As the most populated and the most cosmopolitan city in the Caribbean, Santo Domingo’s restaurant scene is rich in both local and international cuisines. You’ll find dining options are as numerous and stretch as wide as the city’s multiple neighborhoods. Whether you’re curious to sample Dominican dishes, or you’re craving falafel and shawarmas or vegan meals, there’s a restaurant, food truck, or comedor to suit all tastes.
The city’s best dining spots can be found in three main areas: the Colonial City, the seafront Malecon, and Gazcue neighborhood, and the downtown Piantini and Naco areas. Eating your way around these areas is a great way to explore the city's diverse facets, from Dominican-themed restaurants to seafood on a terrace overlooking the Caribbean, and dining in a cave.
Here are the best 12 restaurants to try while in Santo Domingo.
Best for Dominican Food: Villar Hermanos
Located in Gazcue, near the Malecon and the Colonial Zone, Villar Hermanos is a bustling, locally-owned Dominican cafeteria restaurant and a staple in Santo Domingo. There are daily fresh lunch options, from rice and beans to chicken or beef stews, fish, yucca, mangu, chicharron, and other Dominican specialties. Enjoy your meal on-site in the spacious, air-conditioned dining area. At the back of the lunch counter, you’ll find a bakery section with sandwiches and empanadas, cakes, and fresh bread. Gourmet coffee and a full cocktail menu are also available.
Best for Live Merengue: Jalao
If you love eating to the sound of merengue, bachata, and other Latin sounds, head directly to Jalao. This Dominican-themed restaurant, located on Calle El Conde in the center of the Colonial Zone, serves local dishes with a modern twist and boasts an extensive cocktail menu. Head there for lunch or dinner before or after you’ve explored the area’s museums, parks, and plazas. Live bands perform here nearly daily, playing late into the night on the weekends as diners are invited to join the fun on the dance floor.
Best for Seafood: El Gallego
Off the beaten track in the Gazcue neighborhood yet minutes from the hotels on the Malecon, El Gallego lies tucked inside a former home turned authentic Spanish-Galician restaurant. Seating is set on a poolside terrace or indoors if you prefer. The menu is an exquisite selection of Spanish seafood favorites, but there are also meat options. Come here for the ceviche, pulpo a la gallega, or octopus, tapas, the city’s best seafood paella, and the extensive imported wine list.
Best for Romantic Setting: El Meson de la Cava
The most romantic restaurant in Santo Domingo for its unique setting, El Meson de la Cava takes you underground to dine in an ancient Taino cave turned restaurant. Beautifully set with white tablecloth covered tables and soft lighting, the international menu is equally satisfying, from fresh salmon to the filet mignon steaks. It’s a perfect pick for special occasions or a romantic night out.
Best for Dominican Pastries and Sweets: Dulceria Maria La Turca
Addressdbdb, Santo Domingo 10208, Dominican Republic
A stop at a dulceria or a typical pastry shop and restaurant is an integral part of the food experience in Santo Domingo. The city boasts numerous options, but the most locally known and authentic is Dulceria Maria La Turca. With two locations in the Colonial City, you’ll get to sample Dominicans’ favorite sweets and desserts, many of which are coconut-based. There are often hot salty snacks on sale, as well.
Best for International Fine Dining: Nipau
Locked in downtown Santo Domingo, in the upscale Piantini sector, owned and operated by a power chef couple, Nipau is one of the most high quality, consistent, and value-packed restaurants in the capital. In a cozy set of small dining areas, the menu will satisfy the pickiest eater: shrimp risotto, wood-fired pizza, lemongrass salmon with lentils, spinach dips, creamy mushroom penne, and rib-eye steaks. The cocktails are also popular, including mojitos, gins, and an extensive wine list.
Best for Middle Eastern Cuisine: Falafel Zona Colonial
Specializing in Lebanese and Mediterranean influenced dishes, made using the family’s grandmother recipes—shawarmas, falafel pita sandwiches or salads, flatbreads, mushroom hummus, and delicious chicken skewers—Falafel has lasted in the Colonial Zone since 1999. The restaurant’s highlight, aside from its consistent menu, is its multilevel Spanish courtyard setting.
Best for Family Dining: Adrian Tropical
Conveniently located on Santo Domingo’s historic Malecon, facing numerous brand hotels, Adrian Tropical is as popular for its “criollo” Dominican soul food as it is for its outdoor clifftop terrace with views of the Caribbean Sea. Order one of its frozen “tropicolada” fruit smoothies, made daily from fresh fruits. Sample a range of Dominican favorites, including chicharron, rice, and beans, fried chicken, seafood in a creole sauce, or a variety of grilled steaks. While service can be a bit slow, it’s an excellent spot for the family—there’s ample seating indoors as well, and the staff will play merengue for special celebrations.
Best for Date Night: Buche Perico
Located on the most scenic cobblestoned block in the Colonial Zone, Buche Perico specializes in “new” Dominican cuisine. Its large, green-room-like leafy courtyard is one of the most beautiful in Santo Domingo, and you’ll feel cool under the giant, rotating yet silent high ceiling fans. Sample the coconut ceviche, Dominican sancocho, or mashed yucca with lobster. There is usually a live jazz performance on the terrace in the evening.
Best for Food Truck Dining: El Patio Culinario
This food truck “patio” in the Colonial City is a fun option for a night out with your group of friends or as a fun couple night’s out. A series of food trucks are permanently stationed in the yard of this outdoor restaurant, serving grilled burgers, Mexican fare, or seafood. There’s always a happy hour deal taking place throughout the week, and the atmosphere livens up with an in-house DJ or karaoke nights. It’s a great spot to enjoy food trucks in a safe atmosphere.
Best for Tapas: Pura Tasca
One of the most value-packed restaurants overlooks Plaza España, along a row of bars and restaurants that were once taverns in the colonial days. The best reason to dine at Pura Tasca is its list of more than a dozen sangrias in multiple local fruit flavors. Try the passion fruit or the classic red sangria and pair them with tasty tapas—patatas bravas, portobello sliders, smoked tuna, and sausage croquettes, as well as cheese platters.