New restaurants keep drawing diners to Little Havana, and soon there will be a place other than a busy sidewalk for them to stay awhile.
The founding chef of Coconut Grove’s 33 Kitchen will shutter his sliver of a restaurant amid rising rents to open a spot that will serve as the hub for a new outdoor courtyard in the heart of Little Havana’s revival.
El Jardin will be a new gathering space and courtyard/beer garden between 15th and 16th avenues, tying together new businesses along Calle Ocho and what the area’s re-developers want to dub Calle Siete (seventh street). What is now an alley will become a tree-lined walkway leading to a shaded hangout area with several new restaurants and bars surrounding it.
“It’ll be a communal courtyard,” said developer Bill Fuller, who, along with partner Martin Pinilla, has bought and renovated swaths of properties between 15th and 17th avenues, including the new El Jardin and his nearby Ball & Chain nightclub. “For visiting tourists and locals alike, you’ll be able to enjoy this inner courtyard. We think it’s going to be a magical space.”
At the heart of El Jardin is Leslie, the name of the new restaurant by 33 Kitchen chef Sebastian Fernandez, whose profile skyrocketed when he was invited to participate at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival. The new restaurant will sit inside a pair of restored 1920s bungalows, 1,600 square feet each, that face both Seventh Street and the internal courtyard. It’s slated to open early next year.
In one of the 50-seat bungalows at Leslie (the name of Fernandez’s wife and partner), Fernandez will experiment with his Peruvian-inspired cuisine spun forward. In the other, a wood-fire oven will turn out pizzas and other dishes perfect for that cooking method. Diners can sit at either restaurant or in the courtyard, amid another 50-75 seats, where they can order from both menus. Fernandez said his current 33 Kitchen will remain in business, for now, until the new restaurant is ready.
“It’s going to be beautiful,” Fernandez said. “There’s a lot going on. It’s really a hot area.”
It’s part of Little Havana’s resurgence that started with Fuller hand-selecting businesses such as Azucar ice cream and Union Beer Store to add to renovated spots such as Ball & Chain and the Tower Theater across the street.
Sharing the El Jardin courtyard will be a wine/chocolate/cheese shop and the new craft beer haven Union Beer Store, which has been clamoring for a beer garden for its busy overflow since it opened this spring.
The courtyard creates a respite between busy Seventh and Eighth streets. It also connects businesses on either side: Leslie and the upcoming Seventh street Tower Hotel, which will be run by Latin America’s Selina Hostels when it opens in March, and the restaurants along Eighth, including a new burger spot, John Le Market, Velvet Creme Doughnuts (opening in September) and the nearby Ella’s oyster bar, which recently received a 2 1/2-star (Good) Miami Herald review.
“I love what’s happening here,” said Union co-owner David Rodriguez. “You can add Little Havana to the must-see places, and it’s a great, new hangout for locals.”