I began my month long travels on the JetBlue All-You-Can-Jet pass in the Dominican Republic.  I was only scheduled to be there for a couple days, and planned on spending the whole time in the capital city of Santo Domingo.  My travels for the first few weeks were very much focused on sight-seeing and food tasting. The plan was to see cities, jungle and rainforest for the first few weeks, with my only beach time/relaxing coming in Jamaica a few weeks into the trip.

My whole travels were being done on a limited budget, putting me right in the heart of the areas I visited, staying either in hostels or low-budget hotels in lower-to-middle class neighborhoods. No traditional hotels or beachfront resorts for me.  In Santo Domingo that meant staying in a semi-dicey neighborhood within a residential area of the Colonial Zone.

(View from my hotel window. The ruins of San Francisco)

On to the food! During my travels I generally stuck to a specific plan: spend the first few days eating traditional food either from street carts or affordable “cafeterias” where locals eat most of their meals. Only on the last night in each country would I go to a “nice” restaurant for an upscale meal. The goal: eat how the locals eat.  While Santo Domingo certainly has its share of fancier restaurants, many of these are associated with hotels, cater to tourists, or are unaffordable for the average resident of the city.

Dominican cuisine is similar to the neighboring islands of Puerto Rico and Cuba, along with shared foods with Haiti, which is on the other half of the island of Hispaniola.  The food is largely Spanish influenced, although many dishes there have a peppering of Italian, Chinese and Middle Eastern flavors. (on a “peppering” note, you will find very little spicy food in the Dominican. Many of its chefs avoid ever using pepper). Despite the Spanish influence, you’ll see many fruits and vegetables rarely used in European cooking as a dominate part of Dominican cuisine, such as plantains and Yuca (and of course lots of rice and beans).

For my first dinner I went to a local cafeteria called Grand’s Cafe and ordered fried pork riojana,which is a Spanish influenced dish featuring fried pork chops smothered in peppers, onions and mushrooms with a tomato-wine sauce. The dish, like many in the Dominican Republic, was served with a side of rice and beans.

The next morning I visited a different local cafeteria for a traditional Dominican breakfast featuring mangu, a savory puree made from mashed plantains and usually served with onions and a side of eggs:

I also ordered a glass of orange juice. One interesting thing about Dominican juice tastes is that they are big fans of adding milk to their juice. Many of the juice options feature a glass of juice with or without milk, and with any juice on the menu you can add in Carnation instant milk mix to give the juice an extra creaminess. Wanting to follow the lead of the locals, I got an orange juice with milk, something I normally would shy away from or think sounds weird (I mean citrus and dairy?).  I was pleasantly surprised though, as it basically tasted like an Orange Julius, which, A) I love, and B) brought back memories of suburban mall food courts.

Lunch was a traditional pork sandwich served on a toasted roll:

Of course no stay in Dominican Republic would be complete without drinking a bunch of tasty Presidente beers:

Coming next, a look at my final night “fancy meal” at La Residence in the Colonial Zone of Santo Domingo.

3 Responses

  1. Rick

    I was recently in Santo Domingo and ate at some hole in the wall near the tourist zone. Very good food! – but you’re right, I was craving at least a little bit of heat. Prior to visiting DR, I found the best Cubano I’ve ever had in some dumpy cafeteria outside of Aricebo, PR. Delicious! I wish they delivered to Boston.


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