Neighborhood Joints

La Playa Grill: Homestead's New Hidden Gem

Did you know Homestead has a beach? We're not talking about a place with bikinis and miles of sand; we're talking about but La Playa Grill, Homestead's newest beachfront sports bar/getaway/restaurant, brought to you by Hector Hernandez, the mastermind behind the town's truly authentic Mexican restaurant, El Toro Taco.

On Sunday morning, La Playa Grill will be open for business. It's a bit of a drive from much of Dade County -- it's ten minutes east of South Dixie Highway, off to the right inside Homestead Bayfront Park, where a guard might ask you for a $5 entry fee. Don't worry: You won't have to pay if you're heading to La Playa Grill.

The building itself is a raised structure, practically new, that was built in the years following Hurricane Andrew. Before La Playa Grill, it housed a glorified hot-dog stand.

The main dining area and bar seat 142 people. It's a spacious area surrounded by screened walls and facing east, with a full view of the open water. There is no air conditioning, but the ocean breeze suffices.

Then menu is not fully complete but will include seafood such as snapper piccata, mussels, and scallops, as well as Mexican fare and American classics like burgers, steaks, hot dogs, and wings. There will be a Sunday breakfast brunch and a "hook and cook" policy where fishermen can bring in their catch to have it prepared the way they like it, as long as the fish is fileted and the size makes it worthwhile to cook.

It will be open for casual dining during the day and fine dining at night.

Because of its remote locale, La Playa Grill is perfect for hosting parties. The place already has wedding parties booked in the coming months.

Hernandez leased the building from the county in January and on a shoestring budget of no more than $30,000 and constant snags from the county, he is looking forward to a soft opening this Sunday.

In six months, with the help of his two sons -- Hector Jr. and Pablo -- and his assistant Rhonda

Slattery, they were able to get their certification of occupancy from

the county, change from electric- to gas-powered, and transform an empty

building into a restaurant with a little personality.

The interior boasts a casual beach-hut atmosphere; the exterior has a beach, a pier, a small lagoon for swimming, and a park.

"Who knew that Homestead had a beach?" Slattery says. "It's definitely worth the drive, and it's brand new, so you don't get all of the things you would get with an old building, like a leaky roof or chipped paint."

There are some issues to resolve in the coming months. For one, there is no way to deter mosquitoes surrounding the building. Guests on the inside are protected with the screens, but Hernandez plans on installing misters to keep the pesky insects away. He would also like to install accordion shutters on the screens to protect guests from rain.

La Playa Grill currently does not have its beer and wine license, but Slattery is working on obtaining one. For the beer selection, Hernandez will have bottles and taps, but no word on what he will have available.

When it is fully operational, La Playa Grill will be open seven days a week, from 11 a.m. to about 10 or 11 p.m. Hernandez will try to have it open at 6 a.m. to serve coffee and breakfast to the morning fishermen.

With its close proximity to Turkey Point Nuclear Power Plant and Homestead Air Reserve Base, Hernandez hopes to attract a following. He will also offer 20 percent off the bill for military personnel.

"I'm a butcher, not a carpenter," Hernandez says. "We put a lot of work into this. It may not look like it, but we did."

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David Minsky is a U.S. Navy veteran and Tulane graduate who has experience reporting on stories from California, South Florida, and the Deep South. He has also won some journalism awards. Email or tweet David with story tips and ideas.
Contact: David Minsky