The Dominican Republic’s Best Restaurants
We can’t say enough good things about Dominican cuisine. Dominican food is unique among the Caribbean, the result of a blending of Spanish, native Taino, and African dishes, ingredients, and cooking methods. What’s more, the vegetables and fruits that naturally grow on the island and those that have become cultural staples (like plantains) come together to create a subset of food with more pop, sweetness, and flavor—even compared to the rest of Latin America.
As the country becomes a more popular tourist spot, more cuisines are being imported; there are solid sushi spots, Italian joints, Asian eateries, and French or Mexican restaurants. World-class chefs from all over are joining the fray. And the best of them are incorporating the cuisine and seafood of the Dominican Republic into their offerings. And we haven’t even mentioned the traditional Dominican restaurants that have begun to modernize and jazz up some old favorites.
Meals are a big deal in the Dominican Republic. They’re a social occasion, an opportunity to bond with old friends and make new ones. As a result, most restaurants in the Dominican Republic tend to be on the casual side, allowing patrons to relax and enjoy themselves.
It was hard, but we’ve compiled some top-pick restaurants for you to choose from. We’ve tried to combine quality and variety in this list, so there should be something for everyone.
Passion (Punta Cana)
Passion shows up on just about every “best restaurant in the Dominican Republic” list, and it’s easy to see why.
Passion is the brainchild of master chef Martin Bersategui, winner of seven Michelin stars and one of the greatest chefs in the world. The food is primarily Spanish-inspired and emphasizes the Dominican Republic’s seafood. The dishes are delicate, unique, and avante-garde, and you’re guaranteed to be treated to a taste you’ve never experienced. To that end, Passion offers their food either a la carte or as part of a tasting menu. Finally, Berasategui is kind enough to offer wine pairings drawn from his own personal collection.
Passion is only open for dinner, so plan accordingly.
La Yola (Punta Cana)
This is a restaurant that wants you to dine surrounded by beauty.
La Yola is designed to make you feel at sea—it’s built on a shipping boat placed on stilts a short ways from the shore, with glass floors allowing you to see the ocean, below. The wooden architecture is indescribably beautiful, giving you something close to enjoy while still offering picturesque views of the marina… which is no surprise. The restaurant was designed by the famous Oscar de la Renta, who’s made several appearances on our blog.
The food at La Yola is Mediterranean inspired, while taking every opportunity to incorporate the local Dominican and Latin American cuisines that surround it. And you won’t find fish any more “fresh caught” than this.
La Cava (Punta Cana)
Designed to cater to those who want a more “exclusive” dining experience, La Cava is a must for wine fans. In fact, we’d argue that the wine is one of the main attractions, here. La Cava specializes in creating dinners made to be paired with their wines, which come from (literally) all over the world.
And, seeing as dining space is extremely limited in La Cava, it’s a perfect spot for an intimate, romantic evening.
Meson d’bari (Zona Colonial, Santo Domingo)
Santo Domingo’s Zona Colonial has been mentioned a few times in this blog, so we’re happy to finally get down to some of its restaurants.
Meson d’Bari specializes in traditional Dominican cuisine, so expect high-quality foods like cangrejo guisado (crab stewed in brown sauce) and Creole-style beef fillet. It’s one of your best options if you want to focus on the unique qualities of Dominican food.
It’s beautiful, too, in a quaint sort of way. It’s a old, converted two-story house with brick archways and local art. As a result of its location and focus on traditional fare, it’s a favorite with locals and you’ll find much of the trailblazers and artists of the nation’s capital hanging out, there. Oh, and they have merengue music on weekends.
El Conde (Zona Colonial, Santo Domingo)
This beauty is smack-dab in the center of Zona Colonial, and is a perfect spot for those who want a more casual café experience.
In fact, it’s styled like your dream of a French café; dark wood chairs, bright paintings, patio seating, and placed right across from a beautiful park.
