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Fast food takes on a whole new tasty tang in the holiday idyll of Aruba, where mobile eateries are an established part of the island’s culture.
Love it or hate it, fast food is a feature of everyday life but in this sun-drenched Dutch Caribbean playground, woe betide you if you refer to it as ‘junk’. Food trucks, snack trucks or food stands – whatever your descriptive taste – have been feeding locals long before the concept became trendy.
Originally largely an after-hours phenomena, food trucks became hugely popular with late-night revellers craving garlic chicken wraps, burgers or French fries with peanut sauce.
Now they have developed further and on the menu holidaymakers will find such mobile establishments located in strategic places, many ethic-inspired, as well as some trucks opening for lunch or early evening, in addition to the more traditional late-night spots. So much are they part of the island that there is even an annual competition – The Battle of the Food Trucks!
Oyster soup, grilled meats, ribs, fried chicken, fresh fish and shrimp and Mexican delights – you name it, it’s a taste you can enjoy from one of these little centres of flavour.
Here’s a flavour of what’s on offer:
Candela: Typically parked in the heart of downtown Oranjestad near Royal Plaza and the main bus station, Candela has been operating for more than two decades, with the menu including sate baskets, French fries with peanut sauce, and steak-and-cheese.
Piet’s Super Snack is located in the area of Boegoeroei – inland from the popular Palm Beach area - and has enjoyed a long run on the island. Its lomito (Argentinean tenderloin) wrap with garlic sauce is an island favourite.
Rikuras is in the middle of the Paradera neighbourhood in the centre of the northern part of the island, on the road running linking it with capital Oranjestad. Owned and operated by an Aruban family and located next to their home, it is open most nights. The house sausage platters are popular, along with the true belly-buster, the Picado, which has a little of everything.
Mama’s (Truk Di Mama) is an Eagle Beach lunchtime institution, attracting locals (it’s a favourite stop of the beach police) looking for home-cooked food, and tourists looking to try something locally unique. Mama’s oxtail soup and beef stoba (stew) are not to be missed.
Ruiz Take Away: Get your fill of Aruban comfort food at this truck positioned in Tanki Leendert on the main road to Paradera. Menu highlights include oyster soup, sate platters and grilled meats. Most platters come with a heaped portion of rice and French fries, with a side salad tossed in for good measure!
Tia Rosa Snack is also located in Paradera (on the way to Savaneta) and was the winner of 2012’s Battle of the Food Trucks. This family enterprise serves Dominican-inspired patacones, a sandwich made with twice-fried plantains, instead of bread, stuffed with fillings like cheese, ham, chicken, and with a variety of toppings.
La Mascara is for late-night visitors in capital Oranjestad. Sited on Paardenbaaistrat from 8pm to 1am. It features Latin and Caribbean-inspired cuisine, from patacones to arepas (made from ground maize dough), as well as burgers and salchi-papa platters.
The Hunger Cruncher is also in Oranjestad, on Emanstraat, from 8 pm to 1am, and renowned for its mega-portions. Funchi fries (similar to polenta) are smothered in Gouda cheese and can be topped with diced beef or chicken.
Chalo Burger is located on Palm Beach Road, within walking distance of popular resort hotels, and late night feasters can dig into a juicy burger here until 2 am. South American pinchos (skewered meat) and arepas are also served.
Mexicano is owned by a father and son duo and is usually on Palm Beach Road but occasionally goes mobile to pop up at various events. Try burritos, quesadillas, and tacos with fresh salsas and guacamole. This is one of the busiest late-night trucks on the island.
Eataly brings the best of authentic Italian street food to Aruba. Dishes include lasagne and cannelloni created with homemade pasta and sauces passed down from the owner's family, along with panini that transport your taste buds to the streets of Milan and back.
Poffertjes and Pofferdorie is a charming little truck perfect for those with a sweet tooth! It serves traditional Dutch poffertjes - miniature, fluffy pancake-like treats that are irresistible topped with your favourite choice such as powdered sugar, maple syrup and Nutella.