With 3 million inhabitants in the metropolitan area, various influences of different cultures and the Dominican desire of going out and enjoying life, Santo Domingo features the most diverse gastronomic scene in the entire Caribbean.
It’s a welcoming break if you’d like to enjoy a different environment after all the paradisical beach and snorkeling activities in Punta Cana. As the nightlife and tourism in the city are centered just around a few districts it makes it even easier to explore all the culinary options Santo Domingo has to offer.
This article will feature the 10 most interesting and authentic spots to eat in Santo Domingo. All of them are located within the Colonial Zone, the historic district of the city, where 90% of all hotels are located and where also the Dominicans love to go out.
This means that you can easily walk to all the top restaurants in Santo Domingo mentioned here – which makes it even more pleasant to explore the culinary diversity of Santo Domingo and its Colonial Zone.
1. The most historic setting: Pura Tasca & Pat’e Palo at Plaza España
If you are in Santo Domingo just for 1 night and would like to dine at THE most emblematic place of the city, then you have to go to Plaza España in the Colonial Zone.
It is the most historic place of the entire city, with Casa Colón (the house of Columbus’ son) being right on the square, Calle Las Damas (the oldest street of the Americas) ending at Plaza España and the “Museo de las Casas Reales” (one of the most beautiful buildings in the city) nearby.
Plaza España is home to a couple of restaurants, which all feature a marvellous view of Casa Colón, especially at night.
Musicians playing typical Dominican music and a muted illumination of both, the public plaza and the restaurants create a romantic atmosphere. In terms of food and ambience at Plaza España, I recommend Pat’e Palo and Pura Tasca.
While Pat’e Palo is probably the most historic and well-known restaurant serving traditional food in an elegant atmosphere, Pura Tasca is one of the cheaper options at Plaza España and serves a fusion of Dominican classics and Spanish tapas. As with all the restaurants at Plaza España, both recommendations offer food and service that are excellent.
2. Experience Dominican culture: Jalao
If you are more into music and traditional entertainment than history and a romantic setting when looking for a place to eat, you should head to Jalao in the pedestrian area of the Colonial Zone, right opposite the historic basilica.
Jalao is a huge restaurant that features typical Dominican home-cooked fare prepared and served in an elegant and modern way. Furthermore, the restaurant hosts almost daily shows or live music, especially in the Dominican genres of Bachata, Salsa and Merengue.
Depending on the crowd, this might turn to spontaneous dancing sessions in the restaurant, as it is a popular place among wealthy Dominicans. If you are looking for an authentic Dominican experience with a high quality of service and abundant options of food, Jalao at Parque Colón is your place to go!
Budget: above average
Address: Calle el Conde (Parque Colón), Ciudad Colonial, Santo Domingo
3. Dine in style: Lulú Tasting Bar
You want to meet the young and successful generation of the Dominican Republic? Chances are high that you’ll find them at Lulú Tasting Bar, an elegant and cozy restaurant and bar in one of the most romantic corner parks of Santo Domingo’s Colonial Zone.
Especially at night, Parque Billini features a haimish atmosphere, thanks to its perfect illumination, historic buildings and the adjacent cobblestone streets.
If you decide to dine in this romantic setting, you can expect a journey through the variety of Dominican dishes, spiced up with some international influences.
As the name of this restaurant in Santo Domingo suggests, you’ll end up tasting a whole range of dishes instead of just eating one plate. Therefore, arrive with some extra time (and money) at Lulu’s and check out the weekly specials to make this visit more affordable.
Lulú Tasting Bar
Address: Parque Billini, Ciudad Colonial, Santo Domingo
4. For veggie lovers: Time Vegetarian Kitchen
Located right next to Lulú Tasting Bar, Time Vegetarian Kitchen is the place to eat for all veggie lovers and vegan travelers during their trip to Santo Domingo.
In a country dominated by meat and hearty sauces, it is sometimes not easy to find vegetarian options, but here at Time, you’ll have plenty of them.
Equipped with a show kitchen and a spectacular array of wines and spirits, Time Vegetarian Kitchen is one of the best restaurants in Santo Domingo and the first spot to go for vegetarians.
If zucchini spaghetti, chickpeas burger, cauliflower steak or yucca empanadas sounds like something you would like to try, you should check out this restaurant in Santo Domingo’s historic district.
P.S.: If you are a vegetarian and Time Vegetarian Kitchen is too expensive for your daily veggie boost, head to Tony’s Restaurant approximately 5 minutes walking outside of the Colonial Zone for one of the cheapest vegetarian buffets you can find in the entire Dominican Republic.
Time Vegetarian Kitchen
Budget: above average
Address: Calle Padre Billini, Ciudad Colonial, Santo Domingo
If you are a vegetarian traveler and are also going to visit Punta Cana, don’t miss out on Amaluna. It’s a heaven for veggie-lovers, totally meat-free and might be the best vegetarian restaurant in the entire Dominican Republic.
