Dubbed the Culinary Capital of the Caribbean, the Cayman Islands offer more than 250 restaurants to satisfy any epicurean craving. While the restaurants may be local, the foods served showcase varying cuisine across North and South America, Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Australia and Italy, as well as the Caribbean. Take a journey across worldly cultures through sophisticated small plates, street food and everything in between.
Amelia’s Kitchen, Luz’s Restaurant, Kurt’s Korner and Vivine’s Kitchen are widely known by locals to have some of the best stewed conch — a preparation of conch pounded until it is buttery soft with “pie” (a thin flour dumpling), cooked slowly in fresh coconut milk and spices. As the name implies, Cracked Conch is well known for its cracked conch — a battered conch steak, pan fried and served with tartar sauce — and conch ceviche. Share a plate of bite-sized conch fritters (similar to a hush puppy) at Over the Edge Café or a bowl of hearty conch chowder at Country & Western Restaurant.
Visit Luz’s Restaurant or Kurt’s Korner for the best Caymanstyle lobster, a slow simmering pot of chopped lobster meat in butter with bell peppers, onions, garlic and scotch bonnet peppers. Kurt’s Korner is also notorious for its Cayman-style beef. This dish is prepared with chopped local beef — a crucial ingredient as store-bought beef will not yield the same results — seasoned simply and cooked slowly in a large Dutch pot, often
over an entire day.
While you’re at Kurt’s Korner try the stewed turtle, an authentic Caymanian dish prepared with turtle meat farmed specifically for consumption. Country & Western Restaurant is also highly regarded for its preparation of this dish. Other commonly favoured Caribbean foods include the oxtail and beans at Welly’s Cool Spot, ackee and saltfish at Champion House Restaurant II, and escovitch fried chicken at MacDonald’s Restaurant.
A lunch or dinner of fried local snapper, mahi-mahi or barracuda fish are time-honoured Sunday meals at the Heritage Kitchen, Grape Tree Café, Chester’s Fish Fry, the Eastern Star Bar and Captain Herman’s East Side Fish Fry. The catch is lightly battered, fried golden brown and served with fried flour fritters — sometimes referred to as fried dumplings — or the slightly sweeter version, festival, made with cornmeal and sugar.
Traditional Caribbean rice and beans, fried plantain, cassava or roasted breadfruit may also be served.
Jerk chicken and pork are, by tradition, a Jamaican cooking technique whereby the meat is seasoned with bold spices like pimento, cloves and scotch bonnet peppers and then smoked in an old oil drum. The meat itself is generally mild, so when topped with hot jerk sauces of varying degrees, it ups the ante on the heat factor. Savour some of the island’s best jerk at Peppers Smokehouse, Mango Tree Restaurant, the Roast Hut, Di Kit-Chin
or Rankin’s Jerk Centre.
There are several restaurants to satisfy your craving for classic or contemporary American eats, like Duke’s Seafood & Rib Shack, where the Louisiana hot crawfish is described as “the real thing.” Nibble on bar snacks like the crispy hominy or devilled eggs while enjoying a range of eclectic beers at Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink*, or if you want something more filling, opt for the juicy burgers at Legendz Classic Grille, the Burger Shack or Mr. Burgers Snacks and Things*. Sink your teeth into a ballpark-worthy hot dog with melted cheddar and bacon at Waterfront Urban Diner in Camana Bay or pop into Gino’s Pizzeria, where they are serving up Brooklyn-style pizza by the slice or pie all day long. Relish in a plate of Texan ribs at Lone Star Bar & Grill or the island’s best Buffalo
wings at The Pirate’s Den.
For breakfast, Eats Café is the restaurant of choice. The quirky diner dishes up eggs, pancakes, waffles and bacon until 11:30 a.m. and is similar to most chain diners across the U.S.
When dining at Italian restaurants in Cayman, it is evident that the freshest ingredients have been used and the food is made with love. Enjoy a beautiful plate of creamed pesto and shrimp pasta at Casanova Restaurant or a hand-tossed pizza at La Dolce Vita. Try the handmade gnocchi with fresh tomato sauce at the sleek and stylish Luca Restaurant, or enjoy friendly banter with the staff at Ragazzi over a plate of foie gras and porcini mushroom ravioli. The roasted pumpkin risotto at Edoardo’s is equally memorable, as are the chicken scaloppine in pink peppercorn and gorgonzola sauce at
Ristorante Pappagallo and the lobster and five-cheese ravioli at The Lighthouse.
