Island Dining 101
Words by Jennifer Marshall & Satina DaCosta
Grand Cayman is now recognised as a world-class culinary destination for sophisticated foodies around the world. Along with the dedicated chefs who have promoted Cayman as a gourmet destination, there also remains a strong local influence with traditional dishes holding their own on menus across the Island and locally grown produce in high demand.
Cayman's dynamic restaurant scene is constantly evolving to accommodate diners' tastes and expectations. The Beach House at The Westin Grand Cayman Seven Mile Beach Resort & Spa offers a new eclectic menu under the careful stewardship of internationally renowned chef, Sandy Tuason. Check out Gino's in the newly constructed Caribbean Plaza and look out for The Bistro, a restaurant specialising in authentic French cuisine. They have live music every Wednesday night too.
Pizza fiends were recently satisfied with the new restaurant in Camana Bay, The Brooklyn that offers fresh authentic wood oven pizza as well as housemade pasta daily.
The Lobster Pot has an elevated deck to take in the George Town Harbour vistas and The Lighthouse also boasts an extended dock that catches the ocean breeze. Grand Old House's refurbished bar area makes the most of panoramic ocean views over the ironshore south of George Town. Head west if you desire even more ocean breezes and resplendent waterfront views. Drive or take the boat out on the moonlit night to dine on local seafood at Catch on breezy Morgan's Harbour or at Morgan's in the newly developed Cayman Islands Yacht Club.
Duke's Seafood & Rib Shack has a laid-back 'beach shack' vibe with an open outdoor bar and dining room decked-out in reclaimed wood. Its menu of tasty local dishes and Southern-style comfort food appeals to all appetites. The George Town Yacht Club at the Barcadere Marina offers a reasonably priced menu and its waterfront views and poolside dining attract a relaxed crowd of all ages. Osetra Bay in West Bay now offers more affordable dining, having revitalised its menu with options to suit most budgets, without compromising on quality. Meanwhile, Camana Bay offers Jessie's Juice Bar, Mizu, The Waterfront Urban Diner and Lola, all catering to a wide range of budgets, tastes and complementing the existing choice of restaurants.
Anchor & Den, at the beach-house themed Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort is the happy hour hot spot on Friday nights. Their Argentinean chef, Santiago Mancini serves innovative, ever evolving Spanish inspired dishes. The Creperie at Anchor & Den also serves freshly made savoury and sweet crepes daily.
Grand Cayman reigns supreme when it comes to fine dining in the Caribbean. Restaurants go the extra mile to source the best ingredients and celebrity chefs of international acclaim continue to raise the bar time and time again to keep connoisseurs coming back for more. Eric Ripert, founder of the legendary Le Bernardin in New York and Cayman's internationally renowned Blue, is a leading figure in Cayman’s restaurant scene together with Chef Vidyadhara Shetty of Blue Cilantro, President of the Cayman Culinary Society. Both valiantly play a role in promoting and developing Cayman's thriving culinary scene.
LUCA offers a sophisticated dining experience of innovative and contemporary Italian cuisine. LUCA's mainstay is fresh fish, seafood and creative Italian dishes and is located beachfront at the Caribbean Club. Further afield, Ristorante Pappagallo is a memorable Italian restaurant in West Bay that gives a fresh spin on Italian classics. For something completely different, try Agua - its Peruvian dishes consistently garner raving reviews.
Some of Cayman’s local purveyors of more traditional fare may be a little off the beaten track, but they are well worth the visit. Once you’ve tried delicacies such as turtle stew and marinated conch, you will truly appreciate Cayman's culinary heritage, traditionally stemming from a seafarer's diet. One local spot in the heart of George Town's is the delightful and "vibey" Da Fish Shake! Da Shake overlooks the waterfront and offers fresh local fish caught daily! This is a great seaside spot to watch the sunset with a cocktail while digging into a fresh fish fry and some savory local breadfruit chips. Head east to Bodden Town and beyond for rugged coastal views and affordable restaurants serving tasty local favourites. Over The Edge, Kurt's Korner and Vivine’s Kitchen offer a warm Caymanian welcome, along with hearty local dishes. On the more sophisticated end of the spectrum, Ortanique in Camana Bay specialises in ‘Cuisine of the Sun’, enhancing its dishes with tropical flavours and spice. Although not officially Caymanian in origin, ‘jerk’, a Jamaican spiced meat smoked to perfection, is another popular dish. Jerk vendors can be found across the Island serving jerk pork and chicken with traditional sides of rice and beans, coleslaw, ‘festival’ and ‘bammy’.
A Matter of Taste
Cayman’s cosmopolitan population has resulted in a number of excellent choices of Asian, Indian and Thai cuisine. From sushi bars to creative fusion offerings, Cayman has much to offer from the East. Chef Vidyadhara Shetty’s sophisticated outpost, Blue Cilantro, offers a dynamically inspired fusion menu with refreshing flavour combinations. Thai Orchid is a favourite among locals offering a dizzying array of traditional Thai dishes and a full sushi bar. Vegans who are lovers of Thai cuisine will not be disappointed with the extensive options available for them. Chef Benz of Wok-n-Roll offers an extensive menu of East and South Asian flavours incorporating Thai, Indonesian, Malaysian and Filipino influences.
It has never been a better time to be a vegetarian, vegan or even a vegan who is also gluten-free. Grand Cayman is brimming with dedicated vegan eateries and also a host of restaurants such as Agua, that offer vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free menus to diners. Bread and Chocolate in the heart of George Town offer hearty vegan fare and daily baked breads, pastries, delectable cakes and desserts. Island Naturals on the Seven Mile Beach strip is another vegan cafe that has become a solid local favourite. They serve delicious vegan lunch special daily plus fresh pressed juices. Farther out west is VIVO on the rugged Northwest Point coast. They use fresh locally grown organic produce in their vegan dishes and the only 'non-vegetarian' item on the menu is the sustainable lionfish. Vegetarians who favour a spicy kick in their dishes head to Singh's Roti Shop to indulge in Trinidadian rotis and doubles. (The latter is a very thin flatbread that is filled with steaming curried chickpeas, hot peppers and vegetables.)
If you prefer to dine in, there is an excellent vegan meal delivery service called Saucha. They offer lunches that come packed with locally grown organic vegetables and sprouts, raw desserts and housemade kombucha
Dining for Night Owls
Finding somewhere to grab a quick late-night-bite is not difficult in Grand Cayman. In the wee hours of the morning the 'after-party' crowd descend on the nearest jerk stalls, 24-hour gas stations (for pizza) and local favourite on the Seven Mile Beach strip, Al La Kebab. Also burning the midnight oil on the strip is the Burger Shack crew that serves up made to order hand-formed Angus beef burgers and decadent Häagen-Daz milkshakes and old fashioned malts.
With so many excellent choices in dining, Cayman has the experience you are looking for, no matter your taste, style or budget. Whether you choose fine dining at its best or canapés and cocktails by the sea, one thing is for sure - your first visit won't be your last.