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Blog Home > Archive (April, 2017)

"He's like your favorite uncle," were my fiance's words after we met Max Hillier at Casa 43. Max is the co-owner of Casa 43 Mexican Kitchen & Tequila Bar, and he spreads positive energy wherever he goes.

taco and steak from casa 43

Max has one gear, and it's GO! If he's passionate about something, strap on your seatbelt and try to keep up. From the short time I got to spend with Max, I could tell that while he is extremely motivated by success, he doesn't get lost in the weeds or lose sight of what really matters in life, either. You pretty much want to be this man's best friend after meeting him.

As the title tells, Max is originally from South Africa. He became a world traveling dive instructor and adventure seeker at a young age, living and working in places like Cayman Brac, Micronesia, Egypt, Mexico, The Himalayas and more. Through it all, he kept coming back to Cayman Brac, and when he found out that one of the resorts there was looking for a manager he told their corporate team that he could do that. Even though he had no experience managing a resort he told them that he knew Cayman Brac better than anyone, and due to his contagious passion and determination they hired him.

While living in "The Brac" (I learned locals call themselves "Brackers."), he also became President of the Sister Islands Tourism Association and helped them create a whole new brand to promote both Cayman Brac and Little Cayman. 

In the meantime, while Max was living on "The Brac" his parents moved to Grand Cayman; and so they were able to visit quite often. After his father passed away, Max wanted to be closer to his mom and moved to "the big city" or as it's better known, Grand Cayman.

Things were pretty serendipitous from there. He got invited to play golf with some guys—several restaurant owners and property owners, including the man that owns the building that now houses Casa 43. He said he had no golfing experience, but he must have played decent enough because they invited him back. This same group of people, who would become great friends of Max's, ended up introducing him to his would-be business partner Lloyd. When the space became available (a small back-door type of space that you literally enter in a side door behind Copper Falls Steakhouse) Max and Lloyd's buddies told them that they should open a restaurant there together. Lloyd knowing the Cayman culinary scene inside and out and Max being a branding guru was a great combo, and they decided to go for it. The trick was in deciding what type of restaurant to open. They aspired to open something that would work for the community and the actual environment of the space. They envisioned opening a place that made people feel completely immersed and transported once they walked through the doors. 

Again, serendipity took the wheel. Max met his would-be wife, Candice, at a Pirate's Week Festival and began traveling back and forth from Atlanta to see her (where she lived). While in Atlanta, he stumbled upon a great Mexican restaurant called Alma Cocina; what he referred to as a modern Mexican kitchen. He knew this was the type of restaurant that he and Lloyd needed, and now all he had to do was convince Lloyd. Max got Lloyd to come to Atlanta with him for research, and after 2 days and 13 restaurants he saw Lloyd's lightbulb go off when they entered Alma Cocina.

From there they decided to open Casa 43, a culturally immersive, authentic and up-market Mexican restaurant in the "little hole in the wall space" behind Copper Falls Steakhouse. When I walked up to the restaurant for the first time, I was somewhat skeptical as we had to go around the side of the building to enter a side door, and then you walk in and it's this amazing little place. You feel like you've discovered some exciting underground secret.

max writing specials, gaucamole, aztec god decor

Max drew inspiration for the decor, the food and the branding from a life-changing 5 month stay he'd had in Mexico during his world-traveling days. Every dish is thoughtfully crafted. The Aztec calendar is incorporated into their logo, and 43 is their address. The menu boasts that their tortillas are hand made by a woman named, Sandra and points out things like Max's favorite salad. Plus, they claim to have the best kid's menu on the island with options like Mahi Mahi with vegetables.

They decided to add the Tequila Bar concept as a part of the experience, too, and now serve over 80 different tequilas including a $100 shot which Max called the YOLO shot. The entire bar is great, though. We had the best mojitos of our life there and at my fiance's begging, I asked Max for the recipe twice which he somehow avoided. ;) Max shared that it's important to create a conversation in every aspect of your business, and they have definitely achieved this—setting a new precedence in my opinion.

bartenders waiting on guests at bar

My favorite part of the entire experience though was entering the restaurant, and I think Max explained it best, "You're going to feel like you've been welcomed into somebody's home." And that pretty much sums up CaymanKind.

