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Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, they say. I say it’s the FIRST important meal of the day when you’re in Aruba.
On vacation, calories don’t count, and breakfast is just the beginning of a wonderful day of flavors. You can find a typical American Breakfast pretty much anywhere on the island, but I want you to expand your breakfast horizons when you’re here. So much so that it turns into brunch. Join me on this breakfast journey, from food trucks to local favorites. There’s something for everyone!
Let’s start in the Palm Beach area at a favorite of locals and visitors alike. Craft Bar & Restaurant began as a coffee shop on the strip and later grew into the breakfast hotspot it is today. Craft is all about handcrafted everything. Handcrafted syrups, freshly squeezed limes, and freshly brewed coffee. Nothing synthetic. When talking with Chef Armando, who helped create Lola’s first menu, I understood why people love these places so much. They are genuinely nice people who want customers to enjoy their time there. Lola Taqueria is part of Craft Bar & Restaurant, and Craft’s Mexican-inspired breakfast and lunch menu is just a little tease for Lola's lunch and dinner menu. You’d be surprised at the explosion of flavors you’ll get with every bite of any of the items on the menu.
Image 1. Craft Bar & Restaurant
Chef Armando, self-taught in the art of creating delicious food, worked part-time in kitchens until he became the go-to guy for Craft & Lola owners Maurice & Karim. His passion for food is front and center when walking me through the culinary delights of their breakfast menu. The first item on the table was the double-fried chicken and waffles. Let me tell you; my mouth was so happy… The juiciness of the salty fried chicken thigh and the syrup-drenched waffle's sweetness was life-changing. Of course, you can also find the more familiar dishes on the menu, but with a twist. The huevos rancheros and truffle mushroom omelet were just perfect. A little fun fact that Chef Armando told me was that they serve over 1800 tacos for dinner. If more people were to try their breakfast tacos, I’m sure they would break some taco world record.
Image 2. Craft Bar & Restaurant
Chef Armando says he is most proud of his “hangover foods” on the menu. The egg carne asada taco made with Angus skirt steak was, for lack of a better word, “loco”! He says the secret to their success, he thinks, is that they are serious about quality. Quality ingredients are essential to make consistently great food. “If an ingredient, say a pineapple, is not bright or sweet enough, it is NOT served in our dishes.” Everything is made fresh daily! Even the pulled pork carnitas. If you’re more of a light-breakfast person, Craft also has fresh fruit bowls that are perfect for the hot Aruba mornings.
Image 3. Craft Bar & Restaurant
Another interesting thing is that Craft supports local vendors. All their breakfast bread is from local baker T2Pan. During the pandemic, people did not stop coming! Takeout orders sold-out daily. The people, amazingly breezy location, and consistently good food and service keep people coming back to Craft. I will certainly go back again and again.
*Fun fact: you can try their breakfast items until 4 PM!
Nothing says local like breakfast at Bright Bakery, the oldest bakery in Aruba. Founded in 1941 by Harry and Merco Bareño and Ishi Hernandez, the bakery started producing bread for the local community. In no time, word spread over the island of the delicious bread being baked in Piedra Plat. Today, Bright Bakery is the leading bread baker for the island, serving supermarkets, hotels and restaurants, and has even baked bread for cruise ships as they are the only NSF-approved bakery on the island. From my visit to the bakery, I can tell you I’ve never seen a cleaner establishment. They work hard to adhere to NSF standards, and I don’t know about you, but cleanliness is very important to me when it comes to dining somewhere. Over the years, Bright Bakery has evolved from just a bread bakery to offering all kinds of delicious goodies, from pastechis to desserts.
Image 4. Bright Bakery
More than food, though, Bright Bakery has become a cultural institution. It’s a place to socialize, meet your friends and family for a bite and feel at home. The regulars can confirm! When Panaderia Moderna, another bakery on the island, merged with Bright, they started offering breakfast too! As you can imagine, people love it! If you want to mingle with the locals, this is a good place to start. The breakfast menu includes French toast and the staple egg dishes. Did you know they make over 2000 pastechis a day? And they sell out every day!
Image 5. Bright Bakery
You can also try other local snack favorites like croquet. Bright Bakery also has an express window for quick grab-and-go breakfast options. For lunch, they have an array of soups and sandwiches to choose from. The best part is that everything is homemade, and the staff are all super friendly and ready to serve.
*Fun fact: their fully-automated bread-baking process is something straight out of Willy Wonka. The smell in the factory is unmatched. I was floating around like a cartoon character.
Let’s take a break from the sit-down restaurants and dive a little deeper into the local pool. One of the few food trucks that are open in the morning, My Time is a breakfast hotspot for locals on their way to work. Located right on the main road to the Airport, it connects those coming down from San Nicolas and the rest of the east side of the island towards the hotel area for work. My Time is the life-long dream of Edgard Gomes. He always wanted to own his own restaurant and run his own business. After years of looking for opportunities and facing personal challenges, the time finally came. Edgard and his wife Sonia literally got their prayers answered when they got approved for the location. It really felt like the light at the end of a dark tunnel.
