Light, Heavy, Quick, Laid-Back Lunches and Munchies in Aruba

Aruba wants real food in the midst of a busy day - even if they have to skip the traditional siesta (the afternoon nap) in order to digest it all. The siesta probably began in Spain, and then spread to many Latin American countries and the Caribbean. The heat of the midday sun, as well as a midday meal would both contribute to its popularity. Here in Aruba, people used to take their lunch-and-siesta seriously. The sleepy, steamy, three-hour calm between coffee-hopping mornings and after-work happy hours is excellent proof of the symbiotic relationship between food and human biological rhythms. Lunch was (and still is) the biggest and hottest meal of the day for the Aruban people. Take away the plates heaped with glistening white rice, the bowls of goat stew, the Creole soups chunky with pumpkin and sweet potato, the swinging hammocks and Aruba afternoons are suddenly bustling with appointments, conference calls, traffic jams, Sushi To Gos, Chinese Take Outs or Quick and Healthy Bites. Although modern life seems to have overtaken this part of the world as well, favorite lunch spots like The Queen's Traditional Kitchen and Charlie’s Bar & Restaurant still connect the locals to past traditions, excluding the afternoon snooze, unfortunately – unless you’re on vacation.  


Bread Boutique is a charming little lunchroom in Oranjestad, tucked away in the Sun Plaza building across from Ling & Sons Super Center. A worthwhile visit for anyone who appreciates the waft of freshly baked bread and the richness of healthy and delightfully prepared specialties. The Dutch "Uitsmijter" is a great choice for a good, sturdy breakfast or lunch. Lighter options include fruit cups, real whole fruit smoothies, crisp salads or a hot cup of brewed coffee with a "Tosti" (grilled cheese sandwich). For bigger appetites, Bread Boutique serves Hot Sandwiches and a Soup Of The Day with baguette, wrap or salad. Eat here, pick up and go, or get your goodies delivered to your door.

Boca Prins Bar & Restaurant
Photo courtesy of Albert Braamskamp

Have a drink, a meal, a snack, a real taste of the island's outdoor life by taking in the arid landscapes and beautiful coastal views at Boca Prins Bar and Restaurant. It's centrally located near the Boca Prins sand dunes and bay, and the Fontein caves, offering a casual menu of hot and cold sandwiches with fries, salad and plantain, fresh catches, daily specials and other moderately-priced dishes. Try one of the frozen cocktails or have an ice cold beer to revive the spirits. There is also a souvenir shop where guests can browse a buy some gifts before getting back on track.

This lovely, authentic Aruban house is indeed The Sugar Garden (De Suikertuin) of downtown Oranjestad. Wherever you choose to take a seat, - inside, in the cozy, air-conditioned home-style cafe or outside, under a tropical tree or in the shady patio - a breakfast or lunch here will always delight the senses. De Suikertuin has something for everyone. Check out their menu while having your first Cappuccino or a freshly squeezed orange juice. The Pampering Breakfast is more than a promise, and if Dutch pancakes sound tempting, know that many toppings are possible - hearty or sweet. If you still can't decide what you want for lunch, just ask what the daily specials are.

L.G.Smith Boulevard

The reason this small and cozy sushi spot tends to get overlooked by both tourists and locals, has probably to do with its location. Hidden away on one of L.G. Smith Boulevard's quiet back street corners, Tatami Sushi Bar keeps on pleasing its savvy (and seemingly tightlipped) customers with a welcoming menu. In a family-friendly ambiance, small and medium-sized parties can savor traditional Japanese specialties like Tempura, Teriyaki, Sashimi and an exciting selection of the ever-popular sushi rolls. By blending in local flavors, Tatami raises the bar with an innovative menu that features fun creations with mango, tamarind, hot papaya sauce and avocado.

