Grand Cayman has a reputation for some of the best food in the Caribbean. From roadside BBQ to beachfront fish shacks to international superstar chefs, the island has you covered. Some newcomers have emerged and some old favorites have solidified their place in the pantheon. Here's a list of the best right now:
Ortanqiue, helmed by Miami chef Cindy Hutson, delivers an innovative spin in Caribbean cuisine. Think coffee and cocoa encrusted salmon and the mega-sized (16 ounce) pork chop slathered in a BBQ sauce made from local mangoes. Locally sourced desserts, like banana fritters with rum raisin ice cream and a classic coconut cake, are dreamy. Book a table under the stars along the harbor and suddenly date night is elevated to a lifetime memory.
Take a complimentary catamaran ride to Rum Point on a weekday night (weekends are packed) and you may think you have died and gone to heaven. The restaurant is on a quiet perch at the end of the island, at the mouth of shallows, where even kids can snorkel. There are showers and water sport rentals. There's no better place to order a strong cocktail (mudslides are signature) and order conch fritters.
A favorite local hangout, Duke's on the non-beach side of Seven Miles Beach delivers some of the island's best smoky BBQ. Try the Cayman jerk chicken, which is rich and flavorful, or the short ribs braised in local beer. Steam pots of seafood span the glove. (The Caribbean steam pot is all about lobster and lemongrass.) Everything here is made in-house, even the cocktail and tartar sauce.
Sunshine Grill may be the best-kept secret on Grand Cayman. Tucked behind the modest Sunshine Suites hotel next to the pool, you'd never find this place unless a local told you. Beachy painted furniture, a small bar and bubbly staff keeps the tempo while a largely Cuban kitchen staff turns out some of the most flavorful dishes on the island. For $10.95 you get a plate of mahi tacos topped with avocado sauce, Swiss cheese and cabbage that's so flavorful that you will be jonzing for them when you get home.
Despite having its big name chef and its location in a fancy hotel, (The Ritz) Blue by Eric Ripert has to be on a best of Grand Cayman list because it lives up to its hype. This is where to go for one of the most indulgent and interesting seafood meals of your life. A sample: Local tuna paired with foie gras, halibut "pot au feu" made with rich black truffle, striped bass toped with rum hibiscus.
The Brasserie is in George Town is as hyper local as you can get. Out back, the vegetable and herb garden, along with the breadfruit and banana trees supply the kitchen with produce. To make sure the fish is the freshest, the restaurant keeps two fishermen on the payroll, ensuring it gets the best catch of the day. Try the tartare or ceviche, both of which highlight the best of the garden and the sea.
Breakfast at the Waterfront Urban Diner, a new addition to the island, marries a hipster aesthetic (minimalist design, ceramic trophy heads and animal salt and pepper shakers) with earnest, straightforward good eats. The face-sized sweet roll has already become the stuff of legends.
Michaels Genuine is located in Camana Bay, an area ripe with office buildings, and is one of the most popular lunch and after work spots on the island. The kitchen is so committed to sourcing ingredients from local farmers, ranchers and fisherman that they highlight the names of these folks on their website http://michaelsgenuine.com/grand-cayman/menus-grand-cayman/. The wood-fired oven turns out specialties like wood-fired breadfruit salad with avocado, double yolk eggs (served on crostini) and lionfish served with pickled mango.
Vivine's Kitchen is literally Vivine's kitchen. The restaurant is at her modest home on the East End, a part of the island few tourists ever get to see. Make the trek there and you will be well rewarded. Her menu is as authentically Caymanian as it gets: conch and welk, along with sea turtle and goat stew. After your lunch, feel free to climb into the hammock and sleep off the meal. Vivine does not have a website but ask for directions anyone on the island can direct you.
Mizu is a high-style bistro that takes a spin through Asia. A fun way to approach the menu is to order a little something from each of the countries. A sampling of the variety: Korean BBQ cauliflower, Japanese hamachi nigiri, Thai calamari with nahm jim dressing, classic Vietnamese pho soup and Cambodian grapefruit salad with mint and peanuts.