On Curacao, sunset is an event.
For locals, it’s all about finding the ideal spot to watch the sun dip below the cerulean waters or behind the scrubby, cactus-studded landscape. But that’s not the end of the party. In fact, it’s just the beginning. Come nightfall, the whole island gets a collective second wind.
Even in New Orleans and Rio de Janeiro—cities famous for their nocturnal tendencies—you’d be hard-pressed to find a barbershop open as late as the bars. But in Willemstad, Curaçao’s buzzing capital city, revelers line up for last-minute trims before heading to places like Netto Bar, a 64-year-old hole-in-the-wall landmark shellacked in soccer memorabilia and photos. There, they knock back shots of ròm bèrdè (green rum)—a house-made, neon green tipple that tastes like black licorice—and press close inside the bar’s tight confines to dance to salsa and merengue. Or, freshly coiffed, they head to newschool watering holes in the trendy Pietermaai District, such as Luke’s Cocktailbar, and post up for libations fashioned with craft spirits and cuttingedge techniques (think smoke from dehydrated grapefruit rinds).
Whatever the choice that night, everyone ends up at a truki pan (“sandwich truck”): mobile smorgasbords spread all over the city that draw hungry crowds of every stripe. Under a canopy of red and green string lights at BBQ Express in the bar-rich Caracasbaai neighborhood, for example, European tourists rub elbows with local DJs and lawyers. American study-abroad teachers and Amsterdam expats share to-go containers of sizzling frites piled high with grilled chorizo and marinated pork chops. Like a culinary Tower of Babel, the languages mingling in the smoky air are mirrored in the truki pan’s wide-ranging condiment bar: Surinamese peanut sauce, Dutch mayonnaise, Latin-American chimichurri, and Afro-Caribbean pika—a fiery pepper-onion relish that’s a specialty of the country.
Truki pan late-night eats