Food Adventures: Dominican Republic named Capital of Gastronomic Culture of the Caribbean

By Moraima Capellán Pichardo

bocao food fest - food adventures - dominican republic - the yoga loft

For the second year in a row, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic was named Capital of the Gastronomic Culture of the Caribbean.

When I decided to return to the Dominican Republic, I was most excited about the food. Even though I was raised in New York, and had access to most Dominican food staples, I always felt that traditional dishes simply taste better in the DR. Without the added travel time, at a minimum, local goods are fresher than what I was getting in the U.S.

When I arrived to Cabarete, I was pleasantly surprised that not only were my favorite tropical fruits readily available but that there is a growing gastronomy industry throughout the country. Living in New York City, I was spoiled by having international restaurants at my disposal. The Dominican Republic is no exception.

The biggest city, Santo Domingo is the leader in local gastronomy. So much so that they were recently named the Capital of the Gastronomic Culture of the Caribbean by the Academia Iberoamericana de Gastronomía.

I was proud to learn of growing online communities of Dominicans exploring their home through local food as amateur foodies and adventurers. Bocao (meaning to take a bite) stands out as the experts on food travel in the island. Their Instagram page will have you drooling on your phone and ready to travel six hours, if needed, for that golden piece of chicharron perfection.

Shortly after my arrival, Bocao hosted their annual Bocao Food Festival in Santiago where popular restaurants and food trucks from around the country, set up pop-up locations with their best food offerings. Roughly two hours away from Cabarete, the Bocao Food Festival did not disappoint and it officially kicked off my food exploration.

A popular phrase here goes: “El amor entra por la barriga” or “love enters through the belly.” So if my goal is to reconnect with my culture, I see no other way to begin this journey. Foodies like me, read on.

bocao food fest - food - the yoga loft - cabarete

The rise of food trucks

The Bocao Food Fest might be one of the biggest food festivals in the country but it also highlights the growing trend of food trucks throughout major cities. Santiago is also home to the Street Food Festival and Santo Domingo has a few modern food truck parks with a range of premium food options.

Getting to Santiago or Santo Domingo is easy: take a Caribe Tours or Metro bus from Sosua. Uber works in all major cities, including Uber Eats, but there are also many local guaguas and carritos to get around.

In Cabarete, Salt Marina is a new food truck serving Venezuelan arepas and burgers. There’s a growing community of Venezuelan immigrants in the DR. If you haven’t had one of their traditional arepas, you are missing out big time. Hint: Arepas are gluten free! Also, Dominican arepas are very different but also based on corn. 

Food in Cabarete

Cabarete has a large range of culinary options: from super healthy to super deep fried and from deep pockets to $3 USD traditional meals.

I was not expecting to have some of the meal options I have in Cabarete. I often eat at La Mesa Taina right next door to the Yoga Loft. My go-to’s in town include: Comedor Ambar, The Honey Co, Cabarete Coffee Company ( the only spot in town with a decent bagel← not sorry, I am from New York after all) and Restaurante Chino Xiang Wag Jia. The latter beats most Chinese restaurants in New York City. Yeah, I said it.

Food at the eXtreme Collective

The Yoga Loft is a part of the eXtreme Collective; a group of local business dedicated to sustainability and ethical business practices. Because I live, play and work at the Yoga Loft and the eXtreme Hotels (where the loft is located) I can see first-hand how important food is to the company culture and experience.

The Taino Organic Farm is also a member of the eXtreme Collective. They not only supply the organic fruits, vegetables and herbs of the eXtreme based restaurants but they provide the local organic mint used throughout Cabarete for those popular mojitos!

As travelers and explorers, sometimes it can be challenging to support businesses that honor the local community. No need to feel guilty at the eXtreme Collective. On top of their dedication to honoring and educating the local community, every dish that I have tried at La Mesa Taina and the Breakfast Spot is bursting with fresh flavor. 

Our guests who arrive on Yoga retreats often rave about their breakfast options.

Exploring the culinary options of the Dominican Republic is easier than ever. From traditional foods that vary by region the south caribbean coast of the country is filled with Haitian influences to international options that please the pickiest foodie.