Image 6. My Time
As the name suggests, Edgard said now it’s MY TIME to shine. Their goal is to provide good quality at a low price while catering mostly to locals. Edgard and Sonia prepare pretty much everything themselves, with the help of a few employees. They keep growing because of the great food, great service, and loyal customers who give rave reviews to friends, family, and colleagues. Sonia says that to create a successful business, you don’t need many things. You need the will, the want, and faith in God. By 6:30 in the morning, a line starts forming outside the food truck filled with hungry people looking forward to their ham & egg sandwich. A unique sandwich called the ocho hora (8 hour) is a cheeseburger, ham, egg, and bacon sandwich. Definitely a must-try! You can also choose from saté, chicken, tuna sandwiches, and more!
A true hidden gem in the heart of Oranjestad, Dushi Delicious is a must-try! The bar/restaurant is located inside an alleyway on Mainstreet and is super unique. During the pandemic, building owner Danielle started clearing out the alleyway and doing repairs to eventually rent it out. When Danielle’s kids returned home from the Netherlands, they had other plans. Why not make the alleyway a cool bar and breakfast spot? Their slogan, “not your usual breakfast place, nor your average bar,” sums it up perfectly. After living abroad for a while, they had a fresh perspective on what types of businesses were missing on the island. Having plant-based options on the menu was a must!
Image 7. Dushi Delicious
This small family business is now run by Danielle and her kids, who do the cooking themselves! You have to try their vegan waffles and smoothie bowls! The tasty smoothie bowls flavors, such as mango and spinach or salt and cinnamon, will make you question your existence. Their sourdough bread with hummus, tomato, basil, and balsamic vinegar will make your mouth dance. They also have homemade cheesecake and homemade soups! The most interesting bit of this breakfast spot is the fact that you can also have any drink with your breakfast, as they have a full bar! Try the “Dushi Delicious” or “Pornstar 43” to kick-start your day!
Image 8. Dushi Delicious
A lot of Aruban history can be found in San Nicolas. From the skeleton of our old oil refinery, “Lago” to modern murals that showcase our culture. El Gallo Rojo, red rooster, has been around for 40 years now and is a local favorite. This place is older than me! When Manuel Menezes moved to Aruba from Venezuela, he opened his own shop to sell refreshments and comfort food like fries with saté and an assortment of sandwiches. The shop also doubles as a bakery, so they always have fresh bread on hand!
Image 9. El Gallo Rojo
Manuel’s daughter Cecilia who now runs the shop started helping out in the pastry area when she was just 11! The love she had for her dad and the shop only grew, and she eventually helped expand the business. The feeling you get when you walk in is like you just walked back in time. It feels authentic. And just like at any other local gem, you see familiar faces daily. Cecilia jokes that the sandwiches still taste just as good as 40 years ago. I can’t tell you what they tasted like back then, but they sure are tasty now! As a matter of fact, I’m craving the steak and cheese sandwich as I write this. The Dutch military base is just a short drive from El Gallo Rojo, and the soldiers can’t get enough of the steak sandwiches and special, which is a hamburger with eggs, ham, and cheese. The fresh French bread or rolls really make these “simple” ham, and egg sandwiches stand out. Aside from sandwiches, Latino/Dominican-inspired stews and soups are also available. The best part is that the entire menu is available all day! No breakfast deadline! Since the murals started gaining more attention from tourists, more pastechis are being sold too!
Image 10. El Gallo Rojo
Aside from all the delicious food, you can also get your hands on some of the best desserts San Nicolas offers. The “jambol” and donuts are Cecilia’s mother’s recipes! They also have old-fashioned shakes and ice cream sodas. The “Full House” will really wake you up in the morning! It’s ice cream, eggs, and Guinness Stout. The best way to describe it is an Italian dessert. Please do yourself a favor and visit this local spot! Cecilia and her colleagues will surely take good care of you.
Founded 10 years ago as an homage to the Aruban rum shops, Local Store has become a favorite amongst locals and tourists alike. I predict this place will be here for a very long time! Back when they first opened up, Local Store was located in Oranjestad, near the wharfside, and had more of a nightclub vibe. When they moved to Palm Beach, things really started to pick up. The location was perfect! Right outside the tourist area but still close enough to the action. Locals are crazy about this place, as it has good food and good drinks and frequently hosts live music events. During the pandemic, delivery to and takeout by locals went up, helping them survive. They couldn’t live without the Local Store funchi-fries, which is a deep-fried polenta.
Image 11. Local Store
The way they incorporate traditional local ingredients in your everyday foods is iconic. The chubato burger, made with goat cheese, is a crowd-pleaser. For breakfast, they also have chubato ham & egg for consistency and familiarity on the menu. Another breakfast favorite is a local corn porridge, their own twist on a breakfast staple. When talking with owner Curt, he said that it’s the pride and support of Aruban locals that keep them going. I can understand why locals feel like they need to support the store. Sitting there chatting with him, I felt like, as a local, I belong. Like an edgy, laid-back grandma’s house. This edgy grandma also serves Island Grind Coffee, which is another local favorite. Drink that with a side of chubato chicken and waffles, and you’ll be transformed into a local.
*Fun fact: chubato means “male goat” in Papiamento
Image 12. Local Store
Are you going to try these breakfast hotspots? If you’re only looking for a good cup of coffee, check out these island coffee spots.
Breakfast, Most important meal of the day, Brunch, Lunch menu, Fried Chicken,Breakfast tacos, Homemade dishes, Pastechi, Ham & Egg Sandwich.
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