Posted Sept. 25, 2012
By BRITTANY WEINER
Miami, Fla. — Monty Trainer had a vision. He dreamed of a place that he could go to escape and feel like he was on vacation, but still be close by.
He wanted to hear the soft sounds of a live band while sitting back and enjoying a cocktail. He wanted to eat unlimited amounts of fresh seafood while staring out into the sunset. He wanted to dance. Nothing like this existed at the time, in 1969, in his hometown of Key West.
Trainer is now the man behind Monty’s, one of the first and best-known outdoor restaurants and one of the many attractions that brings travelers to the Miami neighborhood known as Coconut Grove.
Nestled south of downtown Miami and between Biscayne Bay and U.S. 1, the area is one of the most laid-back neighborhoods in South Florida and was the original art gallery district in Miami. Writers, artists, and musicians flocked to this area in the 1960s, and it was this bohemian vibe that the town elicited that led Trainer to choose the Grove as the location for his restaurant.
“The Grove has a certain ambiance,” said Trainer. I like that it was this laid-back artist community, with heavy foliage, and little shops and boutiques.”
Originally a restaurant inside a gas station, Monty’s now is a landmark to the Grove and takes up an overwhelmingly large part of Bayshore Drive as it overlooks Biscayne Bay. The restaurant attracts a crowd of up to 500 people because of its appealing food and inexpensive drinks; $1 oysters shrimps and clams, and $3 stone crabs, with half off cocktails and beer.
About one dozen Tiki huts adorn the outside area, with wooden tables and Hawaiian-inspired décor, and a dance floor is positioned in front of a live Reggae band. However, because of its Happy Hour specials, this place is more of a daytime and early-evening spot.
One of the more upscale places in the community to enjoy seafood at and perhaps for dinner, is Jaguar Ceviche Spoon Bar and Latam Grill. This small restaurant right off of Grand Avenue has such Latin American flair; you will feel as if you are sitting in South America.
The yellow and orange tones of the façade, as well as the wicker chairs and jungle-inspired artwork are what give Jaguar its ultimate South American feel. But, the ambiance is not what particularly draws the crowd in; it happens to be their unique Ceviche Spoon Bar.
Customers can choose any type of ceviche infused with different flavors and it comes in oversize spoons where you can slide it down in one gulp. Favorites are the ceviche priental, ceviche los cabos, and the tiradito lima, and are all $2 per spoon.
Lastly, there is GreenStreet, an outdoor lounge and restaurant, and one of the busiest places in the area. The restaurant offers a unique menu of American food with Mediterranean influences, and is ideal for Sunday Brunch or after-dinner drinks.
Right on the corner of Main Highway in Coconut Grove, the outside area has a never-ending amount of tables and chairs. Referred to as the “seen and be seen” restaurant, people come to GreenStreet not just for the food, but the swanky European atmosphere.
“We draw in the largest breakfast crowd,” said Maura Avacaritei, manager of GreenStreet. “Our waits have been up to three hours on a Saturday or Sunday.”
But don’t get alarmed by this lengthy wait. Unfortunately, GreensSreet does not take reservations, but helps guests who must wait by providing HD TVs, a bar accessible from the inside or outside, and tons of red velvet couches.
Favorites on the menu are the pancakes for breakfast, the fig salad for lunch, and almost any type of their specialty pastas for dinner.
Besides the overwhelming amount of delicious restaurants, they are not the sole reason why travelers frequent the Grove, but more of a plus to the area. The driving force of tourism is the upscale art-galleries, and to attend the Coconut Grove Arts Festival.
Taking place Feb.16-18, this year marks the festival’s 50th anniversary. The Coconut Grove Art Gallery is responsible for producing the event, and takes careful consideration promoting and planning year-round as it is the No. 1 arts festival in America.
There are gallery openings the first Saturday of every month, and the gallery is open to the public from 7-10 p.m. On display now, is a collection of artwork by Carbonelle, one of the most famous Cuban sculptors of his time who recently passed away.
“There is $5 million of art work right outside our door,” said Lilia Garcia, Board Member and the Gallery Director.
Another Gallery that attracts a large crowd is the Midori Gallery of Antique Oriental Art, one of the hidden treasures of Coconut Grove.
Nestled on the corner of Commodore Plaza, this small gallery holds collectibles valued as high as $100,000. Tourists from Europe and South America are known to fly in to Coconut Grove just to go to this gallery. It is the only store in Miami that specializes in Oriental Antiques.
“Our clients have a specific taste”, said Gita Hansen, one of the salespeople at Midori. “We see people fly in from all over who collect high-end thrift antiques.”
What gets the word out about all of the galleries and special events they hold is the hotels in the Grove. The hotels in Coconut Grove are quaint and few but offer some of the most luxurious experiences to the tourists that frequent them.
The Mayfair Hotel and Spa tends to be one of the most popular in the area because of its ambiance, art deco inspired building, and unbelievable service. The building is newly renovated, and is adorned with hand-carved mahogany and Gaudi-inspired pieces. The building is referred to as an “artistic retreat”.
Visitors Julie Paterson, from Northern Canada, and Calum Robb, from Stirling, Scotland, chose the hotel because of its amenities.
“It’s clean, safe, quiet, and just lovely,” said Paterson. “And the pizza at their restaurant downstairs is fantastic.”
Luckily for Paterson and Robb, they did not go to the Grove by car. The only issue that tourists who come to the Grove may have is parking. Because of the size of the streets and the density of the area, it can be extremely hard to find a parking space.
The Grove offers small lots where you can pay to park or there is the Cocowalk garage where you pay by day and validate your ticket.
Most lots are $10 for the day, and the garage charges by the hour. However, an easier option for transportation is the Metrorail, and it only costs 25 cents.
“I would definitely recommend coming here without a car,” said Robb. “Everything’s walking distance anyway, and it’s just charming to roam the streets.”
IF YOU GO
Mayfair Hotel and Spa
3000 Florida Ave., Coconut Grove, Miami, Fla. 33133
Sonesta Bayfront Hotel Coconut Grove
2889 McFarlane Road, Miami, Fla. 33133
The Ritz-Cartlon Coconut Grove
3300 SW. 27th Ave., Miami, Fla. 33133
Grove Isle Hotel & Spa
4 Grove Isle Dr., Miami, Fla. 33133
The Mutiny Hotel
2951 S. Bayshore Dr., Coconut Grove, Miami, Fla. 33133
2550 S. Bayshore Drive., Coconut Grove, Fla. 33133
Jaguar Ceviche Spoon Bar and Latam Grill
3067 Grand Ave., Coconut Grove, Fla. 33133
3468 Main Highway, Coconut Grove, Fla. 33133
3390 Mary St. Coconut Grove, Fla. 33133
3168 Commodore Plaza, Miami, Fla. 33133