Before we left for Aruba, I had moderate concerns about the food situation. I can generally find something to eat in most places, but the question is always, “Just how limited are my options going to be?” Eight nights away meant a lot of meals not prepared in the safety of my kitchen, and I knew that, try as I might, I would not be able to survive a whole week on rum cocktails alone.
Fortunately, it wound up being pretty easy to eat gluten-free in Aruba. Most of the main hotels and resorts are at least familiar with the gluten-free restriction. Some even have a note on their menus instructing you to mention your GF needs to your server. Unfortunately, none go so far as to offer an actual gluten-free menu with pasta or bread-type substitutes. I think this wouldn’t have even been an issue, though, if we hadn’t planned such a long stay. A person can only take so many consecutive days of meat and potatoes, or shrimp and potatoes, or meat and rice….you get the point.
I will say, however, that I never tired of the dessert options. Thanks to the Latin influence on the island, I don’t think we visited a single restaurant that didn’t offer some sort of custard-based dessert. I had several amazing flans and a couple of crème brulees that, beneath their perfectly caramelized crust, were as thick and rich as a triple cream Brie.
We did have one shining moment of gluten-free joy that week, and it happened at a place that I wasn’t initially sure we could rely on. All we had to go off of was a lone TripAdvisor review from two years ago that mentioned gluten-free pancakes. No matter how hard I searched, I could find nothing else to substantiate those pancakes. The restaurant doesn’t have a website (UPDATE: Linda’s has since launched a website) and, once we got to Aruba, none of the hotel staff believed that any place in the area offered special GF options.
So, on one of our last days there, we took a gamble on Linda’s Dutch Pancakes.
This is what we saw when we arrived:
Dutch pancakes (or pannenkoeken, if you will) are not cakey like American pancakes. They are thin and light and eggy—and delicious gluten-free. Linda’s offers a wide range of “toppings” for theirs. I opted for the popular walnut and Brie with honey. Chris took the waitress’ suggestion and ordered one with apples and rum-soaked raisins. Being the sweet, loving husband that he is, he ordered his gluten-free as well so that I could have a taste. Both were very good and were a welcome change of pace from the grainy yogurt and under-ripe melon that had become my breakfast norm.
Our waitress informed us that the owner (Linda, I presume?) added GF options to the menu after finding out that she could no longer eat gluten. It’s always comforting to know that someone who “gets it” on a personal level is responsible for your meal. And since the restaurant also serves pizza, we learned that she’d recently started making gluten-free pizza as well. We were at the end of our stay and already had our last couple dinners planned, or we’d have been all over that. I’m still curious to know how it is.
So, if you’re planning a vacation in Aruba, know that you’ll be okay eating almost anywhere you go. But if you need a change of pace from the grilled meats, seafood, and breakfast buffets, head over and sample the gluten-free options at Linda’s. And if you try her pizza, stop by and let me know what you think.