by Jose Kevo
March 23, 2005
Sandwiches dominate most breakfast menus. Dumbo's, on Calle Nouel, in the same block as the hotel, is a counter-top eatery serving up toasted cubanos, ham and cheese, and other light plates for RD45. For those with a sweet tooth, the Colonial Deli & Pandería, 1 block farther, has loaded pastry cases with nothing costing over RD60. A couple of cheese-laced popovers filled with tropical-flavored pastes and creams compliment the robust of local coffee brewed through espresso machines. The Café Americano’s larger-sized serving averages RD15 in most establishments, and it is highly recommended to jump-start any portion of the day when lagging.
El Colonial is the restaurant of posh Mercure Hotel at the corner of Conde & Hostos. Tuxedoed waiters fuss around the upscale atmosphere further iced with rare-find air-conditioning. Daily lunch specials, averaging $6, are posted on an outdoor billboard and feature local dishes, though an extensive menu includes pricey French-infused selections. A savory helping of pollo chicharonnes, diced breaded chicken fried in garlic, oregano, and lime, served with generous portions of yellow rice, beans, and salad and a bottomless bread basket more than sufficed for meal of the day.
My other habitual haunt is El Conde Restaurant on the northwest corner of Parque Colón. Coming here at night, long after the tourist exodus, is well worth the wait. The menu caters to every appetite. Sandwiches and fries average RD150/$5, while multiple-course meals, including fresh seafood, are priced between $12 and $15. They've a full bar, but their best-kept secrets are the fruit smoothies for RD80; RD120 for ones dosed with rum.
Indoor dining rooms open onto a sidewalk café where you'll be lucky to find a table People-watching is as popular as the food regardless of time, but here's a forewarning: watch where and how you place your loose belongings. The enchanting environment could quickly turn nasty if not paying attention. "Snatchings" reportedly take place all around Parque Colón because of opportunity. The area isn't necessarily any riskier at night, but I've never carried backpack or camera anywhere in Santo Domingo after dark.
Truth be told, local restaurants have always been more for relaxing with a cold beer rather than sit-down meals. Opportunities for gorging in the streets sees to that.
Street vendors hawk more mouthfuls than swarms of unaccompanied 10-year olds with pockets full of money could founder on at the circus. Temptations include everything from fruits or corn-on-the-cob boiling in gas-rigged carts, to pizza, hot dogs, and kabobs to fried pastelies and homemade dulces, sweets that can make your teeth hurt. Snacking is inexpensively satisfying but may require a cast-iron stomach, more for indigestion than potential food bacteria.
From journal Legacy Lullabies: Rocking the New World's Cradle