If the Kahlua-spiked, chocolate-drenched mudslide cocktail is the first treat that comes to mind when you consider Grand Cayman’s culinary contributions, it’s time for a return trip. The Cayman Islands’ most popular vacation destination has a serious supply of innovative chefs, a melting-pot population inspired by many international cuisines, waters full of fresh seafood and produce that fills farmers markets despite the island’s famously difficult soil.
Given these gifts, it’s no surprise Grand Cayman is home to a growing number of food festivals including Eric Ripert’s Cayman Cookout — the January 2015 edition will welcome chefs Anthony Bourdain, José Andrés, Daniel Boulud and Michael White — and Slow Food Day, a celebration of local farm fare. To experience the best of Grand Cayman’s burgeoning food scene, step away from Seven Mile Beach, if only for the evening, and point your sandals toward any of these standout dishes.
Tuna foie gras at Blue by Eric Ripert
The signature dish at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman’s esteemed Eric Ripert restaurant, this impossibly thin tuna carpaccio appears à la carte and as part of the Eric Ripert tasting menu, which is a selection of the chef’s most popular dishes from his Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star Le Bernardin in New York City. Savor the thinly pounded local tuna atop a foie gras terrine and a toasted baguette slice.
Lionfish with wood-roasted breadfruit salad at Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink
Technically two dishes, this dynamic duo bursts with Caymanian flavors. Enjoy chunks of potato-like roasted breadfruit with local tomato, avocado, basil and shaved red onion in a citrus emulsion before digging into your lionfish; when we were there, it was pan-roasted with baby bok choy. Chef-owner Michael Schwartz and his team have been leaders in the effort to hunt the invasive, spiked lionfish from Grand Cayman’s waters and bring it to gourmands’ plates. Luckily, this maligned sea creature is also a palate pleaser.
Ceviche at Ortanique
Like its Camana Bay neighbor Michael’s Genuine, Ortanique is the first international outpost of a successful Miami eatery, and chef Cindy Hutson has added local flourishes to her already tropical menu. The daily ceviche is a signature start to any meal here. A recent shrimp edition was created with local lime juice, oranges and orange juice, Scotch bonnet and bell peppers, Bermuda onions, cilantro, and scallions, and accompanied by chunky guacamole and plantain chips.
Red papaya gelato at Gelato & Co. Cremeria Italiana
When it’s time to cool off from the Caribbean sun, head to one of Camana Bay’s newest dining options for the best gelato this side of Florence. The owners, recent transplants from Italy, churn impossibly creamy cones of classics such as stracciatella and hazelnut, but for an island twist, go with the local red papaya. The savory-sweet flavor will satisfy your craving for authentic gelato until the next time you hop the Atlantic.
Pozole at Agave Grill
Chef Ervin Horvath’s Agave Grill menu is full of elevated Mexican comfort food such as tacos crafted with handmade corn tortillas and Grand Cayman’s East End smoked pork belly, but there’s an off-menu item worth seeking out as well: pozole verde de Guerrero. A star of 2014’s Slow Food Day, Horvath’s pork and chicken soup with hominy appears at Agave from time to time for special dinners and for celebrations such as Cinco de Mayo or Mexico’s September 16 Independence Day.
Goat curry at Grand Old House
The original champion of slow food on Grand Cayman, elegant Grand Old House is the perfect place for a special occasion — and not only due to its stunning waterfront setting. Lavish holiday brunches promise the restaurant’s local goat curry, braised to perfection. The dish is also available every other week for lunch and dinner; though because the local farmer who provides the goat maintains a small herd, availability may be unpredictable.
Random Acts of Cooking at The Brasserie
Known for hauling in daily catches on its own fishing boats and produce from its onsite garden, The Brasserie incorporates fresh ingredients into dishes such as ceviche with Cayman coconut and lime. Visit for dinner from Tuesday through Friday to indulge in the five-course Random Acts of Cooking chef’s tasting menu. You’ll enjoy the daily catch, just-picked vegetables and more Brasserie specialties.
Cinnamon bun at The Waterfront Urban Diner
The chalkboard menu at this hip whitewashed-brick restaurant veers from classic diner dishes (steak and eggs) to Caribbean influences (island-style French toast soaked in coconut milk), but the pièce de résistance is the Waterfront cinnamon bun topped with housemade icing. The sticky roll is bigger than your hand and will win over your heart with one gooey bite.
The High Roller smoothie at Jessie’s Juice Bar
An all-natural juice bar that goes beyond the blender — it’s also a kombucha microbrewery and a food purveyor (think mason-jar salads and housemade veggie flax wraps) — Jessie’s still serves up killer smoothies. Our pick is The High Roller, a rich mix of raw cacao, maca, avocado, dates, milk and bananas. Add a shot of ginger and power up for your water adventures.
Snag several jars of this ultra-small-batch hot pepper jelly as soon as you see it in gift or grocery stores (try Bay Market at Camana Bay), for you may find yourself finishing off your first jar before you’re off-island. A creation of pepper maven Carol Hay, who produces only about 36 jars each week, Cayman Gourmet Pepper Jelly is made with 16 secret ingredients but gets some of its heat from locally grown Scotch bonnets. Add a dollop to cream cheese and crackers or create a glaze for meats; this complex sweet-hot blend is an incredibly versatile condiment.
Photos Courtesy of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, LLC and Ortanique