Legendary Cayman restaurants: Apollo 11

The North Side hotspot remembered

Winson Miller outside his popular bar and restaurant, named for the successful moon landing mission.

Caymanians have always prided themselves on their excellence in the kitchen. They are known for cooking up spicy concoctions, comprising mainly of natural ingredients from the land and sea.

We have compiled a list of legendary restaurants that have either gone out of business completely or have greatly reduced their operations. If you were able to dine at these 1970s restaurants before they closed, consider yourself lucky.
Here is the first one on our list:

Apollo 11
There was a time when Apollo 11 by the sea in North Side was the most popular nightclub in the Cayman Islands.

Many will remember Apollo 11 for its swinging and dancing days, but most of all for its food.

The restaurant was open daily for dinners and lunch, specialising in fried chicken, shrimp, fish, turtle and conch.

Situated on the Old Man Bay coastline, everyone went to Apollo 11 for its cool sea breezes and excellent food. This bar and restaurant was considered a very ‘hip’ joint.

The dances every Friday night were popular, with up to 100 people happily dancing to music by local groups such as the Kiemanaires and Henry Leslie and the Burning Alps.

While 100 patrons doesn’t sound like a lot, they packed the place.

For a cover charge of $2 there was a chance of winning $50 and $10 door prizes, or sometimes a case of beer.

When asked how Leslie came up with the band name, he said that it had previously been called Henry Leslie and the Alps, but when the band’s equipment got destroyed in a fire at another North Side venue – The Barn – he renamed it Henry Leslie and the Burning Alps.

Local seafood was the specialty in Apollo 11 where Caymanian dishes were served for a mere $3, including stew rabbit [agouti], which was served every Sunday. There was also free tea every Saturday in June.

In charge of the cooking since the venue first opened in 1968 was the late Nell Whittaker, and Owen Rivers ran the bar.

Over the years, it became known as the home of the Kiemanaires band and it was the place to be, particularly on the weekends. Unless you arrived early on Friday and Saturday nights, it’s possible you would have been left standing outside.

Its reputation as a popular eating, dining and dancing place was spread island-wide and drew clients from all over Grand Cayman.

Winson J. Miller bio
(by George Nowak)
Miller was the owner and proprietor of the Apollo 11. Originally from North Side, he was a mariner, eventually rising to the position of third mate, a licensed member of the deck department of a merchant ship who is customarily the ship’s safety officer and fourth-in-command.

In 1969, he built what would become the popular watering hole with the interesting name, and would recount that one of the astronauts from the first spaceflight that landed on the moon stopped by his bar for a drink that same year – 1969.

Miller was so honoured that he named his new bar, restaurant, and nightclub after the Apollo 11 mission, and the walls of the place were festooned with images of the moon landing.

Miller was also known as one of North Side’s best fishermen. He passed away in Feb., 2016, at the age of 84.

| Today the building that formerly housed Apollo 11 is home to Over the Edge Restaurant, serving up a host of local and Caribbean foods ranging from $10 to $15.

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