5. All-in-One market style: Mercado Colón
Are you traveling with friends and can’t decide what you want to eat because each of you has too many different preferences? In this case, Mercado Colón is the place to go in the Colonial Zone. Set up in a market-style, you can pick your food from different areas and eat all together on the same table.
If you are craving Italian food, have a look at the pizza vendor; Sushi lovers can order the popular fish and rice rolls from the Japanese kitchen; and if you have the strong desire for some solid meat, ask for a good steak from the Dominican section.
In total, Mercado Colón is home to 5 different menus, so there is something for everyone. Thanks to the occasional live music and show performance as well as the large selections of international beers and cocktails, Mercado Colón is also one of the locals’ favorites when it comes to restaurants with an elegant but cozy atmosphere.
Mercado Colón RD
Address: Calle Arzobispo Nouel 105, Ciudad Colonial, Santo Domingo
6. Lebanese food in a pretty courtyard: Falafel
Do you want to combine exotic food with one of the prettiest courtyards the Colonial Zone of Santo Domingo has to offer?
When visiting Falafel restaurant, you can enjoy affordable, home-made and delicious Lebanese food while sitting in one of those historic patios, which are omnipresent thanks to the colonial buildings in this district. It is a true joy to explore them.
Falafel’s collection of sauces and dips is especially impressive; so make sure you get a dish with some finger food.
Budget: below average
Address: Calle Padre Billini, Ciudad Colonial, Santo Domingo
7. The best empanadas in town: Sicily
While all the places described above are proper restaurants, let’s head into the more informal section of eateries in Santo Domingo. These places are significantly cheaper and popular among the young and middle-class Dominicans.
One of these spots – and one of my favorites – is Sicily Empanadas. This hole in the wall offers the best empanadas in town, thanks to their creative and rich fillings as well as the on-the-spot production they have set up.
While empanadas in the Dominican Republic usually are pre-produced and cold (or lukewarm at maximum), empanadas at Sicily are fried only when you order them which means that they are served sizzling hot. This gives those empanadas a totally different taste.
To top this, the “restaurant” (which sounds a bit too exaggerated) has an endless selection of fillings with meat and vegetarian options. There is always a different empanada to try once you are there. Taking into consideration the made-to-order system, prices are very affordable.
Address: Calle Sanchez 257, Ciudad Colonial, Santo Domingo
8. A must-go for cheap wine & tapas: Navarricos
The Dominican Republic can’t deny that its colonial history is linked to Spain. That’s why a tapas and wine place definitely needs to be mentioned in this list of the 10 best restaurants to eat in Santo Domingo.
Navarricos is the name of this locals’ favorite, which can comfort you with super cheap (but good!) wine (around 1 USD per glass) and an abundance of affordable tapas. Another plus is the attractive setting with its few outdoor tables next to a little park with hardly any little road traffic.
So Navarricos is a perfect place to spend your time sitting outside and enjoying the warm temperatures of Santo Domingo. If you would like to come here, arrive early (before 8 pm) as it fills up quickly every night.
Budget: cheap – below average
Address: Calle Isabel La Católica, Ciudad Colonial, Santo Domingo
9. The best sandwiches in town: La Moricette
Although local food is always interesting to try, I know the feeling when you are just craving for a good ol’ sandwich with oven-baked and crunchy bread. It can be particularly hard to find in many Latin American countries.
Luckily, there is the French Café La Moricette right at the pedestrian zone Calle Conde, which offers a wide selection of super fresh sandwiches prepared using home-made bread – and also includes vegetarian options. My favorite is the feta sandwich and the tomato-mozzarella focaccia.
They also have plenty of tables to sit at which are perfect for people-watching, thanks to their strategic location in one of the busiest parts of the Colonial Zone in Santo Domingo. For a few months of the eyar, they also offer a warm and home-cooked dish of the day.
Cafe La Moricette
Budget: below average
Address: Calle El Conde 251, Ciudad Colonial, Santo Domingo
10. Your 24-hour option: Paco Cafétería
If all those options are not enough for you or if you are a night owl eating at hours when nobody else is hungry, Paco Cafetería at the western end of the Santo Domingo Colonial Zone is your place to go.
While it’s not particularly famous for its outstanding food, it is open 24 hours for food and drinks. So it’s a good option if you need a quick grub after a night out in the several bars and clubs of the area – or if you simply arrive in the Colonia Zone during the wee hours of the day.
However, if you are new to Santo Domingo, don’t take socializing too seriously in this place as the folks coming and going here might be a bit weird.
Address: Calle El Conde, Ciudad Colonial, Santo Domingo
About Chris from Punta Cana Travel Blog
If you’d like to know more about Chris and his second home country, the Dominican Republic, check out his website Punta Cana Travel Blog.
After traveling through all parts of the world, he has been living in this beautiful and underrated country since 2015 – mostly in Santo Domingo and Punta Cana. Chris knows all the pristine beaches and secluded waterfalls you can explore in Punta Cana and the entire country and loves it if visitors leave their all-inclusive resort to discover the beauty, diversity, Caribbean smiles and Latin vibes the Dominican Republic has to offer.
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