When it comes to deciding where to eat in Aruba, discerning diners find this is “one happy island” for globetrotting gourmands. October is an even sweeter time to taste the best of the island’s tasty treats thanks to Eat Local Restaurant Week, which has proven so popular that it has been extended into a month-long affair October 1-31, 2016.
More than 60 romantic restaurants, beach-y bistros, and classic cunucu (which means “farm” in our native language, Papiamento) are participating, serving lunches for $15 and dinners for $30 or $40.
The Daily Meal dishes on the 10 best places to eat during Aruba Restaurant Week 2016. Read on and you’ll be thankful you have an entire month to sample these sensational suppers.
BLT Steak, Palm Beach
BLT Steak is a modern interpretation of the American steakhouse that combines classic bistro ambiance with steakhouse fare at The Ritz-Carlton, Aruba. Chef Luis Malagon prepares signature dishes like BLT blue fin tuna tartare with avocado and soy lime dressing; 28-day dry aged prime porterhouse for two; and sautéed dover sole with soy caper brown butter. Save room for warm popovers, peanut butter chocolate mousse, and pan dushi (small sweet rolls) pudding with salted caramel and rum raisin ice cream from this popular steakhouse chain. Dinner: $40
Eat Local Dinner Menu: Appetizer: Fried oysters with spinach, garlic, and pica de papaya aioli | Main: pisca cora (fried whole snapper with Creole spices and local basil oil) with a side of crispy funchi (polenta) with fontina, smoked black pepper, chives, and garlic sauce | Dessert: pan dushi (small sweet rolls) pudding with salted caramel and rum raisin ice cream.
Truly taste the fresh catch of the day and Aruban flavors at Driftwood, a favorite of locals and tourists alike for 30 years (diners can even try their hand at fishing for their feast via the restaurant’s Driftwood Charter). It doesn’t get any fresher than this; the family-run restaurant’s charter boats bring in fresh fish daily. Chef Jiovanni Rangel prepares them Aruban style with a signature Creole sauce. The cozy restaurant exemplifies its name: the walls are covered in driftwood and adorned with nautical theme artifacts. Dinner: $40
Eat Local Dinner Menu: Choice of Appetizer: Aruban fish soup; escargots with garlic butter; or salad creamy garlic, blue cheese, and Italian dressing. | Choice of Main: Local catch and shrimp pairing prepared one of five ways: “Aruban style” (pan-fried served with mild Creole sauce); breaded (deep-fried, served with tartar sauce); garlic (pan-fried, sautéed with wine, fresh garlic); blackened (coated with Cajun spices, served with a sweet Caribbean peach sauce); or grilled and served with vinaigrette sauce; grilled salmon served with béchamel and scallops sauce; or grilled filet mignon with mushroom sauce | Choice of Desserts: Chocolate, ice cream, or caramel flan plus a choice of coffee or tea.
E Sushi Shap, Oranjestad
This is not a typical Japanese restaurant, from the décor to the dishes. E Sushi Shap entertains guests long before the food arrives with music, from reggae to soca to alternative rock, and offering a seat at the “shap” to watch edible art constructed with yellow fin tuna, wahoo, and red snapper being handcrafted. In an effort to fight against invasive species lion fish, E Sushi Shap helps combat this menace to the island’s reef by eating it. Chef/owner Andriani Geerman makes skeptics believers with Lion Di Coco (locally caught lion fish fried in shaved coconut, kanikama (crab sticks), topped with mango, and served with ‘Sweet Coco Sauce’) and reminds sushi lovers they are in the Caribbean with its most popular roll, the Buddha (fried plantain and crispy salmon topped with baked crab salad and served with ‘Sweet Coco Sauce’) and ingredient mash-ups like the Island Maki (shrimp tempura, kanikama (crab sticks), avocado, and cream cheese topped with tobico and shaved coconut) and Spicy Thai (locally-caught wahoo, spicy sauce, a hint of spicy mayo, and green onions topped with avocado and salmon roe). Lunch: $15 | Dinner: $30
Eat Local Lunch Menu: Appetizer: Lion Balls (locally-caught lion fish tempura served with Creole sauce) | Choice of One Roll: Lion di Coco (locally-caught lion fish with shaved coconut and topped with mango and served with ‘Sweet Coco Sauce’); Spicy Maguro Maki (locally-caught yellow fin tuna, spicy mayo, spicy sauce, tempura and green onion topped with avocado); or Spicy Tai Maki (locally-caught wahoo, spicy mayo, spicy sauce, tempura, and green onion topped with avocado).
