Fusions of Dutch, Aruban, African and Latin culture lead to wildly expressive (and mouth-watering) restaurant menus in Aruba, proving the country is on firm footing with foodies. The island is also a rare Caribbean destination offering dining options that span from casual (fish tacos on the beach) to high-end (steak and wine by candlelight). Many chefs source locally from the island, adding a vibrant layer of freshness to their dishes. Here are our top ten Aruba restaurants.
Perched at the end of a pier at Aruba Surfside Marina is one of Aruba's most romantic restaurants, Pinchos Grill & Bar. The best time to book a table at is just before sunset: Start with a cocktail on the outdoor patio overlooking the water and watch the stunning vista close on another day in paradise. Dishes include spicy Aruban fish cakes drizzled with pineapple mayonnaise and grilled Aruban mahi prepared with a tomato, basil and rosemary sauce.
Celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2017, Flying Fishbone is an ode to — you guessed it — freshly caught seafood. (Most of the fish are sourced from a local market.) Warm up your palate with oysters or Peruvian-style ceviche before easing into entrees such as a shrimp shitake with blue-cheese casserole or the restaurant's famed Savaneta Seafood History (named for the restaurant's town), folding in curry sauce and a mélange of seafood and vegetables.
While also open for breakfast and lunch, dinner is when The Kitchen Table by White really shines. 16 diners at a time are seated around a U-shaped demonstration kitchen to witness the creation of an eight-course tasting menu ($99, 7:15 p.m. seating only). Plating techniques for the farm-to-table fare are works of art, with textured layers and pops of color: think a dessert course of chocolate ganache with popcorn and red-beet gel. For an additional $75, tack on wine pairings to the tasting menu.
A two-time winner of the prestigious Les Amis d'Escoffier award, Madame Janette bridges various ethnic cultures on its dinner menu, resulting in offerings like Hungarian Goulash Soup and Chinese-style Bang Bang shrimp. Even the most traditional of dishes have their own accent, including the "Gianni Versace" filet mignon, served with lobster medallions and Portobello mushrooms. Beer snobs will want to eat here at least once to enjoy the extensive craft-beer menu.
Perfect for couples that want to enjoy an intimate meal on the beach, tables for two at Passions on the Beach are right on the sand. Tiki torches provide mood lighting while waves lap the shoreline and palapa huts provide shade. Opt for a "Ranch and Reef" pairing for filet mignon with a lobster tail and shrimp, or a dish with tropical flair, like the pork calypso with melon gravy and toasted cashews.
Whether you dine inside the historic mansion dating back to the early 1800s, in the garden or poolside, the vibe at Papiamento is elegant. A wine vault stores around 1,800 bottles, a mix of affordable and splurge-worthy selections from around the world. Even the bread service has flair: rolls are stacked on a skewer and presented on a rustic, tree-bark-inspired charger. The generous portions favor spicy fare, perfect for diners who love curry and hot peppers.
Plating is an art form at White Modern Cuisine, open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The all-white space with foldaway walls is a fresh offering from chef and owner Urvin Croes, who got his start cooking for the Michelin-starred Grand Hotel Karel V in the Netherlands. Farm-to-table ingredients drive the menu's unique offerings, like Aruban seafood stew and curry-coconut-braised lamb shank.
Opened in 2017 and owned by Instagram star Yoga Girl (aka Rachel Brathen), this wellness-oriented cafe appeals to vegans and gluten-free dieters who don't want to scrimp on flavor. Go for breakfast or lunch and dine in a garden setting at communal tables with benches. The menu includes unique bites like "bliss balls" (nut-based energy boosters with natural ingredients, such as matcha or peanut butter), along with smoothie bowls, salads and avocado toast. Pair with organic wine or fresh-pressed juices like the Yoga Girl Juice, a blend of seven fruits and vegetables.
Among Aruba's finest dining options is Screaming Eagle. This is where you go for a skirt steak with truffle sauce or New Zealand lamb (or a terrine, one of the chef's specialties), along with an extensive wine list with more than 300 options. Desserts are very creative, and worth saving room for, ranging from upside-down pineapple tart to chocolate-chip and matcha-tea-flavored ice cream.
Craft is popular for breakfast (especially for its crispy Belgian-style waffles and Samba Acai bowl), although the coffee bar also serves alcohol, is open until 1 a.m. and hosts DJs a few nights throughout the week. Desserts, such as key-lime cheesecake, are served in Mason jars, and baristas like to play around with creative latte art.