Grand Cayman is home to some of the Caribbean’s finest restaurants, but if you really want to get to know the island, try eating local specialties at any of the many small roadside stands and casual restaurants. Indulge in fresh seafood. Give Caribbean delicacies like jerk chicken, goat curry, fish tea and turtle stew a try. Pig out on yummy side dishes like rice and beans and fried plantains. Pick up some homemade pepper jelly or rum cake to take home, or simply sit by the ocean with a cold local beer or glass of rum.
Here are 10 of Grand Cayman’s top delicacies and where to find them:
Mahi-mahi (also called dolphin fish or dolphin in many parts of the world) is a white, steak-like fish that is popular on Caymanian menus.
There are some fantastic roadside stands that offer mahi-mahi as well as other daily catches, such as wahoo, snapper, red lionfish and tuna — fried, blackened or grilled. Try Heritage Kitchen on Boggy Sands Road (near the four-way stop) in West Bay or Chester’s Fish Fry at 563 Bodden Town Road in Bodden Town.
Cooks in the Caribbean have been making “fish tea” for generations. Despite its name, the dish is closer to a hearty soup with chunks of fish and veggies than a drink. While the recipe differs from family to family, it usually consists of cassava, pumpkin, potato, onion, peppers, coconut milk and fish. Traditional recipes call for cooking the entire fish — head, bones and all — in the soup.
Restaurants like George Town’s The Brasserie at 171 Elgin Avenue in Cricket Square have refined it so you won’t have to worry about fish bones or tails in your bowl. You can also try this local specialty at Heritage Kitchen (see above) and Tony’s Jerk Foods at 193 School Road in George Town.
If you’ve visited the Caribbean before, you’ve probably already tried meat marinated in jerk seasoning, which features the flavor of allspice and Scotch bonnet peppers.
On the other hand, Caribbean curry is a ground mix of many spices like allspice, thyme, cloves, anise, black pepper, ginger and chili peppers. Finally, oxtail — with the melding flavors of ginger, soy sauce, garlic and hot peppers — is a treat if you are willing to try it.
You can get all of these main dishes at Tony’s Jerk Foods (see above) and Welly’s Cool Spot on 110 North Sound Road (both in George Town), or Seymour’s Jerk Centre on Shedden Road.
A conch is the marine mollusk that lives in those beautiful spiral shells found on beaches across the Caribbean.
Conch can be used in a variety of dishes — from fried fritters to stew and chowder to ceviche. Head to Eastern Star Bar & Fish Fry at 2550 Sea View Road at East End to sample some of the world’s most heavenly conch fritters.
Caymanians love all things turtle, so expect to see things like turtle steaks and “stew turtle” (turtle stew) on menus. The turtle meat is farm-grown, and the stew is traditionally made with cassava, potato, onion and pepper (like an American beef stew). A good place to sample stew turtle, turtle steak and other local fare is in George Town at Champion House Restaurant at 43 Eastern Avenue. Or, try Schooner's Bar & Grill at the Cayman Turtle Farm (786 Northwest Point Road, West Bay).
If you love bringing home locally made gifts from your cruise adventures, look no further than Tortuga Rum Cakes on Grand Cayman. You can buy a variety of cakes in 4, 16 or 32-ounce sizes. You can’t go wrong with the original Caribbean rum cake, but there is also a Blue Mountain coffee rum cake, as well as chocolate, pineapple, Key lime, banana and coconut rum cakes.
Cayman Pepper Patch makes hot and spicy pepper jelly. Try it on the island and bring home a few jars for your friends. Just remember to pack the jelly in your checked luggage since the TSA won’t allow you to fly with a “gel” in your carry-on. You can buy the jelly at any of the major supermarkets on Grand Cayman, such as Foster’s, Kirk, and Hurley’s.
There is nothing more satisfying on a hot afternoon than a tall, cool glass of freshly pressed juice, a smoothie or kombucha (a sweetened and effervescent black or green tea beverage). Try Jessie’s Juice Bar on Market Street in Camana Bay, Smoothie King with two locations in George Town (638 West Bay Road and 70 Harbour Drive), or The Smoothie Factory at Marquee Plaza on Lawrence Boulevard.
Cayman Islands Brewery — a 10-minute cab ride from the George Town port — makes CayBrew, CayLight, Ironshore Bock, White Tip Lager and 345 Stout. It offers brewery tours Monday through Friday on the hour from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Cayman Spirits Co. crafts three homegrown liquors in small numbered batches: Seven Fathoms Premium Rum, Governor’s Reserve Rum and Gun Bay Vodka. Seven Fathoms is particularly interesting since it comes of age in American white oak bourbon casks that are anchored seven fathoms deep in a secret location off the Cayman coast. You can tour the distillery on Bronze Road in George Town.