How to Eat and Kick it Like a Real Dominican in Santo Domingo
My week in the Dominican Republic started in Santo Domingo and involved a road trip through Santiago, up to scenic Puerto Plata. While the beaches up north were pristine and the resorts beyond luxurious, it was my first few days in the capital that felt the most authentic and real. Sure, sometimes you just want to plop on the beach with a good book. But if you want to experience the real Dominican Republic, may I suggest a little pit stop?
Top Reasons to Stop by Santo Domingo on the Way to the Beach:
- The music. Merengue or bachata is playing at all times and it makes you feel like a dead sexy vixen even if it is 100 degrees out and you are swimming in your own sweat. It is pretty much a party always, everywhere.
- It’s the city of firsts. Literally, it was the first place Columbus landed in the Americas. It is the home of the first church, the first hospital, the first school, the first European anything in the Western Hemisphere. The grandeur and significance of that is pretty major.
- It’s a real city. Santo Domingo has a metropolitan vibe that doesn’t exist in the rest of the Caribbean. There is commerce beyond coconuts and made-in-China souvenir shops. They have a symphonic orchestra, opera company, ballet company, and a national theater. There are also plenty of museums within the Colonial Zone.
- The food. Empanadas, stews, quipes (fried beef and bulgur snack)… everything tastes home-cooked with love.
- There’s a beach here too! And it’s not annoyingly swank. It’s a real beach with real Dominicans!
Sold? Here is your itinerary:
Boca Chica Fish -- If you are ever on a beach and somebody is making fried fish, you should probably have it. Even more so if they are serving it with fry bread and fried plantains (that, my friends, is a Boca Chica-style fish fry)!
El Mesón de Bari -- A very nice place for a traditional Dominican dinner. What to get: conch empanadas, stewed crab, and stewed goat. They run out of the empanadas, so go early.
Mamajuana -- An aphrodisiac made out of rum, wine, and honey soaked in tree bark and herbs. They say it’s an aphrodisiac, but we think it really depends on how badly you want it to be that. Warning: They will try to give you this everywhere you go.
Adrian Tropical -- This ocean-front mofongo place has an awesome Dominican radio station that you should listen to if you want to get in the mood before your trip. What is mofongo? It’s fried, then mashed garlicky plantains mixed in with a meat or seafood, covered in gravy. Mofongo is technically a Puerto Rican dish, but the Dominicans don’t really care. This dish is on my list of potential last-meals.
La Alpagatería -- Couldn’t really decide where to put this because it is a really cool shoe shop/cafe/tapas restaurant/exhibition space. Wound up putting it in EATS so you can just go grab a coffee, hang out there, and figure it out yourself.
Sancocho -- The classical Dominican preparation for this involves 7 meats and a variety of available ground provisions (that’s what they call root vegetables in the Caribbean). We say that any variation of this soup is delicious.
Boca Chica -- This is the aforementioned “real” beach. The water is shallow and the sand is white. We tell you this because it gets so packed on the weekends that you’ll barely be able to see either. But boy, is it pretty fun! Also, on a weekday, you pretty much have the beach to yourself. (pics)
Antique Market Plaza María de Toledo on Sundays -- Here you will find plenty of antiques (from as far back as colonial times (so they say) and from as recently as like last month) as well as performers and food vendors.
Mercado Modelo (pics) -- Pretty grimey place that has everything! Live poultry, fruits, vegetables, jewelry, cigars, clothes… witch doctors who have a cure for any body ache or heartache.
Casa de Teatro -- This arts complex houses an art gallery, an outdoor bar, and a stage that hosts live music and shows coming through town. To quote my Dominican friend, “It is a very old-school artist hangout.”
Colmados -- These are arguably the coolest places in town. They sell everything you will ever need -- liquor, ice-cold Presidentés, tools, snacks, toilet paper, cigarettes. And, if you want, you can use whatever you bought right there. Buy a bottle of rum, a bottle of coke, some cups, some ice… and then have a party at the Colmado. Really, by the time you get home, will you even still be in party mode? These are places where everyone gathers. They maybe look a little unwelcoming, but it’s probably cool that you hang out there. If you are really lucky, you’ll find one hosting a karaoke night.
Merengue Club -- There is an indoor and an outdoor and many little rooms in between where we were told a lot of fun things can happen. You can decide what that means.
El Sartén -- This sultry, old-school bar is where elder statesmen gather to show off their still-smooth moves to a mix of merengue, bachata, and cuban son (the root of salsa). If we lived in Santo Domingo, this is where you would find us every night.
Grupo Banyé -- This band leads a giant dance party in the ruins every Sunday. The entire city goes. And you should too if you happen to be in town.
Follow Angela and all her food and travel adventures on Instagram @angelalalaw
Angela Law traveled to the Dominican Republic courtesy of the Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism. All opinions are her own.
All photos by Angela Law, except the pic of her.