(1) Seek places that catch fish that are caught locally, a trait not shared by most restaurants, including a lot of high-end places.
(2) Seek places that cook fish well, which to taste means not over-cooking fish.
(3) Seek low-to-moderately prices restaurants.
(4) Place a premium on the quality of the food even if the location is a bit of a dive or nothing special.
(5) Despite (4), I will sometimes compromise a little on food that is solid/good but not outstanding of the location is special.
(6) Visit our favorite places each year and try to add some new places too.
(1) Go to ultra-high end places
(2) Go to overcook fish.
(3) Go to chain restaurants that I can find in North America.
My preferences are a product of the following:
(1) I love seafood and live far from the ocean.
(2) I tend to chose restaurants whose food is special to the location, and in the case of Aruba, that means locally-caught fish.
(3) For me it's not worth spending $150/person for food that while excellent isn't all that different from what I can cook at home. Most of the best steaks I have enjoyed I've cooked myself, for example, so I am loss likely to have a pricey steak in a restaurant unless it has access to prime beef and dry ages it in-house, two things I don't do at home.
(4) For me, Eagle Beach is one of the world's great beaches. The food served in Aruban restaurants is generally quite good and sometime excellent but to my tastes it doesn't approach the cuisine of certain cities in Italy like Parma or Venice, so I am more likely to splurge in Italy than I do in Aruba.
(5) In enjoying the beach and our stays in Aruba, I like to be active, taking long walks, swimming, playing with my kids, so I generally prefer not stuffing myself or drinking to excess. I actually tend to lose weight in Aruba (which is a good thing for me because the rest of the year I tend in the opposite direction). So multi-course, heavy meals, is an exception here, while meals built around fish are the core.
So what are my favorite places?
Top of my list is Wacky Wahoo's because the catch local fish and don't overcook it. Also love their ceviche. Some complained about the noise levels and tighter quarters in the past but those never bothered me. Prices are moderate by Aruban standards.
I also like Casa Tua, our kids love Smoky Joe's, I liked the Aruban cooking at Queen's, the buffet at the Kitchen, the food at Yemanja (though there was once an issue with service), Matthews for lunch (in part because we walk there on the beach from where we stay at Costa Linda) and the ribs at the Saturday flea market.
We also cook a lot, buying fish at Ling and Sons the day it comes in, and grilling with charcoal at Costa Linda.