A 10% service is added to the bill in restaurants but an extra 5% is appreciated.
Native food is filling and the meat dish is usually accompanied by several different forms of carbohydrate, one of which may be funchi, a corn meal bread in varying thickness but usually looking like a fat pancake (the same as cou-cou in the Eastern Caribbean). Goat stew (stoba di kabritu) is popular, slow cooked and mildly spicey (milder and tastier than Jamaican curry goat), recommended. Soups (sopi) are very nourishing and can be a meal on their own, grilled fish or meat (la paria) is good although the fish may always be grouper, red snapper or conch (karkó), depending on the latest catch; meat, chicken, cheese or fish filled pastries (pastechi) are rather like the empanadas of South America or Cornish pasties. While in the Netherlands Antilles, most visitors enjoy trying a rijsttafel (rice table), a sort of Asian smørgasbørd adopted from Indonesia, and delicious. Because rijsttafel consists of anywhere from 15 to 40 separate dishes, it is usually prepared for groups of diners, although some Curaçao restaurants will do a modified version of 10 or 15 dishes.
A selection of European, South American (mostly Chilean) and Californian wines is usually available in restaurants. Curaçao’s gold-medal-winning Amstel beer, the only beer in the world brewed from desalinated sea water, is very good indeed and available throughout the Netherlands Antilles. Amstel brewery tours are held on Tue and Thu at 1000, T4612944 for information. Some Dutch and other European beers can also be found. Fresh milk is difficult to get hold of and you are nearly always given evaporated milk with your tea or coffee. Curaçao’s tap water is excellent; also distilled from the sea.
For an Indonesian meal it is best to make up a party to get the maximum number of dishes but this is not essential. The Indonesia, Mercuriusstraat 13, T4612606. Wonderful Javanese food specializing in 16 or 25-dish rijstaffel, essential to book, often several days ahead, open 1200-1400, 1800-2130 daily, dinner only on Sun. Mambo Beach , at the Seaquarium, T4618999. Wed Indonesian buffets. Surabaya in the Waterfort Arches, T4617388. Has good food but overpriced and no hot plates to keep it warm, vegetarian menu too, open Tue-Fri 1200-1400, Tue-Sun 1800-2300.
The best place to try local food in Willemstad is the old market building beyond the round concrete market tower by the floating market, here many cooks offer huge portions of good, filling local food cooked in huge pots on charcoal fires, at reasonable prices, choose what you want to eat and sit down at the closest bench or one of the nearby tables having first ordered, takeaway available, very busy at lunchtimes, the best dishes often run out, make sure you have the right money available. The best restaurant for local food is The Golden Star, Socratesstraat 2, T4618741. Informal, friendly, plastic table cloths, fun, TV showing American sport, home cooking, very filling, goat stew washed down by a couple of Amstels recommended, popular with locals and tourists, open daily 1200-2300, live music Sat 1900-2300, takeaway available.
On the Westpoint road, opposite the entrance to the Christoffel Park, is Oasis, T8640085. Seafood and creole dishes but also offering chicken and ribs, open 1200-2400, weekends 1030-0300, dinner served until 2100, dancing afterwards. Playa Forti, atop a cliff overlooking beach of same name, wonderful view, very popular lunchtime at weekends, Colombian and local dishes. Further along the road in Westpoint is Jaanchie’s, T8640126. Another weekend lunchtime favourite with local families although no sea view, huge, filling portions, see the bananaquits eating sugar, parties catered for, takeaway service, bus stops outside for return to Willemstad.
A good fish restaurant is Pisces, at the end of Caracasbaaiweg, T4672181. Reservations recommended. El Marinero, Schottegatweg Noord 87B, T7379833. Moderately priced seafood dishes, lunch 1200-1500, dinner 1830-2330. Fisherman’s Wharf, Dr Martin Luther King Blvd, close to Princess Beach, T4657558. Very good seafood, lunch and dinner. Seaside Terrace, T4618361. Little beachside restaurant near Princess Beach Hotel, more like a snack stand but great fresh, huge, lobster for US$28, as well as seafood of all kinds as well as chicken, pork etc, and a US$7 barbecue on Sun with live entertainment, a few tables to watch sunset, open 1000-2200 Tue-Sun. Octopus, Marinebadplaats, St Michielsbay, T8881244. Fresh fish, local food, bar, restaurant and terrace by the sea, run by Eric and Yolanda Wederfoort, see Diving and marine life. Chinese food at Ho Wah, Saturnusstraat 93, T4615745. Ham Yuen, Fokkerweg 25, T4613462. Locals’ favourite Chinese food. Sawasdee, Van Eyck V Voorthuyzenweg 5, near Curaçao Museum, T4626361. Thai restaurant, takeaway available, open 1830-2200.
For drinks, snacks or cheap lunches, Downtown Terrace, also in Gomezplein, T4616722. You can hear the chimes from the Spritzer and Fuhrmann bells, great selection of Belgian beers. There is plenty of fast food to cater for most tastes, including pancake houses, and Pizza Hut at Pietermaiplein prides itself on having won awards. Domino’s Pizza, on Schotlegatweg Oost 48, T7366555. 12 in pizzas from US$9.60, delivery service. Denny’s, attached to side of Holiday Beach Hotel, T4625232. Good food at good prices, some local dishes, takeaway available, is open 24 hrs. Late night fast food, local fashion, can be found at truk’i pans, bread trucks which stay open until 0400-0500 and sell sandwiches filled with conch, goat stew, salt fish and other Antillean specialities. Great fruit shakes at Trax’s, a van at the Otrabanda side of the Queen Emma bridge. Wonderful home made ice cream, large variety, at Vienna Ice Café, on Handelskade in Punda.