The Grove Gets Its Groove Back
South Floridians can finally quit lamenting the loss of the good old days of Coconut Grove. Suddenly – finally – there’s a spate of businesses that suit its artistic and individualistic nature: small restaurants and bars, pop-ups, galleries, plus fresh events, all bringing new life to one of South Florida’s oldest villages.
Places like Panther Coffee, Harry’s Pizzeria, Glass & Vine, Ariete, 33 Kitchen and Choices Cafe show that entrepreneurs see the Grove as a place that’s thriving once again. They join the quirky businesses that outlasted the chains that represented the demise of the Grove, according to mid-80s skeptics. Look down Grand Avenue: The Maya Hatcha still sells incense, cotton kurtas and water buffalo sandals ($16), just as they did in 1968. At Mayfair, The Bookstore in the Grove, opened by Felice Dubin and Sandy Francis in 2007, manages to be a cultural hub, meeting place and cafe that supports local suppliers and pop-ups. The Old Grove that managed to stick out tough times can welcome new company and renewed energy.
What’s now dubbed Bohemia on the Bay is getting upgrades on its roads and sidewalks. Regatta Park, a seven-acre waterfront public space, is now open. Because bicycles are increasingly popular, there are now 20+ bike racks throughout the village. Free bicycle valet parking is offered at events like the upcoming Fourth of July celebration in Peacock Park. Coconut Grove Trolleys now run along Bayshore and Grand Avenue. While parking along the cobblestone streets of downtown Coconut Grove has always been viewed by many as challenging, Manny Gonzalez, executive director of the Business Improvement District, says there are 3,300 parking spaces in the city. “But only 300 are on the street, so it’s just not convenient – people want to park in front of where they want to go.”
Not everything is hunky-dory – but when is it, ever? The status of the Coconut Grove Playhouse, shuttered since 2006, is still holding. Peacock Park, once the site of beer and food festivals, is hosting fewer and fewer events. Traffic can be maddening. But what other South Florida city offers such a combo: rich history, lush foliage, waterfront tranquility, and so many new places to dine, drink and explore? We asked noted Groveites for some of their favorite activities.
Elected last fall to the City of Miami District 2 Commission seat, Russell visited 2,000 homes in Coconut Grove during his campaign. Among other initiatives, he’s been thinking about putting together a Coconut Grove pizza event. Stay tuned!
BEST THING TO DO IN THE GROVE Grab a bike and get off the roads! We don’t have a traditional grid system. I’m a tree and flower guy. Canopy makes Coconut Grove special.
HOW I SUPPORT LOCAL I really enjoy trying out all the pizza joints! I took my daughters to get a slice at New York Roman Pizza on McFarlane – that’s a good slice of pizza. I really like the atmosphere at Harry’s Pizzeria and their short rib pizza. I just went to Farinelli 1937 – for the first time had honey on pizza! It was a diavola with salami and peppered honey. Spartico is really good. So is Bianco Gelato – the owners are Italian and Brazilian – for all-organic ice cream. I brought a bucket of mangos for them to make Go ManGo.
BEST-KEPT SECRET AC’s Icees is a mandatory stop – the original food truck is not just for classic lemonade, but lunch, too.
WHAT'S IN THE FUTURE I want to find a way to bring food trucks back to the Grove in a way that will protect local restaurants. I’m also challenging the Coconut Grove BID (Business Improvement District) to expand the district beyond Main Highway and east Grand Avenue into the West Grove – we don’t have casual community diners, good breakfast joints.
A Coconut Grove resident for 30 years, this legendary PR agent hung artwork on clotheslines in 1963 to promote the Broadway play Irma La Douce at the Coconut Grove Playhouse. The event later became the Coconut Grove Arts Festival.
TODAY'S GROVE Whole new persona. Reborn into modern-day Bohemian center … there’s a sophisticated new parade of restaurants. The Grove has never lost its charm… laid-back, very loving but private.
FAVORITE PLACES Peacock Garden Cafe. Panorama on the 8th floor of the Sonesta. Spasso. Ariete – it’s brilliant. And who doesn’t love Harry’s? GreenStreet and Lulu’s are the ultimate hangouts.
LATEST ON THE PLAYHOUSE? Let’s get it moving! Let it become the center of one of the most incredible communities.
Marilu Cristina Flores
Marine conservationist, digital media producer and social media specialist, Flores is on the board of the Surfrider Foundation’s Miami chapter and is managing director at Creative Flamingo. She returned to Coconut Grove as a resident last year.
FAVORITE HANGOUTS LoKal – if you’re feeling bad, the My Childhood Dream Burger on its Salty Donut Co. bun is quite possibly the best thing ever. A close second is the West Grove BBQ chicken salad. Taurus Whiskey Bar is a local legend and for good reason. The staff makes this place feel like a cooler version of Cheers. During the spring they host Game of Thrones screenings, and our whole neighborhood gets together to endure the torture of watching our favorite characters get killed off in unison.
BEST ADVICE FOR NEWCOMERS The first thing you need to do is get yourself a bicycle! The next thing you need to do is become a local shopper at our Saturday Farmers Market on Grand Avenue – it hosts dozens of vendors all sharing their passion for fresh, local produce and artisanal foods from kombucha to ice cream.
FAVORITE PLACE TO TAKE VISITORS The Kampong! This lush tropical garden tucked away off Main Highway encompasses peace, tranquility and to dozens if not hundreds of blooming tropical trees.
Pat Mackin Gelber and Harold Gelber
The Gelbers moved back to Coconut Grove after 20 years and are wasting no time exploring new and old haunts.
BEST DATE NIGHT PLACE Ariete: You have choices of romantic outside dining nestled among flowering orchids, or inside dining at regular tables, high-top tables and the full-liquor bar. We love the grilled oysters with bone marrow butter and the chicken liver mousse on toast with red pepper jelly. Desserts are prepared by Dallas Wynne, the protege of the famous Hedy Goldsmith. Make reservations!
WHERE WE TAKE FRIENDS Strada in the Grove is always a lively with excellent service. Sapore di Mare is another gem, offering a cozy Italian seaside experience.
BEST DISCOVERIES SINCE MOVING BACK At 33 Kitchen we loved the causa limena, conchitas parmesana, tuna tiradito and octopus. At Glass & Vine, we sat on the elevated patio overlooking Peacock Park. There was a terrific buzz in the air and was quite crowded, especially around the bar. Farinelli 1937: Had the Margherita pizza which is how I initially like to judge a pizza restaurant before trying other toppings. It was delicious. Harry’s Pizzeria is now in Coconut Grove and we are thrilled.
TOP BREAKFAST SPOT GreenStreet Cafe because of the outside dining and great people-watching. Le Bouchon du Grove serves a perfectly cooked French omelette.
OLD SCHOOL GROVE PLACE THAT STILL ROCKS The Taurus is still going strong and now better than ever since their menu is now prepared and cooked by the chefs of Ariete.
Made in Miami, transplanted to the Caribbean, and back in Coconut Grove as home base since 1984, full time since 1991, artist Lisa Remeny creates colorful paintings, including posters for the Coconut Grove Arts Festival. Most recently, she translated her paintings on utility boxes and electric generators at the Miami Boat Show and for residents.
FAVORITE GROVE MOMENTS The first time I walked into my 1926 Old Spanish as a renter, I knew I was home and would own it one day. And I was right! Every morning I wake up early enough to catch the sunrise on our anchorage. Simply inspiring.
BEST DISCOVERY Charred cauliflower with roasted chickpeas at Glass & Vine.
BEST-KEPT SECRET The Woman’s Club of Coconut Grove, great venue for a party!