Eat Local Dinner Menu: Choice of Appetizer: Lion Balls (locally-caught lion fish tempura served with Creole sauce) or Lion Fish “Pastechi” (locally-caught lion fish with shaved coconut, pineapple served in a deep fried Asian patty and served with sweet chili sauce | Choice of Two Rolls: Lion di Coco (locally-caught lion fish with shaved coconut, topped with mango, and served with ‘Sweet Coco Sauce’); Spicy Maguro Maki (locally-caught yellow fin tuna, spicy mayo, spicy sauce, tempura, and green onion topped with avocado); Spicy Tai Maki (locally-caught wahoo, spicy mayo, spicy sauce, tempura, and green onion topped with avocado); Lion Maki/Mulato Maki: (lion fish/wahoo tempura, cream cheese, and avocado topped with assorted tobico); Ton-Tuna Maki (locally-caught yellow fin tuna, mango, green onion, tempura, and honey topped with masago and Jalapeño peppers); or Mango Halto (lion fish tempura, salmon, kanikama (crab sticks), Romaine lettuce, and mango, drizzled with sake) | Dessert: Pan boyo tempura (bread pudding tempura) served with a choice of ice cream plus a choice of organic tea.
Local Store Aruba, Noord
Housed in a traditional rum shop, Local Store Aruba is a beloved burger and wing joint on Plam Beach. Chef Chris San Juan tops his famous hamburgers and wings with local sauces. Start with signature wings like Balashi BBQ with homemade local beer barbecue sauce and Pica di Papaya, which are tossed in an authentic local hot sauce. Signature burgers include the Chubato Burger with melted American cheese, bacon, and crumbled goat cheese topped with honey and fresh baby spinach, and the Rumshop Burger with melted Swiss, Angus beef patty, and sautéed garlic shrimp topped with pickled red onion and sriracha mayo. Pair the wings and burgers with a craft beer from the bar’s large selection. Dinner: $30
Passions on the Beach, Eagle Beach
Passions on the Beach at Amsterdam Manor Beach Resort is the quintessential Aruban toes-in-the-sand dining experience. Located on Eagle Beach, enjoy sundowners and classic Aruban dishes like sopi di seafood (a creamy Aruban-inspired seafood soup with a dash of cognac); cabrito stoba (goat stew); and tentalaria (cashew nut candy) while barefoot on the sugary white sand beach and bask in the soft light of tiki torches as you watch the sunset while listening to live music. Dinner: $40
Eat Local Dinner Menu: Choice of Appetizer: Sopi di seafood (a creamy Aruban-inspired seafood soup with a dash of cognac); pastechi di bacalao (a deep-fried pastry stuffed with codfish and served with a lime dip); or balchi di carni (a spicy meatball with sweet and sour sauce) | Choice of Main: Cabrito stoba (goat stew) with pan bati (Aruban pan cake); pisca cora (fried red snapper served with sherry-infused baked plantains); or keri keri (Annatto-spiced fish with soft polenta and fried plantains) | Choice of Dessert: Bolo boracho (traditional rum cake with caramel syrup); pistachio and tentalaria (a cashew nut candy topped with pistachio ice cream); or sabayon of ponche crema (a cream-based liqueur) served with banana bread and marinated pineapple.
Red Fish, Oranjestad
Founded by local fisherman Herby Merryweather and guided by Chef Jiovanni Rangel, both of Driftwood, Red Fish is well known by locals for fresh steak-cut fish served by the pound and shrimp and fish combo plates. When the restaurant first opened in 2013, it only served deep fried fish and shrimp by the pound but locals demanded more dishes like keshi yena (chicken stew covered in cheese). This is the place to come for a casual lunch of home-style classics like sopi di jambo (okra soup) and conch stew enjoyed among locals on the no-frills patio. Lunch: $15
Eat Local Lunch Menu: Choice of Appetizer: Fried funchi (polenta) with cheese or fish soup made with the fresh catch | Choice of Main: Catch of the day pan fried or grilled and served with a choice of Creole sauce or garlic sauce; or chicken sate served with house-made peanut sauce.
Salt & Pepper, Palm Beach
This tapas bar and restaurant offers more than two dozen Spanish fusion tapas like pastechi cabrito stoba (a half-moon shaped pastry with goat meat) and funchi (polenta) and a full menu of international options like American breakfasts, sandwiches, wraps, and salads. Salt & Pepper features an air-conditioned dining room and a cozy open-air terrace with live music. Lunch: $15 | Dinner: $30
Eat Local Lunch Menu: Choice of Appetizer: Wahoo soup or fried calamari with marinara | Choice of Main: French bread with keri keri (shark meat) served with funchi (polenta); or eight-ounce house hamburger with American cheese, pancetta, onion, and sautéed mushrooms.
Eat Local Dinner Menu: Choice of Appetizer: Wahoo soup; coconut shrimp; or bruschetta | Choice of Main: Beef stew with fried plantains and pan bati (Aruban pancake) or funchi (polenta); or wahoo filet with Creole sauce and fresh steamed vegetables and choice of Caribbean rice, French fries, or potato chips.
