You really haven't lived in Miami until you've spent an afternoon at Monty's supping down Pain Removers and gazing at a cotton-candy sunset.
The Coconut Grove institution, which turned 50 this past September, has seen a half-century of Miamians flocking to the dockside restaurant for happy hour, oysters, and tropical vistas.
"Seeing restaurants that have quickly popped up and that have unfortunately just as quickly popped back down makes me wonder how we’ve stayed relevant for so long," says Juan Barretta, who has managed Monty's in the Grove for the past three years. "I think the answer all goes back to the experiences you find here. We continue to evolve and improve while keeping the charm and the soul of Monty’s alive."
The soul of Monty's is undoubtedly Monty Trainer, who opened the joint in 1969. A young Trainer grew to love the hospitality industry while working as a bar back at hotels in his native Key West before he enrolled at the University of Florida. After graduation and a stint managing a Holiday Inn restaurant, he knew the next step was opening a place of his own. In 1969, Trainer purchased and opened Monty's Conch, a small eatery and gas station, which he soon transformed into the iconic Coconut Grove restaurant.
Although Trainer sold his rights to Monty's many years ago, it remains a fixture that maintains his vision of a Key West-style eatery.
Barretta explains that the key to Monty's success is its ability to cater to a wide range of people. "There are so many different experiences for different moments in everyone’s lives — from the toddler dancing in front of the stage on a Saturday afternoon to the college experience of coming in for Friday-night happy hours. It’s an all-generations kind of place."
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No trip to the Coconut Grove institution is complete without a round of Pain Removers — Monty's version of the trademarked rum cocktail the Painkiller. Besides the minor name change, not much is different in the way of the recipe. The blend of island rum and tropical juices is still abundantly sweet. They come in levels 1, 2, and 3, which equals the number of rum shots.
"The infamous Pain Remover 3 seems like a standing tradition for new college students to come to Monty’s and brave one, two, maybe three of these. It’s kind of like earning your stripes," Barretta says. The secret to the popularity of the drink is a one-two punch of strength and flavor, according to the restaurant manager. "That combination is hard to resist, and we've gained a reputation for having the best ones out there."
To celebrate 50 years of serving rum drinks and seafood, Monty's will host a party Thursday, November 21. The event is open to the public and will boast an extended happy hour from 4 to 10 p.m. complete with $6 frozen drinks, mojitos, and coveted Pain Removers. Also expect a bevy of raw bar offerings, including $1 oysters, shrimp, and clams, along with discounted stone crabs. Don't miss the fire dancers and live band from 6 to 8 — a fitting fete for 50 years of Monty's.
Monty's Coconut Grove. 2550 S. Bayshore Dr., Coconut Grove; 305-856-3992; montysrawbar.com.