Why the Cayman Islands Is a Caribbean Culinary Capital
Many Caribbean islands boast about their culinary scene, but events like the Cayman Cookout demonstrate why the Cayman Islands is a cut above the rest. Hosted by celebrity chef Eric Ripert, this annual food festival staged at the Ritz Carlton Grand Cayman attracts top chefs like Jose Andreas, Andrew Zimmern, and Emeril Lagasse as well as showcasing local talent from the top restaurants and hotels in the Caymans.
Ripert has a long love affair with Cayman and his Blue by Eric Ripert restaurant at the Ritz Carlton is one of the island’s top dining experiences, lending legitimacy to the Cayman Islands’ claim to be a culinary capital of the Caribbean.
Whether you want to pay attend the Cayman Cookout in January, sample the Taste of Cayman in April, come in October for restaurant week and cocktail week, or visit Grand Cayman another time of year, here are some of the island’s hottest places to eat for food-focused travelers.
Grand Cayman’s premier culinary experience is a celebration of the bounty of the blue Caribbean Sea, with local seafood and a world-class wine list complimented by an elegant waterfront location at the Ritz Carlton Grand Cayman resort.
Located on a former plantation estate dating to 1908, the Grand Old House takes a modern approach to dining on its oceanside verandah with farm-to-table offerings that highlight both Caribbean and international cuisine.
Widely credited with launching Grand Cayman’s locally sourced dining movement, The Brasserie’s menu is driven by what’s available but typically emphasizes the catch of the day, lobster and conch in season, and treats like ice cream flavored with local fruits.
The Caribbean Club on Seven Mile Beach is home to this beachfront restaurant that features contemporary Italian cuisine, a wine cellar with more that 5,500 bottles, and unexpected options like sushi along with vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free menus.
Bright, cheerful, and unpretentious, locally owned Cimboco serves scratch-made Caymanian food with a modern twist — and sometimes the other way around. You’ll find hints of citrus in the bruschetta, fresh snapper wrapped in a banana leaf, and pizzas topped with sauce made from local tomatoes and jerk chicken.
Waves lapping at the Wharf’s dining dock set the mood for Executive Chef Christian Reiter’s seafood creations like the signature basil and pistachio encrusted sea bass, but there’s also Angus beef filet mignon, escargot, foie gras and rack of lamb on the classically inspired “best dinner menu in Grand Cayman.”
Indoor and outdoor spaces come alive at night at this Camana Bay restaurant, which puts the emphasis on convivial “culture” as well as the steaks and seafood on Chef Charith Heman’s dinner menu. Live music gives the bar scene an extra charge on Saturday nights.
Indian food has always had a strong influence on Caribbean cuisine like roti and curry goat, but Blue Cilantro executive chef Vidyadhara Shetty (coincidentally the president of the Cayman Culinary Society) goes all in with an east-west fusion menu featuring the catch of the day cooked in a clay oven, Tandoori style, and a pork ribs and belly appetizer served with a ginger apple chutney and vindaloo sauce.
A gastropub with leather seats and a supper club atmosphere is a little unexpected, but this being the Caribbean the Union Grill and Bar also has an outdoor waterfront terrace where you can enjoy artisan cocktails, local seafood appetizers and entrees, and Angus steaks and poultry dishes.
Caribbean, American, Indian, Asian, Greek, French, Mexican — it all goes into the pot of influences at this seaside restaurant in West Bay, where the “food for your soul” tour runs from cauliflower tossed in Manchurian sauce as an appetizer to Asian stir-fry and curry dishes for mains and baklava for dessert.
A tiki bar with an excellent selection of Caribbean rums and classic tiki concoctions helps elevate this West Bay restaurant into the ranks of Caymanian favorites. As for the food menu, of course you’ll find conch chowder, ceviche and fritters but also an assortment of salads, small plates, and entrees that include local snapper poached in coconut oil and topped with crumbled pumpkin seeds.
The signature eatery at the island’s celebrated Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa is a combination Mediterranean eatery and steakhouse, with superb seafood and one of the best Sunday brunches on the whole island. The view — particular at sunset — is worth the trip alone.
Tillie isn’t the chef (that’s Jake Tyler Brodsky); the name of this restaurant on Seven Mile Beach is short for Antilles, the region of the Caribbean that includes the Cayman Islands and the place where most of the food on the menu is sourced. Wednesday night is a great time to sample Chef Brodsky’s eclectic cuisine by ordering from a fixed-price Supper Club menu.
The familial backyard setting at Ms. Pipers is intended to make diners feel at home and at ease whole browsing through a menu of small (empanadas, cassava cheese bread), medium (Korean ribs, branzino), and large plates (mezze platter, butterflied snapper) and an indulgent dessert menu featuring a Basque style burnt cheesecake.
We’re going to go out on a limb and guess that this is the only Australian inspired restaurant in the Caribbean. Located in the West Bay, TUKKA serves kangaroo sausage alongside more familiar West Indies food like calamari and ceviche; the conch fritters are tossed in with fried crocodile bites, and the shrimp dishes feature Australian native tiger prawns.
This Italian restaurant channels the spirit of a Venetian wine bar alongside the canals of a West Bay yacht harbor, pairing an extensive menu of international wines by the glass or bottle with Mediterranean-style cichetti (appetizers), small plates, charcuterie plates, and mains ranging from Cornish game hen to local grilled lobster.
There’s nothing fancy about Heritage Kitchen, but you really shouldn’t visit the Cayman Islands without trying some authentic local food, and this is the go-to on Grand Cayman for that. Order your fried fish, coconut grouper, conch fritter and fish soup from a window in a cheerfully painted shack, take a seat on one of the waterfront picnic tables, and enjoy a true taste of the Caymans.