Ask someone to play a word association game with various neighborhoods in Miami and you'll likely get "beautiful" for South Beach, "arty" for the Design District and "weird" for Coconut Grove. The Grove has always had a reputation for being a hippy enclave and has lately been known as a hangout for college kids searching for cheap beer. The recession years have not been kind here. Storefronts have been left vacant, the beloved Coconut Grove Playhouse closed and restaurants and bars have moved out. Things are changing.
Over a dozen new restaurants and lounges have either opened in the Grove since the end of December or are in the final stages of completion with scheduled opening dates, including Peacock Cafe, recently highlighted on Short Order.
Naomi Evans, marketing manager for Cocowalk stated that with the recent openings of ultra-lounge The Burgundy Room, The Backlot Lounge, Cocowok and the scheduled late March openings of Central Beer Garden and Sushi Central Lounge, occupancy at Cocowalk is at 94 percent.
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At a recent Coconut Grove Chamber of Commerce networking event held at Spartico, the new Italian trattoria at The Mayfair Hotel, members chirped about the Grove's resurgence. Chamber member Anthony Poppe recently moved to Coconut Grove from South Beach and doesn't regret the move at all. "It was nice to be able to bike to the beach, but I can bike all over the Grove so I stayed on level ground." Poppe is also feeling out the neighborhood food scene, naming Neighborhood Bistro a great spot for mussels.
David Collins, executive director of the Coconut Grove Business Improvement District, listed several new restaurant ventures outside of Cocowalk within the past year including Bombay Darbar, El Sitio, and House of Frost, a cupcake bakery. Several new restaurants are in the works, including a new venture in the former Nikki Beach space that involves elaborate garden landscaping.
Waxing poetic between bouts of networking, Collins summed up Coconut Grove's new possibilities: "During the clouds of this recession period we're working on the Grove. When the clouds lift, people will be amazed that all this is here."