CURAÇAO IS A COLORFUL DUTCH ISLAND that’s the C in the ABC Islands (Aruba and Bonaire being the other two). Located about 90 miles north of Venezuela, the temperature stays in the 80s year-round, and it’s situated in the southern portion of the Caribbean that’s outside the hurricane belt.
There’s no mistaking the Dutch influence on the island. Willemstad, the capital of Curaçao, was founded by the Dutch West India Company, and its most recognizable landmark is the row of brightly colored Dutch colonial buildings on the Haldelskade waterfront. But Curaçao is also distinctly Caribbean. About 90 percent of the population speaks the native Creole language Papiamentu along with English, Dutch, or Spanish.
The island’s diversity is on full display at Curaçao’s restaurants. Visitors to the island can expect to find delicious Caribbean, Asian, Latin, and Italian dishes that incorporate ingredients local to the island. From traditional Caribbean comfort food to elevated Italian fare, these are the best restaurants to experience the cuisine of Curaçao.
1. Plasa Bieu
For those looking for an authentic Caribbean meal, head to Plasa Bieu. Also known as Marche Bieu, the open-air food hall is located in the neighborhood of Punda in Willemstad. It’s casual, and is popular with locals who often take their lunch breaks here. After you order, food is eaten community style on plastic-covered picnic tables. Plasa Bieu has several different vendors to choose from, and some of the standout dishes include stewed fish, rice and beans, and plantains, all of which are prepared over wood-fired stoves. Plasa Bieu has been serving up delicious homestyle food in generous portions for decades, and it’s open for lunch Monday through Saturday.
2. Bario Urban Street Food
Bario Hotel and Bar is a hard-to-miss, buttercup yellow hotel in the historic neighborhood of Ser’i Otrobanda. Here, you’ll find Bario Urban Street Food, one of the best places to eat on the island. The al fresco food court features food stalls, a spot for creative craft cocktails, and live performances. One of the highlights at Bario Urban Street Food is Lionfish and Mangos, a food stall that serves up the invasive lionfish in a number of ways. Guests can enjoy fishcakes, bacon-wrapped fish bites, dumplings, and pizza, all made with the species. Don’t leave here without trying the Otrobanda Colada made with local blue Curaçao liqueur.
The best Italian food in Curaçao is at Serafina. Set in Willemstad’s historic district, Serafina feels like eating an intimate meal with family. The restaurant is located in what used to be a residential home, and meals are best enjoyed in the warmly lit, intimate courtyard. While everything here is good, you can’t go wrong with the fettuccine beef ragu or the fresh red snapper. There’s also an impressive portfolio of Italian wines to pair with dinner, and for dessert, try the simple but decadent lemon tart. Because Serafina uses local ingredients, the menu changes with the seasons, so be sure to ask your waiter for any seasonal specials.
4. Fish and Joy Bistro and Wine Bar
Photo: Fish and Joy/Facebook
Located in the trendy neighborhood of Pietermaai in Willemstad, Fish and Joy is a partnership between the beloved seafood restaurant Fishalicious and the wine bar Joy. The restaurant offers a global menu with dishes from Asia, Europe, and the Caribbean. The menu is filled with small plates like takoyaki crab (Japanese crab beignets), Scottish salmon, and ceviche wahoo. On the bar side, Joy offers 50 different wines and an extensive Champagne selection. If you can, grab a table outside and enjoy the warm breeze while eating dinner on the beautifully decorated patio.
5. Baoase Culinary Beach
For an upscale dining experience, head to Baoase Culinary Beach, located in one of Curaçao’s finest resorts, Baoase Luxury Resort Curaçao. The Balinese-inspired resort is located on the south side of the island, and the restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Splurge on one of the three- or five-course dinners, or order items from the a-la-carte menu. Diners can enjoy meals right on the beach or in the restaurant’s private gazebos. The menu rotates, but there’s always a selection of fresh seafood like salmon and lobster. On Saturdays, the restaurant hosts a Culinary Barbeque Night, and on Sundays the menu shifts to focus on foods from Asia.
Fans of 90s hip hop music and creative dishes will love BKLYN, a laid-back restaurant in the Pen Square area of Curaçao. The restaurant is within walking distance of Willemstad, making it an ideal stop after a day of sightseeing. The food is a mix of Caribbean bites with Brooklyn flare. There’s a savory pumpkin soup, bao buns (choose from tuna. crispy chicken, or jackfruit), and fried okra served alongside loaded Brooklyn-style hot dogs. The cocktails here are tasty, too. The No Sleep ‘Til BKLYN (a nod to the Beastie Boys tune) includes coffee rye, picon, maraschino, dry vermouth, and orange bitters.
7. Mosa Restaurant
Mosa is a restaurant that’s best enjoyed with friends and family. It opened in 2016 and has served mouthwatering meals made with fresh, local ingredients ever since. The charming Willemstad restaurant has indoor and outdoor seating, but you’ll want to eat outside under the hanging lights on the patio. Mosa offers small plates that are meant to be shared, and the menu combines Caribbean and European flavors. The tightly curated menu includes tzatziki, tuna tartar, and savory servings of tender flat iron steaks. Order at least three plates per diner for a true sampling of the flavors.
“Kome” is the Papiamentu word for “eat,” and that’s exactly what you’ll want to do when you step foot inside this charming restaurant. If you can only make it for one meal, head here for brunch. On weekends, locals and visitors line up at Kome for an eclectic brunch menu that serves chicken and waffles and cheeseburgers alongside steak and eggs and cured fish and caviar. The rest of the menu is a mix and match of Caribbean, Latin, and Asian flavors. Try the crunchy Thai chicken, Kome tacos, or the risotto del dia. There’s also a great selection of wines, craft beers, and cocktails