Exito has been a household name for Bonaire families since the early 1980s.
Starting in 1982, Exito was THE bakery in Kralendijk, serving many of the residents of Bonaire with their fresh loaves of bread, pastries, wine or deli items. Kralendijk was still a sleepy capital town back then, but Exito’s corner location was a meeting place for many.
As the island evolved, so did Exito. With local families eating sandwiches for breakfast, having a warm meal for lunch, and light dinner in the evening, Exito was the place to be at 7:30 AM to get your sandwich. As an American just newly arrived on the island in 1992, I still fondly remember my morning bicycle ride to Exito for my pan Frances ku tuna i awakati (French bread with tuna salad and avocado). I would stash it safely away for my lunch, and it never tasted better than when sitting on the bow of the dive boat during a two-tank dive to Washington Park, watching the flamingos at Boka Slagbaai.
But Bonaire kept growing, and although no longer a sleepy little town, Kralendijk has matured and grown up. So has Exito, and this year, the family-run business expanded with the brand new Exito Buffet & Grill.
Exito Buffet & Grill, the NEW Exito!
Exito’s latest metamorphosis is a departure from its past, and now the new restaurant can rightly take its place among favorite restaurants for visitors. The family’s business philosophy is to provide great food, great service, at a reasonable price. With several choices in types of food available each evening, there is something for everyone’s taste and budget.
What is especially nice for dive groups is the wide diversity in choices. So even a larger group, with different food preferences, can find their favorites. I recently decided to try out the new restaurant, so my dining companion and I headed over to that familiar corner in Kralendijk.
Exito Buffet & Grill has an open floor plan, providing al fresco dining throughout. One can sit on the patio just outside the doors, or inside the dining room, which is artfully decorated with chandeliers providing soft lighting, and tables which are spaciously set apart from each other, giving privacy.
There’s a small bar which is stocked with anything one might desire, and next to the bar, one finds the buffet.
The night we visited, three different dining options were available. The buffet, freshly made sushi, or the wok menu. We decided to try a little of all three, so we would have an impression of what we liked the most.
The Wok Menu
We started with the Wok Menu, which is $17.50 for a 32-ounce serving of fresh vegetables and your choice of protein and sauce. One can also choose between noodles, white rice, or fried rice. We toured the evening’s offerings and were instructed to let them know which ingredients we didn’t want. Looking at all the freshly chopped veggies, we didn’t see anything we wouldn’t like, so we asked the chef to surprise us! We ended up with a chicken and tofu stirfry with all sorts of veggies and noodles, prepared in the wok with an oyster sauce. Looking at the plate, it was plenty enough for both of us, and we tucked into a pleasing and tasty dish.
The Sushi Menu
Wanting to try the sushi, we asked our hosts, Mario and Dalia, if the sushi chef could prepare a tasting platter for us. We were not disappointed, either in taste or presentation as we shared our sushi, enjoying the vivid array of colors and tastes, served with ginger and wasabi. I asked Mario if I could watch the preparation, and I spent a fascinating fifteen minutes watching the sushi chef’s exceptional knife skills. The sushi is also reasonable in cost, with the most expensive roll topping out at $15.00.
The sushi menu is available from 12:00 Noon until 2:00 PM and 6:00 PM through 10:00 PM.
The buffet offers home-style comfort food.
Those with a heartier appetite will appreciate the buffet option. Strolling in front of the serving trays, I just smiled–this was real comfort food, just like my mom used to make. Of course, after a shared wok meal, and some sushi, we were getting a bit on the full side, but we had to try at least a few items from the buffet.
There is always a soup and a salad bar. We passed on the salad but found some room for a bowl of soup. The soup du jour was a creamy vegetable soup, served with home-made fried dough garnish. The soup was delicious, but I absolutely loved the little, fried dough garnishes, probably due to my Italian heritage. Then, we put our attention to the meats and side dishes.
The evening we visited, there was a choice of two types of chicken (curry or Spanish), two types of ribs (BBQ or honey), meatloaf in a white wine sauce, steamed veggies, zucchini ratatouille, beautifully piped mashed potatoes or roasted potatoes. We each tried the two different styles of ribs, along with the roasted potatoes. The ribs were so tender, the meat fell off the bones, and the roasted potatoes were crispy on the outside and smooth and creamy on the inside. We also each shared a serving of the meatloaf, which definitely was the best meatloaf I have ever tasted. There was rice or fried rice as well. All these choices for $22.50 per person!
Exito Buffet & Grill is open for dinner Tuesday through Saturday from 6:00 PM through 10:00 PM.
Breakfast and lunch at Exito Buffet & Grill.
Have a hankering for breakfast or lunch instead? Exito Buffet & Grill is open from 8:00 AM through 2:00 PM (Monday through Saturday) for either breakfast or lunch. One of the favorite lunch items is the shrimp chowder served in a freshly baked bread bowl! I shall have to return to try that one! There is also a warm buffet available for lunch.
Specialty theme nights.
But there’s even more! Every so often, Exito Buffet & Grill will host a specialty theme night, bringing in some of the region’s top chefs for each of the themes. One of the most popular on Bonaire is Indonesian, but there’s also Italian, Spanish, Mexican, Grill Nights, and more. Keep an eye on the Exito Facebook page to see when these special dining events occur. Book early, they will sell out quickly!
And for those who are seeking the “old” Exito, do not fear, it’s moved right next door. Here one can still get breakfast, lunch, or dinner at Exito Express.
Start the day with freshly baked rolls filled with several types of fried eggs, salads, or cold cuts. Arepas, pastechis, croquettes, all local favorite snacks, are also served along with a variety of cakes and other pastries. Coffee, tea, or juice (fresh or bottled) is available.
Around Noon (and served until 10:00 PM) begins one of the favorites–the crispy fried chicken, along with burgers. During the lunch hour, there is also a warm buffet at Exito Express with several dishes of beef, pork, fish, or seafood with vegetables. A local stew (stoba) is always available with fried plantain. Two types of rice or potatoes are available. Get there early for the best selection, once something is gone, it’s gone!
From 12:00 Noon to 2:00 PM and again from 5:00 to 10:00 PM, you can get your “wok to go,” or “sushi to go.”
So there is really no reason not to like Exito, either Exito Buffet & Grill or Exito Express. Together they complete 90% of your dining needs. Is it fine dining? No. Is it excellent, tasty, home-style food served at very reasonable rates? The answer to that is a resounding YES! Be sure to put Exito on your restaurant list for your next visit!
(Source: Bonaire Insider Reporter)
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Susan Davis has been living on Bonaire for over 25 years. She is a PADI Master Instructor, and an underwater and topside photographer. She also enjoys writing for The Bonaire Insider tourism news blog.