Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Weighing in on the Bus Blog Battle

Recently, a mini-battle between Tom at Coconut Grove Grapevine and Gus at Miami Beach 411 led to trading barbs about which area deserves more tourists, which is the better area, or something silly to that effect. It all started with Grapevine waxing poetically that he came up with an idea for a bus that commutes people around and brings them to the Grove from other areas and then a bus showed up in the Grove that said "Miami Beach" on it so Miami Beach must have stolen his idea. You can read about it here and here. An added swipe at "some rude guy named Gus" probably instigated a response even further. So, we were served one by Gus here.

Gus associates the Grove as a place that "if you've never been, youre not missing much" and likens it to a giant outdoor shopping mall with a weird comment that the Grove somehow revolves around a Johnny Rockets that just happens to be at an intersection in center Grove. Another swipe at Grove restaurants associates them with that of a mall food court and not much more. He them moves on to point out that the college crowd isnt what it used to be in the Grove and that the AMC Movie Theater is in need of some major work and argues that there is no comparison between the Grove and Miami Beach. That last sentance is pretty true. I dont know how you could compare the 2 as they are vastly different. Not to be labeled as a "hater", Gus does go on to point out 10 things to like about Coconut Grove and includes a video link (and gratuitous plug) from his Tour Company's ride thru the Grove. In a final response to the "rude" comment from Tom at the Grapevine, Gus calls him "disillusioned" and then takes the high road and offers 8 free tickets on Miami Tour Company's ride around Miami. Nice. The comments on both blogs take it from there with defenders of the Grove piping up to shoot down some of the comments made by Gus, some "Toronto Tourist" who I think is a made up individual, and a guy named "Doug" who commented that the Grove isnt what it used to be and isnt walkable.

As someone who lives in the Grove, I have to disagree with Doug and Gus on its "walkability". I live in center Grove a few blocks from Cocowalk. I walk into the Grove quite often to grab a bite to eat or have a few cocktails with friends. I also walk to the post office or UPS store, down to Fresh Market (which is a bit longer of a walk but I try not to be too lazy haha), jog on South Bayshore and along the marina, and Scotty's Landing/City Hall is also walkable. I like being under the canopy of trees in the various Grove neighborhoods or walking along the boat docks in the marina. If I want to walk to more of a busy area, I walk to Cocowalk. A few blocks away I can return to peace and quiet. Its nice and its all within walking distance.

While there has been somewhat of a revolving door of restaurants in the Grove over the past few years, there are a few great ones. Jaguar is a fantastic spot. The Frenchies at Le Bouchon du Grove and George's in the Grove have some great dishes and unique vibes. Newcomers like Akashi (a South Miami favorite of mine) and Sekai are great for your Asian food fix. Little cafes like Focaccia Rustica and The Bookstore provide nice dishes and quick service.

Notice that all the restaurants I named above places are not national chains like Chili's, Johnny Rockets, and Cheesecake Factory. Thats what I like about the Grove but that is fading. If you want to point out the demise of the Grove, which I believe the Grove is rebounding from, look no further than our very own government. For some reason, Coconut Grove is different from everywhere else in the City of Miami and needs to have a 3am closing time for bars and restaurants rather than 5am like everywhere else. Bye bye college crowd. Even though staying up until 5am and drinking is a bit excessive, college kids dont like limitations. They may only stay out until 2am but give them the option. Telling them they cannot stay out until 5am like they could anywhere else in Miami means they will look elsewhere. Tom at the Grapevine has done a good job at exposing this weird parking tax that restaurants are required to pay as part of being in the Grove. What does this mean? Well it means its a real bitch to have your own private family restaurant and I guess it also means that the people in charge would rather have national chains like Cheesecake Factory and Chili's in town. This completely robs the Grove of its character and makes me thing that the people in charge are old farts who complain about 5am closures and who also have a bland palate. In a comment on the MB411 post, Doug also mentions that another reason the Grove isnt walkable because of a lack of sidewalks and cars speeding thru neighborhoods. I havent gone and surveyed every Grove neighborhood but most that I walk thru have a sidewalk on at least 1 side of the street. There are some that dont though which brings his comment some merit. Considering that our City government decided to piss away money on things like "traffic circles" in neighborhoods with little traffic, black kiosks that were supposed to be "information booths" but instead look like empty newsstands, and whatever the thing is pictured by Grapevine in this post that was installed on Tigertail and remodeled about 4 times while doing nothing to curb speeding or traffic, its no wonder why Grove streets arent more pedestrian friendly. I'll end my ranting here and save everyone now from having to read more of my anti-Miami government tirade...