Screaming Eagle, Eagle Beach
One of Aruba's most original culinary experiences, Screaming Eagle offers ultra-chic French fusion cuisine complemented by a well-stocked wine cellar boasting 300 feted labels and an equally impressive bar list of innovative cocktails from around the globe served in trendy South Beach-style digs. Chef Erwin Hüsken pays tribute to the classics while infusing international flavors in dishes like Asian glazed pork belly with white cabbage and red onion salad with bacon bits, watercress, and nam prik mayonnaise; crème brûlée of Hungarian duck liver with Dutch apple jelly and toasted brioche; pepper tenderloin with mashed potatoes, onion compote, green asparagus, oven tomatoes, and table side prepared fresh crushed pepper sauce; and Norwegian Halibut with truffle risotto, spinach, broccoli, and champagne sauce. Some classic dishes are prepared on a flambé cart, which makes everything even more spectacular since diners can watch food prepared the old fashion way. Dinner: $40
Eat Local Dinner Menu: Appetizer: Calamari stew with foam of papa criolla (fried potatoes), pickled pica di papaya onions, chives, deep fried capers, and crispy potato brunoise served with dried bacon and yerba di hole oil | Main: Pan-fried fresh local grouper fillet and flying fish roe served with funchi (polenta) fries with Queso Paisa, red beet salad, and criollo (garlic) sauce | Dessert: Ripe plantain tarte tatin served with ponche crema (a cream-based liqueur) ice cream.
The Restaurant at Tierra del Sol, Noord
Located in a resort with scenic views of the north and west coastlines of Aruba, The Restaurant at Tierra del Sol has a modern Mediterranean design and feel. By day, the outdoor sweeping veranda offers panoramic views of the golf course and the rugged north coast of the Caribbean Sea and illuminated views of the resort pool by night. Those who sit on the north terrace dine surrounded by the restaurant’s fresh herb garden. Chef Jim Rooseman prepares signature lunch dishes like crab corn chowder served in a toasted bread bowl and curry Waldorf salad with sliced juicy chicken breast mixed with apple, celery, and raisins, dressed with a light curry mayonnaise, toasted walnuts and served between crispy wonton sheets. Dinners are best begun with appetizers like tuna tartare with orange zest, wonton crisp, wakame salad, saffron aioli, orange soy glaze, and wasabi foam; and duck liver and sweetbreads, pan seared with Lyonnaise potatoes, bacon crème, sour apple, and red port jus. Signature mains include pan-seared sea bass filet with saffron quinoa, oyster mushrooms, asparagus truffle crème, and grilled pineapple tomato Antiboise. Don’t miss the signature dessert: quesillo duo (caramel flan and chocolate brownie with butterscotch caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream). Lunch: $15 | Dinner: $40
Eat Local Lunch Menu: Choice of Appetizer: Tempera di Marisco (ceviche of assorted seafood, orange, cilantro, corn, avocado, and peppers) or quinoa salad with mixed lettuce, grilled vegetables, cilantro, and roasted almonds with a lemon vinaigrette | Main: Keshi yena (shredded chicken stew with bell pepper, raisins, onions, capers, and gouda) or djampou criollo (pan-seared Aruban grouper fillet, saffron rice, and Creole sauce).
Eat Local Dinner Menu: Choice of Appetizer: Beef tataki carpaccio, tempura shrimp, wakame, green beans salad, grilled green scallions, and hoisin lime vinaigrette; escargots Escoffier with Parmesan cheese bruschetta; or sopi awa di playa (clear Aruban seafood soup with chopped scallions and toasted almond) | Choice of Main: Beef fillet with vegetables, potato and Béarnaise sauce; pan-seared Aruban grouper fillet and garlic shrimp with mixed vegetables potato purée and citrus butter sauce; or keshi yena (shredded chicken stew with bell pepper, raisins, onions, capers, and gouda) | Choice of Dessert: quesillo duo (caramel flan and chocolate brownie with butterscotch caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream); passion fruit sherbet with tropical fruit and mint; or deep fried coconut banana fritters with warm chocolate sauce, banana ice cream, and almond crisp.
White Modern Cuisine, Palm Beach
It is said the first volcanic explosion that created Aruba and subsequently spread gold around the island was on the site of White Modern Cuisine. Thus, the Caribbean restaurant is decorated with wooden and gold accents. Chef Urvin Croes and his team source local ingredients for its signature Aruban and Caribbean cuisine like the signature hoisin duck and Creole mahi mahi. Lunch: $15 | Dinner: $40
Eat Local Lunch and Dinner Menu: Choice of Appetizer: Roulade of chicken filled with keshi yena and topped with gouda, gouda crème, crostini, raisin tapenade, and keshi yena sauce; or Aruban-style fish soup with potatoes, tomatoes, pumpkin, and polenta | Choice of Main: Pan-fried mahi mahi served with pan bati (Aruban pancake), Creole sauce, tomato compote, avocado, pickled onion, and sweet potato; or Aruban-style beef stew served with carrots and potatoes, celery, roasted onions, pickled tomatoes, and moro rice (rice and beans) | Dessert: Tres leches (three milks) Swiss roll served with condensed milk ganache, arequipe (dulce de leche), Italian merengue, ponche crema (a cream-based liqueur) sauce, yogurt sorbet, and vanilla panna cotta.