Despite having the “café vibe” and specializing in some of the best simple sandwiches you’ll ever have, El Conde does offer traditional Dominican food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. You’ll be treated to classics like chicken and rice, as well as mangu (a must-try dish made with mashed plantains). And, for those who don’t want any of the above, El Conde is a nice place to sit, sip a beer, and people-watch.
El Meson de la Cava (Santo Domingo)
We’ve mentioned our friends at El Meson de la Cava in brief, before, but they deserve a more detailed description for this article.
El Meson de la Cava is a restaurant built in a natural limestone cave. You heard that right—a restaurant in a real cave. There aren’t enough words to describe how impressive and beautiful the sight is. What’s more, the cave has a long history with the Taino Indians and Caribbean buccaneers, whose artifacts are on display in the restaurant itself.
Despite the impressive atmosphere, El Meson de la Cava doesn’t rely on appearances alone. Their food is top-notch, considered to be among the best in Santo Domingo. The food is a combination of Spanish, French, and Caribbean, and they bring in a local catch every day.
La Palapa (Punta Cana)
Here’s one that’ll treat your palate to a few new flavors.
La Palapa is the result of a group effort by culinary experts from Italy, Switzerland, and the Dominican Republic. And, the restaurant doesn’t limit itself to those three—it’s got some of the best sushi in Punta Cana and amazing Asian fusion offerings to go with its swiss inspired seafood. On Sundays, they serve a unique surf-and-turf brunch. These days, some are calling it the best restaurant in Punta Cana.
The atmosphere is worth mentioning, too—it’s an open air restaurant, with a panoramic view of the ocean that makes it a favorite for locals and trend-setters.
Eze Bar and Restaurant (Cabarete)
Cabarete is home to windsurfers and sports enthusiasts, and Eze captures their laid-back, easy-going spirit.
Eze is a favorite among locals, especially its bar—placed right under a set of palm trees. They serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but their fruit smoothies and veggie drinks, aimed at the local sportsmen, shouldn’t be missed.
On top of all this, Eze is convenient to get to, and its popularity attracts people of all kinds.
La Casita de Don Alfredo (Cabarete)
Another easy-going beach restaurant, La Casita de Don Alfredo is a favorite for group outings, and a larger alternative to Eze. It’s a rustic, two-level wooden building offering a good view of the ocean.
Needing to recharge after a long day diving and windsurfing? Look no further. This restaurant serves its dishes in huge portions. Too big for one person, really. Their house specialty is a perfect example of that; Caribbean camarones in a coconut-cream sauce too big to put on your table.
Despite the appeal to parties and surfers, La Casita de Don Alfredo shoots for a more laid-back ambience, favoring relaxed lighting and easy views.
The Beach Restaurant (Playa Coson)
First things first; The Beach is a bit less convenient than some of the other spots on this list. Most are smack in the middle of other points of interest, but the only reason you’d find yourself near The Beach is if you were staying at Playa Coson.
That said, it’s easily one of the most relaxing restaurants on our list. It’s part of a 6-suite guesthouse close enough to the ocean to hear the waves as you drink mai tais and mojitos. Because it’s so hard to reach, the beach is pristine and unpopulated, and the fruits and seafood are simple, if not delicious. Take note, though, its only open ’til 5pm and is closed on Mondays.
While not a big, popular destination, Natura is still worth a look. It’s placed within a high-end hotel and specializes in fresh seafood and beautiful, calming views. But, the best reason for coming here is its signature dish—the Shrimp Natura. It’s shrimp in a creamy curry and rum sauce.
Gourmand (Punta Cana)
The Gourmand is among the best French-styled restaurants on the island. You’ll find all the French classics, as well as one of the largest wine lists available.
From beach-side shacks to high-end restaurants to intimate romantic evenings, the Dominican Republic is guaranteed to have a restaurant that suits you perfectly. The food—even from restaurants that stray from the traditional Dominican fare—will be unlike (and much better than) anything you’ve ever tasted.
Written by Connor Johnson
Connor Johnson is a flexible content and copy writer located in the Boston area. He supplements his writing with in-depth research and general marketing skills. He can be contacted here.