Restaurante-Pizzería Portofino (Calle Hermanas Mirabal 12, tel. 809/261-2423, US$5–12) offers some of the best pizza and pasta in town, along with other Italian favorites like eggplant parmesan. Next to the Portofino Guest House, it’s a good choice for a casual night out in the open air.
Tex Mex is the specialty at Aquaceros Bar & Grill (Malecón 32, tel. 809/586-2796, 10 a.m.–2 a.m., US$7–14), but dishes also include fresh barbecued fish, lobster, and burgers. The distinctive Dominican ambience along the Malecón, with the fresh sea breeze and merengue music, makes it a favorite.
Sam’s Bar and Grill (Calle José del Carmen Ariza 34, tel. 809/586-7267, 8 a.m.–11 p.m. daily, US$4–12) is an institution with the local expats for dishes like meatloaf, chili, Philly cheesesteaks, pancakes, chicken cordon bleu, and a great many other American diner favorites. You’ll often find a sporting event of some kind on the televisions, and it is a lively place for drinks around dinnertime. Sam’s has free Internet access.
Jamvi’s (Malecón 18 and Calle Lopez, tel. 809/320-7265, open 11 a.m.–midnight daily) serves national and international dishes like pizza, burgers, and steak. The location on the Malecón and directly on the beach is a perfect place to enjoy the view and a glass of wine.
Hemingway’s Café (Playa Dorada Plaza, tel. 809/320-2230, noon–2 a.m. daily, US$4–19) is a good hangout and a good restaurant. This maritime-decorated bar in the plaza serves mostly American and Mexican food. It’s air-conditioned inside with umbrella tables out front for alfresco dining.
Canadian-owned Café Cito (Carretera Sosúa–Puerto Plata Km 4, tel. 809/586-7923, www.cafecito.info , 10:30 a.m.–midnight daily, US$4–17) is a favorite for expats and a nice respite away from all-inclusive buffet doldrums. Menu items include international items like filet mignon, burgers, nachos, and moussaka. Jazz music and a good cigar can be thoroughly enjoyed on the open-air terrace. With great service, you can’t beat a great meal in such a relaxing and fun atmosphere.
El Manguito (Carretera a Playa Dorada, tel. 809/586-4392, open 1 p.m.–1 a.m. daily, US$5–20) serves traditional and outstanding Dominican cuisine with excellent service and gets great reviews. Try a plate of pollo in a wine sauce, very fresh seafood like cangrejo asado, or, if you’re feeling adventurous, some tripe stew. For dessert, the coconut milk flan is a must. It is about a 10- to 15-minute walk from the Playa Dorada  resorts. It’s across the street from Café Cito and hard to see from the road—worth the hunt. Cuba libres cost only RD$60, and the beers are equally inexpensive, so make sure to ask the staff to call you a taxi to return to your resort if you need it.
Lucia (Casa Colonial, Playa Dorada, tel. 809/320-2111, www.casacolonialhotel.com , 6 p.m.–midnight, US$14–35), the upscale and signature restaurant of the boutique hotel Casa Colonial, was the designed by Dominican designer Sarah Garcia, whose inspiration was born from memories of her family’s vacations in Tuscany, Italy. Incorporating Dominican materials into the design with French, Spanish, and Italian influences on her style, she came up with her restaurant, Lucia. Executive Chef Angel Mejia trained in Washington D.C.’s Gordon Center. Suffice it to say, the new Lucia has an impressive menu that offers items like fresh foie gras served with a rum mango sauce and a mashed pumpkin potato or Tres-Viche (a tuna, lobster, and Chilean sea bass ceviche). For the ultimate culinary dining, call ahead and reserve the private dining room in the wine cellar with the extensive selection of fine wines.