The vibe at Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink at happy hour is as trendy as its setting, nestled along the shores of Camana Bay, Grand Cayman’s thriving new neighbourhood development.
A buzz emanates from groups of friends, businesspeople and couples who collectively indulge in the establishment’s offering of premium cocktails and delectable cuisine.
The appetizers alone can constitute a meal, from deviled eggs and crispy pig ears, to eggplant caponata and meatballs.
Michael’s is the latest rising star in Grand Cayman’s culinary galaxy, with a laid-back bistro ambiance and hearty dishes of homemade gourmet cuisine.
A Thriving Culinary Scene
I am joined for drinks by Chef Cindy Hutson who, along with her good friend Michael Schwartz, are part of a new wave of chic South Florida restaurateurs bringing their award-winning experiences to Grand Cayman.
Hutson is in final preparations for the November 24th opening of her Cayman version of Ortanique, whose “cuisine of the sun” has earned every imaginable award since its opening in Coral Gables in 1999.
“The food vibe down here is so strong and welcoming,” she says. “Grand Cayman is evolving into a food destination, which complements the beautiful beaches and dive sites as another attraction to the island.”
Along with other culinary celebrities, Schwartz and Hutson are part of a burgeoning scene on Grand Cayman.
“The networking down here is becoming so much fun,” adds Hutson. “They are doing great things with cuisine at places like Calypso Grill and Blue…this place is attracting that sort of scene and I am so proud to be a part of it.”
The arrival of renowned restaurateurs follows in the footsteps of French Chef, Eric Ripert, whose AAA Five Diamond Blue by Eric Ripert at the Ritz Carlton, Grand Cayman has been dazzling palettes since day one.
Ripert’s outstanding reputation and commitment to growing the Caymanian scene has drawn the likes of his long-time friend, Anthony Bourdain, who has participated in numerous culinary events across the island.
Something for Everyone
But the Grand Cayman culinary scene is so much more than the flavour of the moment. With close to 100 nationalities represented within the ex-pat community, local tastes range from grass roots Caymanian traditions, to an array of international specialties.
The vibe at Michael’s may be trendy, but the buzz emanating from local restaurants like Liberty’s, Champion House II and Vivine’s Kitchen in the East End district is equally potent.
Caymanian staples like turtle stew, jerked chicken, and conch, prepared a dozen ways, are complemented by a healthy side of traditional rice and beans followed by cassava heavy cakes.
The atmosphere at those places is modest, sometimes rustic, but always authentic.
Traditional ingredients like fresh fish and breadfruit—grown on trees in just about every other yard on Grand Cayman—fuse with traditional cooking styles that have won over even the most famous of international chefs.
Grand Cayman’s culinary scene is equal parts product and paradise, with breathtaking seaside settings that invite a feeling of serenity.
Some of my most cherished island memories can be traced back to dining experiences, whether it be a cliff-side table at the Lighthouse restaurant in Breakers, or a quiet afternoon of cocktails and melt-in-your-mouth conch fritters at the Cracked Conch.
Elegant evening dining is equally represented along the coastline at places like Casanova, Grand Old House and The Wharf, the latter where nightly feedings of giant tarpon along the shoreline bring you in touch with your surroundings.
From cool breezes and sea grape trees, to sandy shores lapped by gentle waves, it’s hard to find a place in paradise where you can have a bad dining experience.
Grand Cayman is one of the few places in the Caribbean where the bars actually close earlier on Saturday nights. Sundays are very traditional and are seen as a family day of worship, quality time…and brunch!
Brunch is almost a national sport on Grand Cayman, done up to perfection at notable venues including 7 Restaurant at the Ritz-Carlton, Ferdinand’s Caribbean Café at the Westin Casuarina Resort and Spa, Luca at the Caribbean Club or Hemingway’s at Grand Cayman Beach Suites.
Amongst the smorgasbord of combined ingredients that are growing Grand Cayman’s culinary scene, perhaps the most potent is its annual festivals. January has become the culinary month of the year, with the Cayman Cookout and Taste of Cayman Food & Wine Festival being huge draws for foodies.
Put it this way—between all of the new restos, classically delish casual joints and cool foodie events, there is plenty to keep your palate stimulated on beautiful Grand Cayman.
Where to Eat and Drink on Grand Cayman
With more than 200 restaurants peppered throughout the Cayman Islands, this British Overseas Territory has rightly earned its reputation as the culinary capital of the Caribbean. Sip a mudslide (the island's signature drink) at laid-back Rum Point Club or dig into a legendary seafood brunch at LUCA.
Six Caribbean Beach Bars to Discover
We also have suggestions for what to order once you find these six Caribbean beach bars. Rum punch at Rick's Cafe, rum mudslides at Wreck Bar & Grill, rum in a pineapple at Colego Beach Bar and rum straight-up pretty much anywhere are all popular options, especially when paired with flying fish, conch salad and views of sunsets and surfers.