Charlie's Bar & Restaurant
Photo courtesy of Albert Braamskamp

This bar, founded by Dutch couple Charles and Marie Brouns, has been an island legend for more than 70 years. Many people visit just out of curiosity or to study the outrageous decor: banners, pennants, posters, stickers and bric-a-brac cover the ceiling and walls. Though many come the first time to gawk while they sip on a cold beer, Charlie's keeps them coming back with surprisingly good seafood, especially Creole squid and "Shrimps Jumbo and Dumbo." (Dumbo because they got caught!) Chef Charles (the third generation of Charlie's) and Chef Rosalba also cook a mean Argentine-style steak, and their trademark "honeymoon sauce" is fabulous, and hot, hot, hot! If you're visiting San Nicolas, on your way to Baby Beach or famished after a day of fun in the Sunrise City of Aruba, drop in at Charlie's to have something to brag about.

Daily Fish
Photo courtesy of Liliana Erasmus

As much as some of us need our daily bread, there are quite a few who can't get through the week (or even the day) without a good portion of freshly caught fish, or seafood. Daily Fish, located in the Super Food Plaza, is happy to oblige with a wide selection of local catches and imported quality seafood and fish from around the world. Famished customers are welcome to sample sizzling hot Fish and Chips with flavorful homemade sauces. Perfectly smoked specialties like eel and salmon, fresh seafood soups of the day or a salted herring, will keep the taste buds begging for more than just one day of fish.

This picturesque restaurant was built in 1914 as the home for the California Lighthouse-keeper and apart from the panoramic views of the island, La Trattoria El Faro Blanco's menu features many Italian favorites with a special emphasis on Neapolitan cuisine and seafood. The Linguine Allo Scogliera is served mounded with shrimp, octopus, scallops, clams and tomatoes, and the Zuppa Di Pesce Del Faro is one of the best seafood soups on the island. There's dinner, lunch, but also breakfast and a special mini-pizza menu for early birds diners. If you can't make up your mind yet, take a cocktail and enjoy the sun and the scenery, the full bar service starts at 9:00 am.

There was a collective sigh of relief when hospitable owner Varella Inocencia and her mom, chef Luisa (The Queen!) found a new home for The Queen's. Though significantly different in style from the restaurant's original downtown location, the high rise setting conveys a bigger stream of island visitors and locals to the spirit and coziness of the Aruban cuisine. Local starters, inspired cocktails and Aruban specialties are served on the second level of Palm Beach Plaza. Appetizer highlights include the typical Cuminda di lama Tempera (pickled seafood with fresh local herbs) and fish cakes served with Creole sauce. And for a pleasant participatory experience, try one of the crowd-pleasing Mama Stews.

Casa Tua is a family restaurant, known for its deliciously thin and crispy crust (the Nataf family's secret recipe), serving as base for its Margarita, Quattro Staggioni, Siciliana, and other popular pies. With several locations on the island, Casa Tua is never too far away nor dull. All the restaurants have their own unique identity, adding Spanish tapas and Paella, Mediterranean flavors such as Moroccan Couscous and Grecian Moussaka at the Palm Beach Plaza location, or the classic Italian recipes like Osso Bucco Di Vitello and Risotto Ai Porcini from Casa Tua Marketplace. For dessert, go for the Tiramisu or hang on the patio and soak up the energy of Aruba's downtown or high rise district while sipping on your Sambuca.

L.G.Smith Boulevard

This family-owned beach bar and grill is situated on one of the gorgeous beaches along the L.G. Smith Boulevard, called Governor's Bay – the Governor's house is right across the street. Being part of Aruba's buzzing Linear Park, The West Deck embraces the calming views of the ocean where cruise ships and yachts sail by, airplanes descend for landing and fishing boats anchor in clear blue water.Whether the sun is reaching its highest point at noon or disappearing gloriously below the horizon, it shouldn't be celebrated without a refreshing Beer-Rita, Mojito or an ice cold Chill (locally brewed light beer) out of the bucket. Try favorite small plates like Conch Fritters and Island Coconut Shrimps. Whatever the plan is; sharing plates or choosing your own entrees, having drinks or only dessert, lunch or dinner; The West Deck is the perfect place to find what island life is about.


Meet Liliana Erasmus

Born and raised in Aruba, Liliana moved to the Netherlands to continue her college education in Marketing. Since 1998 she’s been back on her beloved island, where she is working as a...  More About Liliana