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Padre Billini 53, Zona Colonial, Santo Domingo
If you've only just got over laughing at the concept of British food (news flash: It’s among the best in the world!), you'll no doubt find a British restaurant in the Dominican Republic hilarious. But quell that mirth. For about a decade, Coco's has served some of the best food in the city, and the Colonial house filled with wooden furniture and antiques is sweetly romantic.
Manuel de Jesus Troncoso 13, Piantini, Santo Domingo
Complete with a pool on the terrace, the setting is as contemporary-cool as any South Beach hot spot—and the food is just as nouvelle. As its name suggests, it's mainly Italian, but not strictly so—there are some Asian influences.
MUSEO DEL JAMON
Alcazar de Colon, Zona Colonial, Santo Domingo
Yes, it's the ham museum—and surely no further recommendation is required. This cozy publike bar-resto near Columbus' house has prosciutto-style hams hanging from the beams, and this, plus other snacks, is what you eat, along with your locally brewed, ice-cold Presidente.
EL MESÓN DE LA CAVA
Ave Mirador del Sur 1, Bella Vista, Santo Domingo
It's kind of gimmicky, but this Spanish-Dominican restaurant is located in a real cave, a former pirate hideout complete with stalactites and stalagmites. Low light heightens the romance, as does the merengue/salsa soundtrack. The food isn't the point, but the sopa de pescado, grilled rock lobster and brûlée-like crema Catalana get few complaints.
ACUARELA GARDEN CAFÉ
Profesor Certad No 3, Puerto Plata
Rafael Vásquez converted his family's Colonial home into this adorable restaurant specializing in seafood and gallery featuring watercolor paintings by his father, acclaimed artist Rafi Vásquez. Later on, he added Aguacate, a Tex-Mex café within the café, housed on a thatched veranda.
Sosua Highway, Plaza Isabela, Puerto Plata
If you're staying on the north coast and tire of your resort, here's a fun jazz café with a cute courtyard and rooftop bar owned by a Canadian expat. The home-style American-über-diner food—from burgers and filet mignon to shish kebab and moussaka to salads and barbecue wings—is ace. There's even a try-before-you-buy hand-rolled cigar bar.