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Feb 11, 2014 04:50 PM

Updates on Aruba?

We are staying in Aruba next week. I have several reservations but I am still shuffling things around.

So far, I have:
Flying Fishbone
Old Man and the Sea
Madame Jeanettes

Is there anything I should add or subtract? I am seeing some not so great reviews recently for Old Man and the Sea and Papamiento.

My preference is for good food over fancy presentation. In fact, I would prefer a casual environment to something super upscale but will follow the tasty nibbles. Little local places are great. I avoid trendy and chains at all costs!

Thoughts, please!

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  1. There is NOTHING super upscale in Aruba so don't worry about that. The most upscale restaurant on the Island was Chez Matilda which closed in recent years.

    I have been going to Aruba since 92 and have been there nearly every year since, I know the Island well my last trip was this past Nov.

    I do not know the Old Man and the Sea at all, but Papamiento is past it's prime. There is a big change in the dining there, with recent construction of shopping and dining directly outside the high rise hotels, fewer and fewer people are venturing out to the old restaurants spread throughout the island. Many of the hidden treasures are now either gone or just hidden with fewer people venturing past the new trendy spots for the old standards.

    You must go to The Driftwood for seafood, wahoo specifically. Trust me you will enjoy it, it's located downtown. Also the best Italian food is located near the Costa Linda Resort. It's actually in the parking lot, the name escapes me but the chef was from Valentino's which was a staple for fine Italian for many years.

    Flying Fishbone is breathtakingly beautiful, try to be there for sunset. It's towards the other side of the Island (San Nicols). The food isn't what it once was but the setting is well worth it.

    Madame Jeanette's was once the most popular places on the island. It is an example of places that are suffering from the new construction. It is still excellent but their business is down.

    Although I haven't been to it in years El Goucho is a very popular steakhouse and worth the visit if in the mood. It had gotten pricey and after going so many times I just started to pass on it.

    Hope this helps, if you want to tell me where you are staying I can advise you more based on your location. Enjoy it's a beautiful island!

    10 Replies
    1. re: jrvedivici

      Thank you! That's very helpful. We are staying at the Marriott Ocean Club. Is there anything at all in the high rise area worth checking out?

      1. re: puffinsmuffins

        There is really nothing to pay attention to at the Hotels. Directly next to you is a new resort operated by the Ritz Carlton. They were just nearing completion in Nov. they should be open by now. I have no idea about the dining options there, but there is nothing special about any of the other Hotels. Don't get me wrong....the foods not bad, but nothing to draw you from the other more local fare.

        I own at the Playa Linda, two resorts over from you, the Holiday Inn is in between us and you. You will see the new construction that I'm speaking off across the street from where the Playa Linda is.......all the shops and restaurant you see along the strip there are less than 5 years old, before that it was all just desert.

        Do yourself a favor now......I assume you rented a unit at the Marriott, it is a HUGE resort, very nice and plush but very, very large. If you have a unit closer to the road than the beach it can be a 15 minute walk from the beach to your room. Try to get a unit as close to the beach as possible, if not you will be doing a TON of walking during the day.

        There use to be a hut between the Holiday Inn and the Marriott on the beach, they built it up a bit......but it use to be nothing but a thatch roofed hut where the small local fishing boats would come in. (the commercial boats come in downtown). You could go there and get the "fresh" catch of the day.....grilled on an open grill and the fish could have been out of the ocean for less than an hour. It was a great place to have a red snapper sandwich and beer for lunch. I haven't been there in the past couple of years because they had built it up a bit and it lost it's "charm" to me.

        About 10 minute drive is the Light House. There is a restaurant there as well........again I haven't been for years and it's changes hands/names a few times. I cannot vouch for the quality of the food, but again it's all about location. The view is amazing, it's elevated and directly on the coast so you get a wonderful view of that side of the island from the restaurants vantage point. It's a great place to check out.

        A big disappointment this last trip was The Chef's Table. Like Madam Jeanette's this use to be one of the better restaurants on the island. While Jeanette's still maintains it's quality, just less customers, Chef's Table when completely to hell. Avoid if suggested to you.

        I'm sorry I cannot remember the name of the Italian restaurant, but ask the concierge about the Chef from Valentino's she should know. Like I said the restaurant is a free standing building in the Costa Linda grounds, be careful because there is a pizza place a few hundred feet before it, so you might see the pizza place and think that's it but it's not, keep going and you will see it!!

        If you are going to be going to Flying Fish Bone and other restaurants around the Island do yourself a favor and rent a car. Plus you can go adventure seeking whenever you want, you will spend a ton on taxi's going all over the place. Do yourself a favor if you like snorkeling go to Baby Beach great snorkeling spot.

        If you have any other questions feel free to ask. I love that Island and truly do plan on retiring there one day! (a boy can dream!)

        1. re: jrvedivici

          The restaurants name is Eliotti's. The restaurant at the Lighthouse is overpriced and not very good. Barefoot is really great (location of the Old Mirandi's - rotary closest to airport) and saves a trip to Flying Fishbone which has also fallen from favor. We love Chalet Suisse for consistently good food. The new restaurant at Costa Linda is right on the water and is very good - Water's Edge is the name.

          1. re: Linda VH

            Elliotti's!!!! Yes!!! Thank you so much that was driving me crazy!

            The Chalet Suisse is one of the older restaurants that is still surviving, I haven't been there in a while but it was mostly a steak house if I remember correctly?

