Ah, Dominican. Your aromas from the city’s restaurants and food stalls beckon with spicy, sweet and savory fragrances wafting in the air. With a delectable blend of Caribbean, European and African influences, Dominican cuisine offers travelers a world of taste-tempting delights.
But take some advice: To experience the best of Dominican food and drink, you need to be a little adventurous and move out of your comfort zone just a wee bit. There are plenty of colorful fruits and vegetables as well as traditional dishes you may never have tasted before. Here are some local foods and drinks you simply must try and where to find them.
Refresh with Tropical Fruit Drinks
Coconut, mango, guava, plantain and passion fruit are just some of the exotic fruits that grow on the island. When you’re on the go, be sure to try a refreshing tropical fruit smoothie. These natural juice shakes called batidas all start with evaporated milk. Batido de lechoza is made with fresh papaya or other fruits, milk and vanilla. Morir Soñando means “die dreaming.” Made with orange juice, milk and sugar, this drink is heaven-sent. Many of these smoothies are available at food carts in the downtown area. Or stop by Barra Payan and enjoy these sweet, fruity drinks, which are the perfect way to chill and relax after a day of seeing the sights.
A Taste of the Town at Chef Pepper
Chef Pepper may be a local chain of restaurants you’ll find throughout the island, but their traditional Dominican fare with a twist of Asian and American cuisines is like a taste of home. Sandwiches like their award-winning Forest Burger with mushroom sauce are hearty and delicious. For a side dish, order the yucca mash with its creamy, cheesy taste and thick texture. This root vegetable is not only good for you, but it’s the perfect accompaniment to the restaurant’s succulent Churrasco Angus Steak. Top it off with bourbon molasses or Portofino sauce.
Savor the Flavor
You’ll find these Santo Domingo delicacies in restaurants and served up by locals in their own casitas. Mangu is a great way to start the day. Boiled plantains are mashed, then topped with scrambled eggs, fried cheese and onions. Alcapurria is another tasty dish that originated in Puerto Rico. It’s a fritter of vegetable roots, wrapped around seasoned meat or fish, that is then deep fried. In some places, the alcapurrias are also known as chulitos.
Pollo guisado is a dish that features stewed chicken in a sauce blending tomatoes, garlic, olives and cilantro to create a hearty meal. Pescado con coco is a Caribbean delicacy that puts a spin on fresh-caught grouper or bass, as it’s cooked in a coconut milk sauce. Even plantains go front and center with mofongos, in which mashed and fried plantains are stuffed with chicken or pork.
Street food is more popular than ever, and you’ll find kiosks cooking up succulent favorites throughout the city. If you’re not that hungry, kipes are a snack that won’t fill you up or slow you down. Brown and crispy on the outside, kipes are filled with flavorful meat. For a touch of spice, raisins or olives can be added.
Brasserie Pat’e Palo Offers a Unique Taste of Tradition
When you walk into this unique restaurant, you know you’ve walked into a special place. Chef Saverio Stassi at Pat’e Palo knows how to create a true epicurean experience. This well-known European Brasserie is recognized as the first tavern of the Americas and is housed in a building more than 500 years old. It overlooks the Alcázar de Colón, the palatial home of Diego Columbus, son of Christopher Columbus, who served as governor of the island in the early 1500s. Chef Stassi sees the culinary world as pure art and offers such traditional Dominican dishes as pappardelle with Calabrese olives, peppers and crab or Dominican spiced goat and pumpkin risotto.
The Grand Finale: Desserts
People in the Dominican Republic take their sweets seriously. Here are a few that will end your meal on a happy note. Flan de leche is a popular creme caramel dessert, or you can opt for arepa, a tasty cake made of cornmeal and coconut. If neither of those strike your fancy, try habichuelas con dulce made with coconut milk and sweet potato chunks.
Mamajuana – The Island Drink
You simply must taste this local elixir of rum, red wine and honey. Some drink it straight up, while others mix it with fruit juice. Brands like Don Ramon, Cibao or Hispanola are good bets and a unique gift to bring home.
Café Santo Domingo – A Taste of Paradise in Every Sip
Café Santo Domingo is the island’s best known brand of coffee, boasting a “field-to-table” experience. The warm, moist weather promotes an ideal mountain soil unique to the Dominican Republic and produces some of the best Arabica beans in the world. The flavor is smooth and distinctive with a hint of cocoa. Be sure to buy several packages to give out as gifts…and be sure to keep a few for yourself!
If you go:
With pristine beaches, sparkling blue waters, eco retreats and historic sites, the Dominican Republic is the most visited island in the Caribbean. For more information visit: