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RESTAURANT OF THE WEEK
Arguably, this is the most popular restaurant on the island and therefore you will need to think well in advance when it comes to making a reservation. I know some people who actually call three or four days before leaving the U.S. for Aruba to guarantee a table. Weekends are particularly tight.
El Gaucho is located in downtown Oranjestad and street parking is tight. In fact, even though we always rent a car while visiting Aruba, we never take the rental to this place. Instead we hail a taxi. Makes life a lot easier. Besides, driving in the downtown area of Oranjestad, while small, is still very confusing thanks to a procession of one way streets.
If you've made a reservation for 7:30 and check in at that time, you're still going to have to wait for a table in all likelihood. But that's not necessarily a bad thing because what they do is give you a beeper and send you across the street to a cocktail/cigar bar until your table is ready. It's a nice experience although the drinks are a bit steep. As I recall a shot of rum on the rocks went for seven bucks, U.S.
Once your beeper goes off and you head back to the restaurant, you're in for a nice treat. There are a number of sections where people are seated. Some are very dark with dim lights. And a tip. This place is nearly always chilly with air conditioning cranked up to warp speed. So after a long day out in the sun and with a little color, you may actually need a sweater. My wife always complains about the temperature there.
I always begin my meal with conch, harbour style. My wife usually begins her meal with one of the soups they offer. Sometimes she'll get the "head on" shrimp as a starter.
Now for the steaks! When my son is with us he gets the strip steak. It's nice but unlike American steaks, this one comes untrimmed with quite a bit of fat around it. I usually go for the t-bone, again untrimmed with a large "tail" on it. My wife prefers a nice filet. Our daughter goes for the Gaucho steak. And finally, our son-in-law, who is a vegetarian, selects something from the seafood section -- usually shrimp.
The meat comes cooked to perfection over a live fire. Each meal is accompanied by an attractive salad and you get veggies and your choice of a starch. The table shares garlic bread.
Most would agree that this place serves up the finest steaks on the island although I'm sure the two new Argentinean "all you can eat" places are taking some of the business away from El Gaucho. Despite the "all you can eat" factor, these challengers do serve top quality meats.
For a look at the El Gaucho menu and to get directions, they have a nice web site here. You can even make reservations on-line and save the long distance phone call! We highly recommend this restaurant but it is not cheap.
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