With a diet based heavily on rice and beans, starchy vegetables, salads and fruit, the Dominican Republic can be surprisingly vegetarian-friendly. However, with the increased usage of processed seasonings, such bouillon cubes (sopita) and chicken-flavored powder seasoning (sazón), to many dishes, vegetarians often have difficulty finding items that do not contain meat products. Though in many rural areas, it is still common to see women hand-milling homemade seasoning or sazón from garlic, onions, mild peppers, cilantro, celery, oregano and bitter orange, many households have resorted to these aforementioned store-bought seasonings with animal byproducts to save time. For the purists out there, here are a few dining options in Santo Domingo that are both delicious and guaranteed to serve only 100% vegetarian dishes.
Crudo is an organic vegetarian restaurant and natural products store. The restaurant prepares salads, juices, and vegetarian dishes, including a reasonably priced plato del día. The store carries natural remedies, vitamins, incense, and aromatherapy oils that waft outside into the street. Dr. Felix F. Casas, doctor of holistic medicine, owns and operates the establishment.
RD$150-250; 152 C/Arzobispo Portes near C/ 19 de Marzo, Colonial Zone; 689-0796; Mon.-Sun. 12pm-7pm
Delicias Integrales at El Instituto de Medicina Inovativa y Bioquímica Funcional
Though the selection is limited at this doctor-owned restaurant, the daily options are always quality. Try the plato del día, which generally comes with brown rice, beans, salad and a side such as vegetarian lasagna or veggie meatballs for RD$140. Beverages are not served save for hot anise tea, but there is a small health food store next door that sells juice and water. If a hint of cinnamon wafts through the air, ask for the delectable cinnamon bread (pan de canela), generally sold out within minutes of leaving the oven.
RD$140-200; 31 C/ Caonabo between Calles Felix M. del Monte and Leopoldo Navarro, Gazcue, 947-8312; Mon-Fri, lunch only
Ananda Vegetarian Restaurant/Centro Cultural Yoga Devanand
This tucked-away yoga studio and vegetarian eatery offers a large variety for reasonable prices. Meals are charged per item, so take a minute to check out the options in the buffet line before being shuffled along by the working professional crowd that frequents the spot. Vegan options are available, as well as yoga and vegetarian cooking classes.
RD$100-200; 7 C/ Casimiro de Moya, Gazcue; 628-7153; Open for all meals Mon-Sat until 10pm and Sun until 3pm
An unlikely spot to find an excellent variety of vegetarian-only options, this Seventh-Day Adventist Church has a cafeteria open to all. There is no sign, so keep a look out for people entering through the glass doors in the middle of the complex. There’s also a health food store on the far right of the church that is open weekdays and on Sundays 9am to 1pm.
RD$80-150; C/Juan Sanchez Ramirez near the corner of Av. Máximo Gomez, in the Adventist
Church complex around the corner from the Supermercado Nacional and across from the Embassy of Haiti; Mon-Fri 8am- 3pm, Sun. 11am-3pm, Closed Sat.
This organic Chinese-vegetarian restaurant offers a pleasant patio to sip on inventive Eastern teas infused with tropical fruits and flowers while waiting for one of Chef Suzuki’s meat-free creation such as chontz, a savory rice-based pastry stuffed with Chinese mushrooms and garnished with peanuts. Handmade noodles served with tofu, bok choy, and carrots in a flavorful brown sauce serve as an excellent way follow any of the scrumptious starters, which include fried mushrooms or vegetable eggrolls.
RD$150-300; 18A Salvador Sturla, Naco; 565-2084; Mon.-Sun. 11am-10 pm