If you have been to Aruba, you have probably eaten at one of the three restaurants that Steve Correa’s family owns on the Caribbean island.
Steve has brought a taste of the island to downtown Providence, where, at the corner of Dorrance and Westminster Streets, you can enjoy exotic rum punches, island music and the unique flavors of the Caribbean.
Correa was born in Curacao, where his family goes back 13 generations. He lived and worked at his three restaurants in Aruba and attended the University of New Hampshire, where he majored in hotel management.
“I met my wife when she visited one of my restaurants while she was on vacation,” Steve said. “She was from Rehoboth, and I have friends in New York and Boston, so Providence looked like the best place to bring a touch of Aruba to the United States.”
Most of the seats were filled with businessmen, office workers and students when we lunched on a Tuesday afternoon. The busy corner is a great place for people-watching, and there are outside tables for an up-close view. The space was previously occupied by a bar that was only opened evenings, leaving Steve with the challenge of changing the image, which he did by opening up the room and letting the sun shine through the windows.
Surfboards hang from the ceiling, island music plays softly in the background, and the bandstand looks like a shorefront hut. On weekends, Steve cooks outside on the grill.
While the place is jumping in the evening, with live music Thursday through Saturday and karaoke on Tuesdays, lunch and dinner time is a great time to dine on the many specialties.
I can unequivocally say that I had the most tender and tasty pulled pork sandwich I have ever eaten, seasoned with the Correa family special sauce, straight from Aruba, and piled high on a fresh, hot bun. Also from his restaurants in Aruba are two sauces: hot and very hot. The hot is very hot, and the very hot is wow! For $8.95, with a side of island cole slaw, it is a meal in itself.
Joyce chose the Jerk Chicken and Chili Burrito (no beans) for $7.95. It came with chips and was stuffed with chicken, tomato, melted cheese, sour cream, salsa and special seasoning.
Aruba Steve’s is famous for its island drinks. The sun had gone over the yardarm, so we tried them. Joyce had the Steve’s Mojito, which brought back memories of lying on the beach sipping the delicious rum drink. I enjoyed an Aruba Sunset, which was enriched with fresh pineapple and mint.
Steve buys pork loins and slowly cooks the meat to perfection. All of the ingredients are fresh and made in house. All of the meals are made to order.
The variety of island-style sandwiches dominates the menu. We’ll be back for the fish tacos, made with mahi mahi ($7.95) and a blackened mahi BLT ($9.95).
For those who are satisfied with pizza and hot dogs, which includes the late night younger crowd, there are a variety of those items, some with an island flare.