Aruba is famously known for its sandy beaches and beautiful resorts. This Caribbean island has been a vacation spot for generations of tourists to relax and play aptly earning its tagline, “One Happy Island”. Besides Aruba’s brewery Balashi and its Aloe factory, the majority of Aruba’s industry is primarily based on tourism which poses the question: if the island’s livelihood is centered around tourism how does one discover the real heart of Aruban culture? Of course, the best way to get to the heart of any culture is through its food.
Lately, there has been a growing resurgence in traditional customs, particularly Aruban cuisine which represents a diversified heritage of Dutch, English, Spanish, and Arawak Indians (the first inhabitants of the island) origins. This trend of traditional cuisine reveals the core of Aruba’s diversified culture, one that is beginning to blossom as farm to table cuisine and sustainable practices continue to grow in popularity. If you’re a traveler looking to go off the beaten path, be sure to check out these restaurants that are featuring Aruban cuisine and farm to table ingredients.
Chef Miguel Garcia, the executive chef at The Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino, has recently incorporated traditional cuisine in the menu at his restaurant La Vista. The most popular of these is Keshi Yena, a traditional dish with Dutch influences. The origins of the dish dates back to the 17th century when slaves from the West Indies combined leftover scraps from previous meals and baked the remains in emptied cheese rinds. At the restaurant, local Aruban ingredients and seasonings are baked inside Dutch imported gouda producing a unique profile of creaminess, sweet and sour. Keshi Yena is just one of the many traditional dishes that are put into rotation at La Vista.
The Kitchen Table, managed by chef-owner Urvin Croes offers a “culinary journey” with a 7-course Aruban-Carribbean meal. With seating for only 16, this restaurant offers an intimate dining experience featuring traditional dishes made from locally sourced ingredients. Each dish is paired with world-renowned wines. Vegetarian? Not a problem, there’s an 8-course option for vegetarians as well. The Kitchen Table offers a personalized experience designed to showcase the heart of Aruban cuisine.
Located right on the dock overlooking the ocean, Zeerovers is a favorite among locals. The fish served is the catch of the day and the open air pavilion is the perfect place to eat fresh grilled seafood served in a no-frills fashion with plantains, fries, and pan bati (Aruban cornbread). Be sure to wash your meal down with a refreshing cold Balashi, the local beer of Aruba, produced and made on the island.
About the Writer
Angelica Olstad is an assistant editor for The Culture-ist. In addition she is also a yogi, musician, and traveler living in Brooklyn, New York and is a regular contributor for MindBodyGreen. Follow: @yogipianist