The Cayman Islands is teeming with top-quality Asian cuisine. Enjoy Chinese, Cantonese and Szechuan foods at places such as Canton Restaurant — go for the spicy Peking chicken
or General Ching’s chicken — and China Village Restaurant, which is well-known for its sweet and sour chicken and beef in oyster sauce. Visit Wok-n-Roll for a variety of East and Southeast Asian meals, like the Indonesian Nasi Goreng egg fried rice with shrimp, chicken, cucumber and sambal olek. Dragon Garden Restaurant is an ideal choice for quick takeout; try the honey garlic shrimp or Szechuan lo mein.
Wok-n-Roll also carries a menu filled with delicious Filipino foods like tapsilog — sliced beef strips that have been fried — and tokwa’t baboy, a fried pork belly dish with tofu and soya and onion sauce. Popo Jeb’s, the newest Filipino restaurant on the market, is serving up favourites like bihon con lechon — stir-fried vermicelli with deep-fried pork — and the light beef soup bulalo.
Reserve a table at Thai Orchid for the very best in pad Thai, panang curry and pad prik. Before you leave be sure to order a sticky toffee pudding as it is arguably the most delicious
For top quality sushi and other Japanese cuisine, visits to Yoshi Sushi and Taikun are recommended. In addition to creative sushi rolls and the freshest sashimi, both restaurants are highly regarded among the local crowd. At Mizu in Camana Bay, you’ll
find a dedicated sushi bar serving up fresh, local ingredients. My Bar at Sunset House and Bombay Chopsticks are top of the list for a true Indian feast of red, green or yellow curry, naan bread and papadum, but the food served at restaurants like Southern Spice and Gateway of India are full of flavour as well. Or have a roti with Trinidadian curried chicken at Singh’s Roti Shop for a Caribbean-Indian experience.
Look no further for a taste “down under” than Tukka Restaurant & Bar. Serving Australian favourites with a Caribbean twist, Tukka’s menu includes conch and crocodile fritters, a
daily Walk-About soup, an Aussie-inspired burger, kangaroo sausage skewers and even an Australian twist on an English tradition of bangers and mash.
For an eclectic fusion of French, Mediterranean and Asian cuisine — mixed with Caribbean and Indonesian influences — all in a sophisticated, fine-dining atmosphere, true foodies need to try Blue Cilantro on West Bay Road. Executive chef and owner Vidyaha Shetty brings his love of cooking and eclectic spices to every dish. Stop by on Wednesdays for a truly unique Indian Fusion four-course menu with wine pairings.
Head over to Fidel Murphy’s Irish Pub & Restaurant or stop by the Rolling Stove* food truck for time-honoured English and Irish pub food like proper Irish stew, fish and chips and chicken curry. Start the day with a breakfast bap with egg, Irish bacon or sausage, grilled mushrooms and tomatoes from the Rolling Stove and end the evening with a cold ale or cider on tap at Fidel’s. Look for the Rolling Stove weekdays along Mary Street during lunch hours or at the South Sound dock after 4 p.m. and, on weekends, from 11 a.m. onwards at the South Sound dock.
LATIN AMERICA AND SPAIN
For the best in Honduran and Cuban cuisine, visit Latin Taste Restaurant and Luz’s Restaurant. Both offer dishes like breakfast baleadas (flour tortillas filled with mashed refried beans), crumbled queso duro (a pungent white cheese from Honduras), tamales, tostones and pastelitos. Round out your meal with a slice of tres leches, a cake soaked in heavy cream, evaporated milk and condensed milk.
Journey to Mexico at Carlos & Martin’s Tex-Mex Cantina & Bar or Agave Grill, where tacos, tostadas, enchiladas, burritos and fajitas anchor the menu. Couple it with a margarita or Mexican beer to authenticate the experience. If Peruvian and Spanish foods are what you’re craving, then Agua Restaurant & Lounge is the restaurant you are seeking. The vegan paella with saffron broth and a medley of vegetables is divine.
GREECE AND THE MIDDLE EAST
Head over to Al La Kebab when you’re in the mood for a taste of Greece and the Middle East. Enjoy spit-roasted chicken or beef and lamb, chicken schwarma, grilled shrimp, pork souvlaki or falafel wrapped in warm pita bread with veggies or served over French fries. Keep things classic with a tzatziki or tahini sauce or go bold with the spicy chilli sauce or
jerk mayo. Look for their food truck KeVroom in the Red Bay area most evenings.
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Published: Skies Magazine, January 2015
*indicates restaurant has closed since article published