Miami Beach is a totally different scene. Hotels and corporate names everywhere, media coverage like no tomorrow due to its nightlife and beaches and celebrity draw, and much more accessible transit from buses and cabs. Miami Beach is its own city, Coconut Grove is a suburb of Miami (though technically its not but it sure seems more like that way...if only it could separate). Miami Beach may have a few nice parks and a sandy beach, but to me its a concrete jungle. Dont get me wrong, this is not a bash. I love Miami Beach, mainly for the sand itself and Lincoln Road and the SoFi area. Its just not a place I personally would want to live. Im not a city person. I find Miami Beach to be a lot more busy and a lot less peace n' quiet, constantly exposed to the sun with little greenery. Its a different place altogether.

As for the restaurants on Miami Beach, I am not impressed. Sure, I am a fan of Sardinia, Talula, lunch at the Dilido Beach Club, the pizza at Spris, and the falafel wrap at Pita Spice, but outside of that there arent really any restaurants that I find appealing. The majority of restaurants on the Beach are overpriced hype and nothing more. In fact, as soon as you cross over that causeway you gotta be ready to pay more for everything. I call it the South Beach tax. I guess its understandable because youre paying for your beach environment but most of the time its quite excessive. This is where I thank god for places like the 17th Street garage ($1/hour parking) and Zeke's Roadhouse ($4 beers, 180+ varieties). Those places make me feel hopeful and happy. They also make me wonder why other establishments cant be more price-friendly...

I guess you could also say that Miami Beach is more walkable and pedestrian friendly than the Grove but you'd have to put an asterisk by that entry because that would only be true if you were able to get around without getting hit by some asshole speeding thru neighborhoods like a madman (See also: Donte Stallworth). Even driving thru the neighborhoods off of the main streets can be shady due to speeders. I do often park up at 17th and walk down to 2nd Street with little danger but most of the time Im on Washington, Collins, or the sand itself. Those areas are hella walkable and quite fun to walk amongst the denizens of SoBe. Lincoln Road is also a great pedestrian road to walk as is Espanola Way.

Overall, I enjoy both areas and what they have to offer me very much. Do I think one area is "better" than the other? Not really. I just dont think its an apples to apples comparison. Plus, with Miami Beach not being raped by the City of Miami, I think they have quite an advantage (oops, Im back out on my ledge again...). Do I think a shuttle between the 2 would be a good idea? Sure. But I think that you have to expect that if a shuttle comes to and from both areas that said shuttle is not "stealing tourism" from those areas. Each area offers their own sights and sounds, eats and drinks, and activities along the coast in a different way. While I prefer to live in Coconut Grove for the atmosphere, I usually head to Miami Beach to play. The battle for tourism is only going to heat up with the economy in South Florida hurting and areas of Miami like Brickell, Midtown, and the Design District really starting to heat up. Hopefully each area will develop its own niche that will attract tourists and locals alike so our little patch of sunshine can start growing without setbacks and attract more people to discover why people like me enjoy living here...for the most part anyways. :)


Gus Moore said...

Great rant, Tom.

Please don't take my rant too seriously. I was trying to be humorous, but I may have missed the mark.

The Grove is a wonderful place to live.

And I totally agree with you about the lack of quality restaurants in South Beach.

Thank you for helping define what makes Coconut Grove and South Beach unique.

Blind Mind said...

I'm not Tom but thanks anyways. Good luck with the tour company.

Gus Moore said...

Sorry about that. I confused your blog with Tom's. You're Blind Man, of course.

If you ever want to take a tour with us, it's free for you and your friends!

Anonymous said...

Tom, the editor of The Coconut Grove Grape Vine employs a disgusting methology. First, he attacks an entity, like the local post office, by creating a negative impression, suggest a solution and gets a few people involved in his blog to think he is their hero. He walks about the Grove tirelessly, talks with everyone, finds out who is going out of business, they again, becomes a hero asking folks to help, when in fact he's just printing negative news, on purpose, but becomes a hero again coming to their rescue. Tom loves playing up to the ladies, waiting to come to their rescue and when the first negative comment appears he jumps on top with commentary, like some knight in shining armour and the ladies smile everytime they see him and everyone begins to tell this character how great he is for the Grove, when in fact, all he does is spread negatives. He pretends to see only nice things, but all of his commentary is negative if you take the time to read months and months of what he actually accomplishes. He talks about every single event, invites everyone to join in and uses words like, great, wonderful, beautiful, lots of fun, sweet, lets all get together kind of stuff and after is all said and done, the end result is a boring commentary, a bunch of negatives, that harms the Grove as people who read his crap would never want to come to the Grove.

Anonymous said...

I want to get a piece of the action. How do i build a traffic circle?

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