We, as Caribbean tropic lovers, have become accustomed to restaurants that are more concerned with overly gimmicked themes than the gastronomic experience. Thankfully, this isn’t the case in Aruba. The metropolitan vibe of the island along with culinary influences that span Latin America, Holland, and the Caribbean serve up a dining scene that can only be described as world class.
Rise and Shine
To kickstart your day, head over to Linda’s Dutch Pancakes. Dutch pancakes are very similar to a crepe but bigger than your head. Try something sweet (you are on vacation, after all) or a savory pancake like the ham, gouda, and mushroom pancake. To eat, roll, top with syrup, and cut with your knife and fork.
If you’re looking for a lighter and quicker start to your day, seek out Eduardo’s Beach Shack on Palm Beach for acai bowls, pitaya bowls, and smoothies.
Midday Meal Break
No trip to Aruba is complete without dining on the pier at Zeerover’s. The no-frills restaurant accepts cash only and offers two menu choices – fresh shrimp or the catch of the day. Order family style, grab a bucket of Balashi Chill beer and spend a couple of hours enjoying the ocean views. It’s a little out of the way, but worth it.
Another popular, easier to access beachfront restaurant is The West Deck. Skip the entrees and order as many appetizers as you think your party can handle for a true taste of authentic Aruban cuisine. Local staples include fried funchi (polenta) with melted Dutch cheese and Keeshi Yena (a mound of shredded chicken, prunes, spices, and cashews topped with gouda cheese).
Looking for lunch on the go? Then grab some pastechis. The empanada-like turnovers are great for picnic beach lunches or for a snack while hiking in Arikok National Park. They can be found anywhere from grocery stores and gift shops to standalone restaurants, like the Pastechi House.
Dining on Island Time
For a true culinary experience, book seats at Carte Blanche. The exclusive prix fixe restaurant hosts only one seating a night for 16 diners. Chef Dennis greets each guest with a glass of bubbly. What follows is a five-course dinner with a cooking demonstration. As Chef Dennis prepares each dish, he explains what and how he’s cooking. Up the ante on the night with the optional wine pairing to properly complement each course.
Insider tip: you’ll need to book Carte Blanche several months in advance.
Papiamento Restaurant is a more casual fine-dining experience. Housed in the courtyard of a century-old house with a sparkling pool in the center of the al fresco dining space, the restaurant is described as one of the most authentic in Aruba. Of course, in Aruba, that authenticity is a fusion of flavors. Curries blend with local seafood, herbs, fruits, and vegetables. The most fun entrees are served sizzling on a hot stone. Just be careful on how much you partake from the extensive wine and cocktail selections, or you might end up in the pool (my wife is still pissed at me).
Che Bar delivers a dining experience that falls more towards the budget-friendly side. The sidewalk kitchen serves up some of the most delicious Argentinian asado (mixed meat grill) you’ll find outside of Argentina. Gorge on blood sausage, chorizo, beef, and pork. Pair it with a bottle of malbec wine or Quilmes beer.
A Delicious Stay – There are two reasons to stay at Amsterdam Manor Beach Resort. First, the Dutch colonial hotel is located on Aruba’s most sought-after beach – Eagle Beach. Second, a true toes-in-the-sand dining experience at on-site Passions on the Beach – one of the highest-rated restaurants on the island. One bite of the ceviche mojito and you’ll understand why.