good langosta a la termidor (halved lobster served with rice, salad, and plantains). Steaks, pork chops, and plates of paella with fries are also satisfyingand even better washed down with a Brugal cocktail and an after-dinner shot of mamajuana (a wicked Dominican brew made with rum, red wine, honey, and herbs). Ignore the servers if they badger you about having your picture takenunless you want the steep price of a mediocre bottle of rum stickered with your photo added to your bill.
152 Calle Casimiro de Moya
Tel: 809 686 0129
With its costumed waitstaff, adjoining souvenir shop, and live musicians and dancers performing bachata and merengue, this place seems like a shameless tourist trap. And so it isbut it also happens to serve some of the city's best, most reasonably priced traditional Dominican dishes. Want evidence? Check out the crowds of localswho sometimes outnumber the out-of-townerstucking into big bowls of sancocho, a savory stew of meat, plantains, and vegetables.
Alcázar de Colón
Tel: 809 688 9644
Yes, the name really does mean "Museum of Ham," and those are real cured Serrano hams hanging from the ceiling. In fact, this tapas restaurant is so traditionally Spanish—with small-plate offerings like marinated octopus salad and beef carpaccio drizzled in olive oil, and a heavily Spanish wine list—that you might forget for a moment that you're in the DR. Until, that is, the live merengue musicians in the Plaza de España each weekend strike up the band.
Tel: 809 986 3750
Don't be fooled by its lobster shack pose—La Casita's seafood is the best catch on the Cabarete strip. Accolades in the French press (Michelin, Petit Futé) hint at the ambition and bent of the kitchen: Choice starters include crêpes (try the jambon et fromage) and super-fresh fish carpaccio seasoned with citrus and capers. Be sure to save room for the signature Gambas à la Papy entrée, a skillet of head-on tiger shrimp doused with garlic, curry, and heavy cream and garnished with tomato, parsley, and lime. If you're lucky, you can snag a table on the second floor, where you'll view kiteboarders catching air in a swirl of sorbet-colored ribbons. Prices aren't shacklike, either—expect to spend around $35 per person.—Aaron Barker
Open Mondays through Saturdays 11 am to 11 pm.
Casa de Campo
Altos de Chavon
Tel: 809 523 3333
High-end traditional Italian fare—made-from-scratch pastas, fresh cheeses, exceptional risottos—are served up here by chef Massimo Caretta, who cut his teeth at the Hotel Cipriani in Venice. There's an antipasto bar with cured meats, olives, and cheeses to whet your appetite, but be sure to leave room for entrees like lobster fettucine or veal shank with porcini sauce. Set in the center of Altos de Chavon (be prepared to pay a $5 per-person fee to enter the little artists' community before 6 pm), the dining room has a romantic Tuscan-style setting, where you may want to linger for coffee and a slice of heavenly tiramisu.
156 12 de Julio
Tel: 809 586 1597
In the heart of Puerto Plata town, this low-key eatery serves up traditional Dominican dishes to a crowd of locals and tourists. The menu focuses on different preparations of mofongo (a dish made with mashed plantains and either meat, chicken, or seafood in a savory sauce), ceviche, and lobster. The atmosphere is nothing to get excited about, but the food, the good prices, and the prompt service (a relative rarity in the DR) are. Hours vary (especially during the off-season), so be sure to call ahead.
Puntacana Resort & Club
Tel: 809 959 2262
Perched above the water, with a palm-thatched roof and open-air views of the sunset, this restaurant's casual, beachy atmosphere contrasts with its sophisticated (and quite pricey) Med-Latin seafood. The just-caught choices change frequently but might include tangy fish ceviche or crunchy shrimp tempura. The service is elegant, as are the well-dressed folks waiting to get inside during high season. Take a lesson from them and make a reservation before you show.
Tel: 809 320 3232
Overlooking Casa Colonial's landscaped mangrove gardens, this intimate, upscale restaurant is one of the island's most dazzling. Light from the windows is softened by sheer drapery, and wrought-iron hurricane lanterns and delicate orchids decorate every table. Chef Angel Mejia recently took over the kitchen and has created an impressive global-fusion menu, with dishes like lobster Cobb salad with lemon tarragon vinaigrette, and blackened salmon fillet over seaweed with Mediterranean basil sauce. A wine cellar features bottles not just from Chile (a common practice in the DR) but from France and Italy as well.
302 Calle Hostos
Tel: 809 687 4091
A favorite of Oscar de la Renta's, this charming place has a lively bar downstairs where live musicians play on weekends, and an upstairs dining room decorated with yellowing local pictures. It's best to stick to the specialties of the house, like cangrejo guisado (fresh crab stewed in a savory brown sauce) and empanadas lambi (pastries filled with conch meat). Other choices, like blandly overcooked fish filets with iceberg-lettuce salads, can be uninspiring.
Sosua , Puerto Plata
Tel: 809 571 2670
On the Waterfront could easily pass for Trader Vic's Caribbean cousin, with its open beamed ceiling, stiff pours of rum, and easy old-school elegance. Freshly caught seafood (lobster, sea bass) is a specialty here, but unlike similar DR establishments, the kitchen knows its way around a filet and rack of lamb. Bow-tied waiters are bilingual and fluent in tableside service, mincing steak tartare, flambéing bananas, and dispensing house-rolled cigars, which add to the delightfully throwback feel. Book ahead for the dining terrace—it's perched atop a cliff that overlooks the north coast's best sunsets and, later, the twinkling city lights of Puerto Plata.—Aaron Barker
Eastern tip of Cabarete Beach
Tel: 809 571 0607
Travelers in search of a proper meal have flocked to this French/Caribbean stalwart for nearly a decade. There's a white linen polish, to be sure, but nature sets the real mood here—an ocean breeze wafts through the alfresco palapa, and the crash of waves serves as evening background music. Dishes are well-executed, French-accented takes on local fare. A warm eggplant mousse might arrive as an amuse-bouche; menu items include salmon tartare with caviar and grilled mahi mahi in ginger sauce. Otra Cosa could easily rest on its laurels—it's the default for any north coast concierge sending a guest on a "romantic" night out—yet service is attentive, almost hovering. It's not often that you're asked how much time you'd like between courses in this neck of the woods, let alone that you receive a nuanced wine pairing.—Aaron Barker
Open Wednesdays through Mondays 6 to 11 pm.
19 Paseo de los Locutores
Tel: 809 620 1001
The Miami feel, New York prices, and hot bar scene bring Santo Domingo's young upper crust to the Piantini neighborhood in the city center. Spare seats, white tablecloths, and lots of wood are meant to evoke an early 20th-century feel, while a wall of televisions, and another of powder blue and earthtone stripes give a few modern touches. Although some of the dishes have a Caribbean edge—red snapper has bits of chorizo and is stuffed into a yuca crust—the menu ranges widely, from sushi to risotto to steaks, thanks to the eclectic taste of Miami-raised chef Alexis Pimentel. The one unifying theme? Elegant, if a bit extravagant, presentation. However, there are some quirks; the service is quick and gracious but a bit overbearing, and it would take a linguistics professor to figure out why the menu is a mishmash of Spanish, English, and Italian descriptions. But it's a hot scene that becomes hotter as the night wears on. Come after 10 if you're just drinking, hang out by the granite bar, and watch the fashionable young crowd mingle to music that changes from pop and lounge to house as the evening goes on.
Open Sundays through Thursdays noon to 1 am, Fridays and Saturdays noon to 3 am.