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Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

El Meson de la Cava

Renowned restaurant tucked in a cave once occupied by buccaneers. 

In 1965, this cave was used for storage by soldiers of the Organization of American States (OAS), an international organization headquartered in Washington, D.C., that counts all independent states in North, Central and South America as members. Two years later, it was turned into the Meson de la Cava restaurant.

The restaurant, considered one of the most distinguished in the area by both residents of and tourists to the Dominican Republic, is tucked into a natural limestone cave created by waves over billions of years. In addition to provisions from the OAS, the restaurant displays several of the valuable belongings found in the cave from previous occupants, which include the Taino Indians, buccaneers who hid in the caves before launching an attack on Santo Domingo, and the guerrillas who fought against the occupation by foreign forces in 1930.

The restaurant has three entrances at street level, but visitors must descend a 40-foot spiral staircase to get to the lobby, which is filled with stalactites and stalagmites.

While some might expect that the restaurant relies on its unique environs to draw visitors in, the Meson de la Cava is known for preparing some of the region’s best cuisine. Local, hand-selected ingredients are brought in daily, as is a catch from the Caribbean Sea. The diverse menu is focused around Spanish-influenced modern classical French and local Caribbean cuisine.