We took a little trip to Aruba for our vacation this year. We had four wants for our vacation this year. We wanted to go somewhere we’d never been before, we wanted to fly, and we wanted to get our passports stamped (last time we were out of the country they didn’t get stamped for some reason) and last, but not least, we wanted some beach time just to chill. We looked at various destinations in the Bahamas and Caribbean, checked hotel prices, availability of flights to and ease of getting around once there and finally settled on Aruba.

Once we make it to our destination we usually have three things on our agenda…spending as much time as we can on the beach, doing a little sightseeing and finding some place good to eat, preferable at a restaurant that we don’t have at home…and we were mostly successful.

One of the first things you’ll discover about Aruba is that eating is pretty expensive. Consider the cost for an average meal here in the States and add 50% or more. Now one might think that the higher food cost is just a way to get more money out of the tourists that come to the island. That’s probably true in a few places…but… one has to realize that Aruba is a desert island and there is no agriculture to speak of so…nearly everything that you eat has to be brought in on a ship from somewhere else.

Rather than a separate post about each restaurant as I’ve done in past entries, I’m just going to hit the highlights in this one…name the restaurant, tell what we had, give our thumbs rating and overall impressions.

So let’s dive in…

Oceanside Bar and Grill at the Holiday Inn Resort

Your basic poolside beach bar and grill…

ConnieLou and I both had chicken strips and fries and the girls both had the guacamole and black bean burger and fries. Thumbs rating…7 out of 8. Jenna and Ashley both said the burgers were very good, our chicken strips were good but not exceptional and everyone enjoyed the fries. How could one not enjoy eating out on the shaded deck between the pool and the beach?

Smokey Joe’s Island Grill

Located a couple of blocks from our hotel and billed as “The Best Ribs in the Caribbean”. Think grilled ribs, burgers, steaks and seafood

I had the “Greatest Burger in Paradise” with fries and black beans and rice. ConnieLou ordered the pulled pork sandwich with cole slaw and the girls split an order of baby backs with black beans and rice and fries. Thumbs rating…a solid 8 out of 8. Needless to say Smokey Joe’s was one of the places we enjoyed the most. Good food and fun atmosphere…need I say more.

Iguana Cantina

Located directly across the road from our hotel and billed as “The Best of Mexico in the Caribbean”. Mexican fare obviously…

I had the steak fajitas with rice and refried beans. ConnieLou opted for chicken enchiladas with white sauce with rice and refried beans on the side and the girls split a plate of beef nachos. Thumbs rating…7.5 out of 8. Everything was pretty tasty but the nachos lost half a point as they were average rather than exceptional. Another restaurant that we’d definitely visit again given the opportunity.

The Pelican’s Nest Seafood Grill

Located on the pier between our hotel and the Playa Linda. The Pelican’s Nest came highly recommended, especially the ceviche. Unfortunately, this is where things went south for us…

I ordered the ceviche as an appetizer and a cheeseburger and fries (OK, I wasn’t in the mood for very expensive seafood), ConnieLou ordered grilled chicken with rice and mixed veggies and the girls split an order of fried shrimp, mixed veggies and fries. Thumbs rating…4.5 out of 8. Here’s the scoop. I thought the ceviche was pretty darn tasty as was described by the person that recommended The Pelican’s Nest. My burger was below average and the fries, greasy and generally pathetic. ConnieLou’s chicken was tasty but dry and the mixed veggies…well, let’s just say that they reminded me of the steamed mixed veggies typically on hotel banquet plates or the in-flight meal on an airplane. As for the girls’ shrimp…$21.95 for six fried shrimp, steamed mixed veggies and fries…seriously? Six fried shrimp? Oh, and I didn’t even mention the server that had an attitude from the time we walked in until the time we left. Guess I have now…

Dushi Bagel

Located down the street about half a block from our hotel.

Without going into a lot of detail about who ordered what, let’s just say Dushi Bagel quickly became our breakfast destination of choice. The bagels are made in-house and there are a dozen or so different kinds to choose from. One can order a bagel and cream cheese or one of a dozen different bagel sandwiches. Don’t want a bagel? Croissants, croissant sandwiches, French toast, yogurts and other items to choose from…and the prices were fairly reasonable. Thumbs rating…let’s give it 8 out of 8.

Scott’s Brats

Located on the beach side of the Playa Linda, next door to our hotel.

I’m a bit hesitant to include Scott’s Brats here as it came highly recommended by a good friend and I really don’t want to hurt any feelings. But…I’m a straight shooter so I have to tell it like it is…at least like it is to me.

I ordered the brat with grilled onions, ConnieLou and Ashley ordered plain hot dogs and Jenna ordered a quesadilla. Thumbs rating…4.5 out of 8. OK, I have to admit, this rating may be a little unfair. My brat was quite tasty and Jenna enjoyed her quesadilla but ConnieLou and Ashley just weren’t in the mood for a plain steamed hot dog which really was the only thing on the menu that interested them. I guess this is a good example of how personal likes and dislikes can affect ratings. The moral to the story…if you really want to know if you’ll like a restaurant or not you just have to try it yourself and make your own decision.

So…did we find anything in the area around our hotel that we thought were better than average values? Sure we did…but they’re going to cause a bit of a departure from the general format of this blog. First up…canned coke from the coke machine in our hotel…only $1 for a 12 ounce can. That’s only a quarter more than the machine at my office and considerably less than fountain drinks at most restaurants (although that changes with free refills). Next in line…McDesserts. No, not a full blown McDonalds but a kiosk with desserts only. Cones, shakes, McFlurries…you get the idea. Soft serve ice cream in a sugar cone at $1 each seemed like a pretty good deal to me. Last in line (and I really hate to mention this here)…American fast food. Yep, you can satisfy your McCraving in Aruba. McDonalds is present and other American fast food outlets are represented as well. Prices are more than here in the States but for a meal with a drink included…still somewhat cheaper than a lot of local places. We tried to avoid American fast food but being able to save $10 for lunch for four a couple of times allowed us to do a few other things that we wanted to do.