Luisa McGrath has spend the last 20 years in Aruba during the month of January. Here's her report on the latest restaurant scene:
A new, terrific "open-air mall" has been built, across and very short walk from the Hyatt, where they have shops, restaurants, and even a fountain that has a light show at 8pm. Dancing waters (very mini Bellagio) but fun and does attract a lot of people. One can see it from any of the restaurants in the mall.
There are several restaurants with outdoor dining, a Mexican, a seafood, etc., also one of called Taste of Belgium, they have indoor and outdoor dining, looked really nice but did not have time to get back there for dinner. My group had dinner (10 of us) at the new Mr. Jazz (indoors) with big windows overlooking the square, and they do have a jazz band starting at 8pm (great band) and a dance floor as well. Great looking place and the food was excellent. We all had different food choices and each one of us loved our meal. Highly recommend it.Not terribly expensive.
The Hyatt itself has several restaurants, my favorite Ruinas del Mar. Try to get a table outside. Only about 6 tables and fun to watch the swans floating on the little river while you have dinner. Cannot make reservations for an outside table, so recommend going early for better chance. Food and service there excellent. On the high-priced category.
In that area there is a fun place, "Smoky Joe's" their specialty being ribs - Dick had them and they were fabulous. They have everything, from Cuban style chicken, to terrific burgers with gouda cheese, to fish and chips (they use the catch of the day - Lisa had it and it was Mahi-Mahi. ) Casual and fun. (outdoor seating) Not expensive.
Chez Matilde is back and wonderful! Pricey but fabulous. For the past couple of years it has undergone ownership/management changes and they finally put their act together again. It's downtown, but worth while the drive down. I always have the escargot and Lisa loves their onion soup. Lisa and Dick had fillet and some other kind of steak. I had a wonderful veal picatta. Lisa had a banana souffle for dessert - to die for.
Also downtown and specializing in fish is The Driftwood. We go there every year. It is a favorite of all our friends from our time-share. All of us go back and back again. Highly recommended. On the expensive side, but not terribly.
Another downtown restaurant we never miss is El Gaucho. Argentinian beef. Try the Churrasco. They don't make reservations, but when you arrive you can have a drink at the bar and they give you a little beeper that tells you when your table is ready. It used to be a long time to get your table, but the economy has take its toll and we just had to wait around 15 minutes this time. Also highly recommended. Average on the high side prices.
Downtown has a Cuban restaurant "Cuba's Cookin" real Cuban food and fun. It can be very noisy because they do have live band, so if you go, do ask for a table in the quieter room. Not sound-proof.... quieter.... If you, or a client goes there, let me know and I will suggest what to eat. Moderately priced.
Marandi has excellent food. I did not go this year but friends of mine did and they told me food as great as always. But, it used to be on the beach, which was fun, and now they have moved to the land-side. Expensive.
Madame Janette is very popular, people love it. Somehow it is not one of my favorites, but it is always crowded and very difficult to get a reservation. Also on the high-side pricing.
Chalet Suisse on the low-rise side of hotels, is excellent. They do have excellent Chilean seabass and I have had very good filet. Not romantic, but simple, elegant decor. Food is great. On the expensive side.
There is a new, casual place - Bingo - I did not go but friends of mine had a burger that they raved about. They do have full menu and it is not terribly expensive.
Marina Pirata, past the airport, a bit of a drive, has always been fun. Specializing in seafood. Worth the drive. Moderately priced.
Hostaria Da'Vittorio is a delightful Italian restaurant. On the expensive side, but excellent.
Bucaneer is an old favorite. Very fresh fish and seafood. If you go ask to be seated in one of the rooms with the walls line the fish tanks. One side especially, with the larger tanks, has lobsters and all kinds of strange fish - lots of fun to watch. Casual, on the moderately priced side.
On the low-rise side of hotels, short walk from my place, is Pizza Bob's. Casual, fun, and we had a pizza that I thought I would never like, but Lisa wanted it, so we had it - and I loved it! Barbequed chicken pizza. They have all kinds of pizzas of course and burgers and lots of other simple stuff. They also have wonderful Aruban beer on tap - great combination.
And the one I feel is the most romantic setting is Papiamento with fabulous food and wonderful service. One of the more expensive ones. Tables placed around the original (quite old) house and surrounding the pool with tables also inside, but you really want to sit outside. I do love this one.
And a new one (We went for brunch and it was to die for). Called Windows and it's located at the new Divi Golf Course. Set up high with wonderful views of the sea and the golf course. If you are drinking champagne they do keep pouring.... I lost track.... I did have a very good nap on the beach that afternoon.... Recommend very highly for brunch on Sunday. Pricey of course...
Many other restaurants - it is hard to have a bad meal in Aruba. Just highlighting the ones I know best.
I'm hungry.... I am going home.... Luisa
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