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The culinary scene in Aruba is like no other. What makes it even more interesting is that amazing food is just part of the experience.
This historic district was once the location of choice for Aruba’s merchants and was known as the street of commerce. The business/shop was located on the bottom floor, while the merchant and family lived on the second floor. It was standard to close the business at noon for two hours for lunch—typically the biggest meal of the day for islanders—followed by a little rejuvenating afternoon siesta before opening back up for business later in the afternoon. Some buildings feature Dutch Colonial-style architecture, while others have vintage art-deco influences.
Image 1. Que Pasa Restaurant
This was originally a merchant’s townhome constructed circa 1950 by Henny Godfried Eman. The exterior has been restored, while inside, the original staircase, wood floors, and ceiling remain intact. Today it is the home of two restaurants: Que Pasa, featuring an eclectic mix of continental-inspired cuisine set in a colourful ambiance highlighted by local art, and on the upstairs terrace is Fred’s Royal, an exclusive chef’s table concept.
These three sister restaurants, chef-owned and -operated, are positioned on a corner, with all three buildings formerly part of the cloverleaf of BJ Arends & Sons’ network of hardware, lumber, and home-improvement stores. Carte Blanche is a chef’s table concept for just 18 guests; Wilhelmina offers contemporary fine dining, and Olivia is the island’s newest Mediterranean-themed eatery.
Image 2. Olivia
Originally part of the BJ Arends & Sons group ofhardware/home improvement stores, this building primarily sold doors, windows, and glass. This 100-year-old building has been magnificently restored to let the vintage charm shine through and operates as Taste My Aruba, a family-owned restaurant with a menu highlighting fresh, locally-sourced ingredients.
Image 3. Taste My Aruba
Oozing charm, this quaint café with a beautiful and lush back terrace was once a private home constructed in 1900, before the rise of commerce in this area. It is characterised by low ceilings, a rock foundation, and walls built of coral-based rocks (known locally as caliche). Much of the home’s original character and details have stood the test of time.
Referred to as “The Yellow House” and located at Weststraat 15 in Oranjestad, this building was constructed in 1860 as a town-country house for a Frenchman, which the Eman family then purchased in 1908. In 1998, it was slated for demolition to make way for a new project. The Aruba Monuments Board relocated the building from Caya Betico Croes (also known as Mainstreet) to its current Weststraat location piece by piece. It is now home to the casually chic dining experience of Patio 15.
In 1916, famed local architect Adriaan Lacle built a weekend vacation manor in what was then part of the countryside of Aruba (now the Bubali area) and designed it in the traditional “cunucu” plantation style. In the 1920s, the home became a small hospital but was vacated and began to deteriorate. The building was then purchased and renovated as a private home and thoughtfully restored to its original character in honour of the rich history surrounding it. It now operates as a popular fine-dining restaurant.
Image 4. Quinta del Carmen
This plantation manor home in the Keito neighborhood near Palm Beach is nearly 130 years old and has been in the Ellis family for several generations. Once a relatively barren piece of land formerly a horseback-riding school, the cunucu-style manor is now the iconic Papiamento Restaurant, owned and operated by the Ellis family, surrounded by lush gardens and housing an eclectic collection of antiques dating back to the 1800s.
Image 5. The old Cunucu House
Constructed more than 150 years ago in what is now the Palm Beach area, this restaurant, serving authentic Aruban cuisine, was once a farmhouse built with Spanish influences and constructed of large natural stones with a rocky foundation. It was built to withstand heavy tropical storms with thick walls, a saddle roof that provided natural cooling, and windows positioned to receive the northeast trade winds for cross-ventilation.
Over the past few years, a restoration movement in the town of San Nicolas has resulted in a collection of renovated and repurposed buildings. Restored in 2016, the Nicolaas Store building in San Nicolas was constructed around 1940. It was once a popular retailer of books, newspapers, instruments, and gifts, but it remained empty for over two decades. Now operated by Fundacion Museo Arubano, the space has been repurposed and currently houses the Kulture Café.
Image 6. Kulture Cafe
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