20 Questions with Barney’s Bar & Restaurant Owners Ron and Eline Huijbers
With Flinstone-like portions sizes, plenty of choice, a kid friendly menu and a fun, relaxed atmosphere, Barney’s is one of Aruba’s most beloved casual restaurants. Owned and operated by Ron Huijbers and his lovely wife Eline Scheele, it is the perfect place to please all tastes and budgets, consistently serving up high quality, affordable dishes with friendly service.
— By Joanna Fox
— Photography Kenneth Theysen
If you’re lucky, Ron will be mixing up delicious Aruban drinks at the bar while Eline makes her way from table to table, checking on all the guests. More than just a restaurant, Barney’s is a place where locals and tourists alike can unwind, have
a drink, enjoy playful, original cuisine and have a great time. From rib night to Karaoke Fridays, all you can eat fajitas and Tuesday schnitzel parties, there is no place on the island quite like Barney’s. Ron was kind enough to answer 20 questions for us about how he and Eline met, what goes on at Barney’s and what he loves about Aruba.
JF: How did you guys end up in Aruba?
RH: Eline did an internship in Aruba, fell in love with the island and came back after she finished school. I came as a tourist in 1996 and started coming back four times a year. I finally moved in here permanently in 2012.
JF: How did you both meet? Tell us the story!
RH: I owned a dive shop in those days and knew Eline as a diver. We had been friends for years until 2010, when I had a date on the Bugaloe Pier that didn’t work out. Eline happened to be there to witness it all. We decided to leave together to go to another bar and have been together since.
JF: Did you have previous restaurant experience?
RH: Eline has spent her whole life in the restaurant business. Before we opened Barney’s, she was the general manager of Madame Janette. I, on the other hand, had none. But I always wanted my own bar and Eline, her own restaurant, so it was an easy decision to open Barney’s.
JF: What is Barney’s concept and what drew you to it?
RH: Well, we know that the financial crisis is still going on all over the world and nobody wants to pay a $60 cover anymore. We thought a kind of budget restaurant where you can have a good dinner for a reasonable price would do the trick. It’s also a bit out of the ordinary with ribs, build your own burgers and schnitzel on the menu.
JF: How do you stand out from the other restaurants in Aruba?
RH: We’re the only restaurant on the island that does a different theme for every night, like ‘all you can eat’ nights. On Mondays we do fajitas, on Thursdays ribs, on Fridays BBQ and on Saturdays steaks. Then on Tuesdays, we have a schnitzel night with four different styles of schnitzel, Wednesday grouper night with four different styles of grouper, and as extra on Friday we do late-night karaoke.
JF: Let's talk about your BBQ nights – what are they?
RH: We start on Thursday with all-you-can-eat baby back ribs in three flavors: honey smoked, bourbon glazed or devils hot. They come with fries, salad and coleslaw and are very popular with our guests. We just started an all-you-can-eat BBQ on Friday nights which serves ribs, pork chops, chorizo sausages and chicken wings, all in different flavors and served with corn on the cob, baked beans and French fries.
JF: We heard about some sort of rib eating challenge?
RH: Ha! Well, our guests made a challenge to see who could hold the record for eating the most racks. When we announced that the record was broken, people came back to reclaim the title. At the moment, our new record is held by a British man who ate ten racks in one sitting. That was mid July last year. Good luck breaking that!
JF: How has the island of Aruba influenced your menu?
RH: I think that our fresh fish, which is caught every day by four local fishing boats, is the best way to have Aruba on our menu. Every day we get in fresh wahoo, mahi mahi, barracuda and tuna. It’s so nice to work with those fresh products and our guests are always raving about our fish.
JF: What are some of the challenges of having a restaurant in Aruba?
RH: There are a lot of restaurants on the island and to stand out from them is a challenge. I think with Barney’s we have created our own style of dinning that a lot of people appreciate. Our challenge now is to let the whole world know about that style of dining.
JF: What are some of your most popular dishes?
RH: I think our most popular dishes would be our Parmesan grouper, schnitzel and our ribs. We even won an award with our ribs!
JF: What is your favorite thing to eat at Barney's?
RH: That’s easy, that would be scampi in garlic butter sauce. My favorite appetizer would be the crab cakes, homemade with jumbo crab. To die for!
JF: What are your roles at the restaurant - what do you each do?
RH: In the beginning Eline was on the floor as hostess and waitress and I was behind the bar. Since June, you’ll find me working during the daytime and doing administration, etc., but you’ll always find me on Fridays behind the bar to host Karaoke night. I’m also the back up in case someone has an extra day off or calls in sick.
JF: What is your favorite local ingredient?
RH: Humor! We think that dinning at Barney’s is fun and relaxed.
JF: Where did the restaurant name come from?
RH: We wanted to be a little out of the ordinary with our restaurant. With ribs on the menu, we were thinking of that scene where Fred Flinstone goes out to get ribs and ends up with that huge brontosaurus rib in his car. From there we were thinking of Bedrock or Flinstone characters and one night I woke up and said ‘Barney’. And Barney’s was born.
JF: What is in store for Barney’s future?
RH: In the near future, we are expanding our restaurant with fifteen tables to serve more guests during the high season. In the further future, it would be great to franchise Barney’s to other islands.
JF: What is the best thing about living in Aruba?
RH: First of all, the climate, then the friendly people and the safety. Besides that, it’s great to live the island life.
JF: Where do you guys like to eat and drink on your nights off?
RH: We are closed on Sundays and love to stay home. Usually we have friends over to chill, swim and of course, BBQ!
JF: You guys have a little girl, what's your favorite family-friendly restaurant?
RH: Barney’s! Ha, no, we love to go to local places like Casibari Grill or Reflections. If Emely (our daughter) can run around and play, we’re happy.
JF: Tell us something about Aruba that only a local would know.
RH: How about the name of the first beer brewed on Aruba? It’s Rubano.
JF: Finally, are you guys Balashi drinkers or do you prefer Chill?
RH: Ha! Um, how about a Bacardi and coke for me and a Tito’s with soda and tonic for Eline?