The Best and Worst of Aruban Cuisine

After spending three consecutive Christmases in Aruba I’ve had the privilege of surveying a great deal of Aruba’s restaurants with offerings varying from fanciful Italian delicacies to authentic Aruban prepared fruits of the sea. And I’ve found that despite the decor (elaborate or simple), the cuisine (Asian Fusion, Italian, or Aruban – or casual), or the service (which is mostly quite poor), all of these restaurants left me feeling equally disappointed, unsatisfied, and slightly cheated.

Living in New York has made me incredibly spoiled. If I want the freshest organic milk Manhattan has to offer its either across the street at the Food Emporium or a short subway ride away. If I get a sudden craving for delicious Indian food it is four blocks away. Good Italian food, one block – ten blocks for REALLY good Italian. And so on.

In Aruba if I want good anything I go to one of the now four Dunkin’ Donuts or a cute local shop called Dushi Bagels. I know, great name. A lot of things are coincidentally named Dushi in Aruba- boats, restaurants, drinks- you name it. And why? Maybe because in the native Arubian language of Papiamento, Dushi means precious. And let me tell you, on an island full of awfully plain restaurants, Dushi Bagels is a precious gem. This quaint, incredibly friendly “coffee shop”, located right outside of the Playa Linda, serves great salads (especially their crab salad), turkey burgers, egg sandwiches, and draft beer! Most importanly they have a lovely staff which is tough to come by in Aruba.

Aruba claims to be “One Happy Island” but their restaurants state otherwise. Despite the many duds I came across this past Christmas there were a few shining stars to be found.

Iguana Cantina

This causal Mexican eatery really hit the spot. With all you can eat fajita Wednesdays, the Levine family took advantage of this fabulous find which is centrally located across from the Holiday Inn.

Yemanja Grill

With Christmas vacation always comes my dad’s birthday and Yemanja Grill was a great place to celebrate! Aruban Decor and a sophisticated menu delighted our party of eight. And if you arrive early and stick to the appetizers and the grilled Salmon, you’re guaranteed to have a great meal. Just be sure to pay in cash as the service here is no better than the rest of the island.

Chef’s Table

Our favorite restaurant of three years. Ahi tuna appetizer and entree are excellent as are their salads and fish soup. The rest of the food is as plain and simple as is expected. But their desserts are a dime a dozen! Chef’s table uniquely serves all of their desserts in tall shot glasses!

Other restaurants I’d like to try….

Pago Pago

Screaming Eagle

Morandi

Places to stay away from…

Blossom’s (inside the Hyatt)

Cuba’s Cookin’

Scala

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Good Morning Aruba

An Aruban morning isn’t much different than any other morning I spend in New York. In Aruba, I leisurely awake around 9:30-10am, hit the gym for about an hour, shower, eat breakfast, grab some Dunkin Donuts coffee and start my day, though here I’m adorned in swimwear.

But yes, Aruba is about as Americanized as they come in terms of vacations. If you’re coming for the local food, turn yourself right back around. If you really wanted to, you could eat breakfast at Dunkin Donuts, lunch at Hooters, and spend dinner munching on Dominos from your 5th floor hotel balcony. Dunkin Donuts is the only American thing here I care to indulge in and I must admit, it’s a nice perk. AND, my hotel even has a Subway attached to it and considering how poor the local food is here you really can’t beat that!
Two mornings ago I decided to skip the gym and head straight to Dunkin for a coffee run for the group. I’d been eyeing some of the donuts native to the island the day before and decided that today was the day I was going to eat one. Being that there are only two donuts native to Aruba, I chose the guava donut over the pineapple donut since it seemed a little more exotic. Unfortunately the day I chose to eat the donut it’s covered in sugar rather than powder, but had a very interesting flavor none the less. To my disappointment the guava filling tasted artificially sweetened. It didn’t have that fresh naturally sweet flavor of the actual guava fruit but what can I really expect out of a donut made in an Aruban Dunkin Donuts? None the less, I happily finished the donut by sunset.
DUNKIN DONUTS, ARUBA
– Across from the Playa Linda