Thanks for the compliments.
You've probably already surfed through my blog, but I'll mention some spots here for emphasis:
Oh, before I do that, let it be known to all... that any and all of these joints keep odd hours at time, may have closed or reopened, the food may be "nasty" to some-"delicious" to others, English is probably not clearly spoken or understood, and generally customs and behaviour may be different than what you're used to despite outward appearances of being the same.
Little Josey, for drinks and relaxing, especially around 4-6PM.
White Hill Bar, also just drinks, zany decor, bartender isn't very chatty so bring your own pals to entertain.
Essoville Rum Shop, coldest beer in Aruba, probably.
Casa Vieja, Pueblito Paisa, JoAnn Snack. Colombian Food and all fairly priced.
Sultan - go in the evening around 6-7. Patricia, the Colombian waitress, is tons of entertainment once you get to know her, which takes some visits and friendly entreaties, but well worth the time for the laughs. I call her the "Sultana."
Sunday BBQ (Aruba style BBQ means burned to a crisp meat on a grill, usually) at Great Rich in Paradera. This is a Chinese-run joint. Take your own knives and forks and eat the stuff in the bar. Drives them nutz, but then you get to watch the rest of the crowd watching you.
Urataka Rum Shop is on the tourist route but still a fairly local-style place. Nice guy at the bar once he warms up.
And, if you're not put off by the... uh... "scenery", enjoy some evenings in San Nicolaas Bars. You don't have to partake of all that is on offer, but the people watching is a blast, and after you integrate with the bartenders and simply sit back and have a few drinks, you'll see it's like any other set of bars with regulars reminiscing and relaxing. Late, usually after midnight or 1 AM, it can get a little rowdy (loud, bawdy). Still, my favorite bartenders are in town. They have the best stories, know how to entertain, and don't expect huge tips. As written in my first book, "Only fools and tourists tip" in San Nicolaas. If you tip big, you're marked. Please, tip a few florins on the way out, not for every drink.
Finally, the last couple of tours of duty, I've begun exploring (more in depth) the Chinese-operated rum shops. Aruba is rapidly evolving with many more Chinese businesses every year. So, I'm going with the flow and propping myself across the bars from these people the way I did with the "old-timer" Arubans, who, sadly, are leaving us for the pearly gates. I've found the Chinese to be generally more suspicious at first. After numerous visits, questions, and pleasant exchanges, they've opened up to me about their lives, which are quite fascinating when you consider how hard they're willing to work, the risks they'll take, and what they manage to accomplish for themselves and their families. (Their plans and efforts span multi-generations and are actually implemented with only minor detours to get around temporary failure.) In the bargain, I'm learning bits of Chinese, mostly Cantonese, but I'm told I should learn Mandarin. Very, very difficult compared to Spanish (learned mostly in San Nicolaas) and the German, which I studied way back in junior high.
I've been EXTREMELY fortunate to have the time to indulge in other cultures as described above. At time is has been challenging, embarrassing, awkward, and hugely rewarding. The delicate process of getting to know things from the inside is not easy and not the kind of activity others may enjoy. After all, most visitors to Aruba are there for vacation, sun, sand, fruity booze, and they certainly came to the right place. For whatever reason, I like going long and wide. And, I've learned a tremendous amount more than during the course of two college degrees, not that my education wasn't good, because it was about as good as it can get. Nonetheless, there's a lot more out there than a cheeseburger in paradise. If you want it...