Dining & Cuisine

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It should come as no surprise that Bonaire has a rich mixture of food choices. There are over 70 different cultures from which to draw recipes and almost as many variations on them as there are cooks. Bonaire is not blessed with much locally grown food and has to rely heavily on imports and ship schedules for procuring fresh produce. However, with more frequent, direct flights from Europe and the US, a lot has changed over the past few years and it is not unusual to find fresh mussels or Norwegian Salmon on the menu.

At last count there were over 100 restaurants or eateries serving eclectic menus from haute cuisine to local dishes (kuminda krioyo). Many of the restaurants are located on various resort properties, while others are situated adjacent to the seaside or close to the center of town.  American, Italian, French, Indonesian, Chinese and continental fare is presented to tempt even the most discerning palates.

Dining on Bonaire provides a wide variety of cultural experiences. Caribbean influences color the local cuisine with papaya, plaintain, wahoo and funchi. The Dutch brought the European flavors of smoked meats and wonderful cheeses. And not to be left out, Surinam, a former Dutch colony, mixed in the great flavors of Dutch Indonesia, as well as Chinese, Indian, Thai, and African. All these combine to make local dining spicy, rich, and unusual. Try the Keshi Yena (cheese stuffed with seasoned fish), Bami Goreng (grilled meats with Indonesian noodles), and Kabrito Stoba (Goat Stew) for taste treats.

Anybody less adventurous can’t miss with classic surf ‘n’ turfs made with Argentine or Brazilian beef at any of several seafood restaurants. Italian and Mediterranean style eateries offer a wide range of delectibles from pasta pots to traditional menus, not to mention desserts. Mexican, Japanese sushi, Spanish tapas or “bites,” and American favorites can be found here as well, but be forewarned: We don’t have any fast food burger joints! If you’re craving a hamburger, however, tasty ones can be found. Nearly all major restaurants can offer vegetarian dishes as well.

For a complete list of restaurants and dining facilities on Bonaire, click here. Many of these restaurants would be happy to provide special occasion or catering information for any party planning you may need.  If you have enjoyed a meal on Bonaire, and wish to let others know about great restaurant finds, be sure to write a review on BonReviews™.  Should you like to find the favorite restaurants as rated by other visitors to the island, view our BonReviews™ Five Star Restaurants.

Many restaurants are shore-front and offer bars as well as sit-down dining. With Bonaire’s year-round good weather and friendly breezes, most restaurants also offer al fresco dining (that’s dining in the open for the monolingual among us). As the Dutch say, it’s “gezellig” dining, which translates best as “cozy, welcoming, comfortable, and fun” all rolled into one. During the busy winter months or if you have a large group, we recommend advance reservations.

For the last few years, Bonaire’s restaurants have put together a team of talented chefs and taken part in the Caribbean Culinary Competition to compete against their counterparts from other islands in the region. The competition is fierce with 20 islands sending a number of chefs to challenge each other’s culinary skills. Bonaire has consistently placed among the top medal winners and brought home the gold.

Reservations & Closed Days
It’s recommended that if you want to dine at a particular restaurant on a given day, especially for dinner, that you make reservations. During normal periods, it may suffice to place your reservation the same day as your intended meal, but for waterside dining, it may be a good idea to call a day, or even more, in advance. The front desk at the hotel where you’re staying can help you with this. Making reservations is also a good way to make sure that the restaurant you desire to dine at will be open. Most Bonairean restaurants (except those at hotels), tend to be closed one night a week.

Getting Service and Your Cheque
On Bonaire, our philosophy is that people enjoying a meal out shouldn’t feel rushed. Waiters and waitresses in our restaurants will check on you to make sure you’re doing fine, but are not pushy about it. If you need something, just a simple wave will do the trick. Also, since all meals are prepared fresh from scratch they may also take a little longer to cook and bring out to your table, but once you sample your meal, you’ll know the wait was worth it. Finally, when you’re done with your meal and ready to move on, you may need to let your waitperson know – Bonairean dining means letting diners determine when they are ready to leave, and that means not forcing a cheque on guests who aren’t yet ready to leave.

Tipping & Service Charges
Some restaurants may add a standard 10% or 15% service charge to your bill. If you feel the waitstaff performed an outstanding job, feel free to add a little more. Keep in mind, however, that if no service charge was automatically added, and you felt you had good service, that a tip is appreciated. Total tipping on Bonaire is similar to that in North America, namely 15-20% of the bill. Of course, if you were not happy with your dining experience, please let the manager know immediately.

Payment
For payment, all restaurants accept U.S. Dollars. Many also accept major credit cards, but be sure to check ahead of time in case this is a concern. Please also note that there are ATM machines within easy walking distance of most restaurants in the center of town.

Local Food

One of the special treats available to visitors to Bonaire is the chance to sample local food. You may see a sign, Aki ta Bende Kuminda Krioyo, or “local food sold here.” Rest assured you will be well fed from a selection of sopi (soups), stoba (stews) or food that is hasa (fried), and you will not go hungry. The portions are huge, very tasty, and economical. The local food is served pa bai kun’e (to go) from the Snacks or in a number of places, at sit down establishments. Following are a few dishes with explanations.

 

Local
English
Kabritu
=
Goat
Galiña
=
Chicken
Baka
=
Beef
Kabes ku Higra
=
Goat Brains and Liver
Stoba
=
Stew
Sanger
=
Blood (fried)
Komkomber
= Cucumber
Funchi
=
Polenta (corn meal)
Kesio
=
Flan / Quesillo
Karko
=
Conch
Piska
= Fish

When you do order local food, you have it served with rice, potato, or funchi. Many people order it mitar mitar, which is half-and-half, with rice and potato or funchi. Another treat is to ask for the pika siboyo, a sauce made with onions marinated in vinegar and hot peppers. Rest assured, local food is not made with hot spices, but the sauce, if you use it, makes up for it.

Bon Apetit!

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