P.S. Today is Casa 43's 2nd Birthday! If you're in Cayman stop by and give them congrats or wish them a Happy Birthday on their Facebook page.

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I’m going to dive ;) into my first submarine experience with a lot of honesty and a little bit of a backstory.

During my first trip to the Cayman Islands in the fall of 2015, one of the main activities I looked forward to the most was scuba diving. I imagined the experience would be once in a lifetime and anticipated seeing what the world looks like underwater and the creatures that call the sea home. It wasn’t until this trip that I had the opportunity to make my scuba diving wish a reality. After making arrangements with a local diving company, our instructor for the day picked my group up from the condos and took us to a beautiful location (right in the middle of Cracked Conch and Macabuca restaurant’s) we would dive from.

Over the course of the next hour, I could feel an irrational anxiety building up within me as the very educated and kind instructor explained to my group various hand signals and breathing techniques we would rely on while underwater. I’m not quite sure what came over me since I do not usually chicken out of participating in activities, although I somewhat chalk it up to the day before when I went swimming in choppy water. Let’s just say I struggled a bit, and had a few traumatic flashbacks to when I was four years old and thought I was drowning at my local swimming pool…I’m not exactly a fish. Anyway, I made the decision to stay on dry land while the others in my group continued on with the diving excursion (which they of course said was absolutely amazing).

Although I felt I made the right decision for myself, I still had the longing to go deep underwater and experience the sights and sea life found there. Once we returned to our condo, I started wondering if there was a way to satisfy both my desire to go underwater and be in a comfortable more familiar environment. I mean, I can’t be the only person frightened by the idea of scuba diving, right? I began researching online and that’s when I found the perfect solution. A submarine tour! I chose to book the day dive with Atlantis Submarine tours in George Town. As explained by their website “the submarines are specifically designed for underwater sightseeing excursions”, while the cabin is air conditioned and maintains sea pressure level, which means no effect on the ears.

When the day of my tour came I checked in at the front desk, (they require guests to arrive 15 minutes prior to tour start time) received my boarding pass and waited for my group’s turn. The tour guide Richard, introduced himself, announced our departure, and we boarded our awaiting sub-shuttle to take us to the submarine. While riding the shuttle Richard explained to us a few basic safety procedures boasting over 70,000 dives with no need to use the emergency safety gear! I felt as though I was in good hands.

Next up, we arrived at the submarine anchored to a small tug boat at the Jackson Point dive site. Once in the submarine we were introduced to Captain Rodney who has 28 years of diving experience under his belt, as well as our Co-captain Delroy. Before we began our dive underwater Captain Rodney went through several safety and security checkpoints with the crew members staying above water to make sure the sub was in prime working condition. During this process everyone on board was also informed that Captain Rodney would be in constant communication with the crew above throughout the entire dive. 

Since I was by myself for this particular tour, I chose to sit near the front of the submarine and make friends with Richard and Captain Rodney. They were both incredibly friendly and knowledgeable. They also took the time to answer my questions and point out a specific fish or other marine life swimming by the submarine to ensure the passengers wouldn't miss a moment! At one point we even saw an eel which Richard said was very rare during the daytime since they like to hide in the dark! 

We descended for awhile finally reaching our maximum depth of 102 ft. although the particular submarine we were in can go as far down as 150 ft. Before I knew it, we were back up to the surface boarding the sub-shuttle back to land, but not before getting our certificates stating that we completed the dive. I enjoyed this special little touch, and I'm sure the kiddos would love receiving these even more!

I had an enjoyable experience with Atlantis submarines, and since no two dives are the same I would go back under in a heartbeat!

Read reviews for Atlantis Submarines on Trip Advisor

Atlantis also provides a night dive for a chance to see the creatures that only come out at night. (Wednesday nights only.)

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