            On our last visit I drove my niece and her boyfriend to the Flying Fishbone for their romantic date. I noticed a new restaurant opened up almost next to it, do you know anything of that?

            1. re: jrvedivici

              Wow, thank you both. This is very, very helpful. I think we'll go with Barefoot instead of the Flying Fishbone. We also have reservations at Marandi. I think we'll skip Old Man and the Sea. I am going to see about Ellioti's now! It looks like it might be ok to bring my daughter there because they have live music to drown out the toddler noise!

              1. re: puffinsmuffins

                Chalet Suisse is more than a steakhouse. I always have duck and friends like their fish. They have German dishes as well.

                1. re: puffinsmuffins

                  Just got back from my annual 2 week vacation......

                  The meals that stand out (and usually stand out)

                  Carte Blanche
                  Bingo's (for a Bingo burger)
                  Wacky Wahoo (tho noisy)

                  Meals that were good.....

                  Ike's Bistro
                  West Deck
                  The Old Fisherman
                  Que Pasa

                  1. re: pwrube

                    Hope you had the curly fries with the Bingo Burger.

              2. re: Linda VH

                I have not been to Aruba since the 1980s. I think we had dinner in the Lighthouse!

                I remember Aruba is very close to the equator and you can get sunburned very quickly. It's also very windy so you don't feel the heat and no bugs.

          1. re: phatchris

            You bet. We went to several places here in Aruba.
            Aqua Grill has a nice set up, food was good, but not outstanding. They charged us extra 15% for service.
            Le Petit Café was just OK, clean, good Chilean Rose, food comes on a hot stone.
            Driftwood in downtown (extra cab charge $22 from the high rise hotels where most people will stay) was interesting, catch of the day is most of the time wahoo, we liked it cooked Aruban style, hot papaya sauce helped. Aruban fish soup is just OK.
            Wacky Wahoo stands out. You will not find there "sustainable Swai grouper" for $40 as in Simply Fish. The food is honest, really fresh fish (believe me, I fish a lot), We liked the catch of the day - grilled grouper and the Seafood platter with grilled red snapper, shrimp and mussels ( NZ green lip?), We had a nice chat with the owner chef Harald who is a fisherman himself. Phone reservations are recommended, the place is really small and busy.

            1. re: hessisch

              You mention something that I have noticed really seems to be changing the dynamic of dining on the island. You mentioned the $22. cab fare to get to the Driftwood. When I first started going to Aruba all the shops and restaurants outside the highrise hotels were not there. That was all parking, tennis courts or just land. They have built that within the last 10 years. It use to be you had to take a cab every night for dinner, all the restaurants were spread out throughout the island, so cabbing it, or renting a car was the only way to go.

              Now with all those dining options with in a few minute walk of the high rise hotels, it seems many of the long standing local restaurants of the island are struggling. People don't rent car's except for day trip excursions, and they don't want to pay the cab fare every night to go out, opting for the dining options that are in that outside mall area. I'm nto sure I'm a fan of it myself, but like anything things change.

              I remember when Outback Steakhouse opened on the island, it didn't last more than a year or two. Now it's an independent casino and burger joint.

              1. re: jrvedivici

                Everyone we know rents a car when on-island. We actually own a van that we keep at a friends house down there.

                1. re: Linda VH

                  I do as well.....I think most people who have been visiting the Island let's say 10+ years knows to do so. But I think most fist time visitors who stay at the high rise hotels might not see the need to rent a car having all that shopping and dining well within walking distance.

                  My last visit in Nov. 13 several people were discussing how the downtown shopping (Crystal Palace Casino Area) is being affected by the new shopping outside the high rise hotels. I myself have witnessed a significant drop off of business at many of the inland restaurants that use to have long waiting lists/lines, Madame Janette's to name one.

                  When I first started going to Aruba in the late 80's early 90's the ONLY food around the High Rise Hotels was the Tony Roma's by the Holiday Inn (still there) and the Steamship Breakfast Buffet on the corner where the Soprano's Piano Bar currently resides. I do miss the Steamship. (I'm fairly confident that was the name.....)

                  Here is a picture of our Aruba crew from this last trip. This was the 20th trip we took as a complete family since my wife and I brought both set's of our parents to join us on our Honeymoon in 1994 as a sign of gratitude for the beautiful wedding they gave us. (don't worry Aruba was the second week of our Honeymoon we had some alone time before they joined us, and they stayed at a different resort. lol)

                  This picture was taken outside of Gasparito's which use to be a very popular Aruban restaurant. On this night we were one of only 3 tables they had all night. In all honesty based upon the food and reasonably new owners I'm not sure if they are suffering from the new building I speak of or just a downturn in quality. It wasn't a very good meal.

                  Side note; My mom 4th from the right passed away 30 days after our return from this trip.

                  1. re: jrvedivici

                    So glad you got to spend some quality time with her!!!

          2. Trip Report
            First time in Aruba.
            I'd skip Driftwood as the food is not very good.
            But I would love to go back to Madam Janettes. Real nice.
            Breakfast was very good at Delifrance Boulangerie.
            Super Foods was an unexpected pleasure in shopping with many European items.
            Just around the corner in the same complex is Daily Fish, a small store with some very tasty offering of smoked fish, fish salads, etc.
            Driftwood, go for a drink, check it out but the food was tired.