on September 9, 2004
During our cab ride from the airport to our hotel, we got chatty with the cab driver to learn about the island and possibly some good restaurant choices. Knowing that Aruba was very close to Argentina – a country famous for its beef – I asked the driver where the best steak on the island could be had. Without hesitation, he replied "El Gaucho." He said it’s the most popular restaurant on the island, and we’d need a reservation. He also told us that they don’t even need to advertise, most people find them on word of mouth.
When we got to the hotel, I asked the concierge to help us make a reservation. (This was a Thursday). The only time available was 6pm that day, which would mean we’d miss the sunset. So, we made a reservation for Friday night at 8:30 – mostly because that was our only choice.
El Gaucho is located in downtown Oranjestad, so we took a $10 cab ride there – but it’s not in the shopping district – it’s on a back street behind the shops. How would anyone know about this place unless it truly was good food? We checked in about 20 minutes early for our reservation, and were told that we could wait at the bar across the street. Well, that happened to be a cigar bar, and since I’m not a fan of smoky places, we decided to wait outside the restaurant on the street – as did some of the other 8:30 reservations.
We were seated about 8:45 on the second floor – which you reached via an elevator that could hold maybe four people tops. The décor was very Spanish – with pictures of Spanish cowboys (gauchos) on the walls and rustic tables with wooden place settings. The waiters were all dressed as gauchos and were quick to wait on you and refill your water glasses.
I ordered the 8 ounce filet, which comes with corn on the cob, redskin potatoes and broccoli. Three sauces are brought to your table – a garlic sauce, a steak sauce (with too much oregano for me) and some hot onions. I found that the steak was so good that it didn’t require any sauce, the corn was sweet and buttery, and the potatoes were done just enough. Any restaurant that can successfully cook a filet well done without having to butterfly it impresses me, as it happens so infrequently!
There’s a reason this restaurant is the most popular – service is excellent and the food is excellent. Plus, the total for two people, including drinks, was only $44. We couldn’t have found a place for dessert if we’d had to. I would recommend El Gaucho to anyone, and reservations are a must.
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