A few mornings a week before the crack of dawn, a group of workers at a Bodden Town establishment are already up preparing a tasty catch for Cayman fish lovers.

The workers, including Paula Martinez, Gina Bagwi and Norvin Parchment, are doing their part to meet demand at the Grape Tree Cafe, a local business that is proving to be a hit for customers, both from the district and from farther afield, who are seeking an authentic fish fry experience.

From the exterior, the Grape Tree Cafe is quite unassuming, just a shack on the beach and a few steps up to the open air window counter. If it were not for the parking lot jam-packed with cars, one might not even think to stop and see what the fuss is all about. But fish lovers have known of the spot for ages, and the sweet smelling scents it carries to the road entice passing vehicles.

The modest looking fish shack draws diners from near and far.
The modest looking fish shack draws diners from near and far.

From Friday to Sunday, the fish shack serves up fish ‘n chips, with a large portion of whole red snapper or chunks of succulent mahi mahi and fries, served with homemade pepper sauce, fried plantain, fritters, cassava and fried breadfruit when in season. It’s helping to make Bodden Town a hot weekend fried fish destination.

The numbers speak volumes: each week the staff processes about 270 pounds of snapper, 500 pounds of mahi mahi, and 50 pounds of swai. The fish are cleaned, washed in vinegar and lime water and seasoned with salt and pepper before heading for the fryers.

At the cafe, visitors order at the window, then grab a picnic table outside, cooled by the sea breeze, content to watch the crystal clear waters and fishermen bringing in their daily catches.

The coastal gem, just behind the Rubis station in Bodden Town, was opened by local businessman Osbourne Bodden and wife Nancy in 2009.

Since opening the Grape Tree Cafe, Mr. Bodden said the fish fry station has grown from strength to strength, and this he believed was for two main reasons: the care and time taken with the prepping of the fish; and the good service offered.

Snapper and mahi mahi ready for the grill.
Snapper and mahi mahi ready for the grill.

“We are very proud of what we have managed to do, and it’s a dream come true for me to have a product that is loved locally and by visitors alike,” said Mr. Bodden.

“We maintain the place to a high standard and we have loyal employees, especially Ms. Martinez who has become the face of Grape Tree Cafe,” he continued.

“We proved this when she was rolled over a couple of years back and we lost a lot of customers.” Ms. Martinez who is coming up on nine years at the fish shack affectionately says it feels like a second home for her.

“I like everything about the work, really,” she said.

“But the best part of my job is definitely the customers, I just love them so much.”

Mr. Bodden said he appreciates all the staff and customers, and looks forward to continuing to serve the Bodden Town and wider community for many years to come.