“I like the Grove,” he said. “I’ve lived around the world and aside from my parents’ house where I was born the Grove is the second place I’ve lived the longest. The Grove is my home; the people are nice and the neighborhood has transitioned to a European atmosphere with people living here from around the world.”
Netherlands-born Smit has become something of a celebrated restaurateur over the years. He first took over Hattie’s Place (which previously was the legendary Hamlet) and renamed it Tavern in the Grove.
“It was a locals’ bar and I made it into a college bar,” he recalled. Smit and a few friends then established the Titanic Restaurant and micro-brewery in Coral Gables near the University of Miami. In 2002, Smit opened “a little hole-in-the-wall sandwich shop” called Pommes and Pane on the backside of the Cocowalk Shopping Center in Coconut Grove, which became hugely popular with UM students.
Most recently, Smit opened his newest bistro, The Grove Spot, at 3324 Virginia St., just steps away from the now defunct Pommes and Pane.
“My previous landlord just wouldn’t allow me to grow,” Smit said. “So I looked around for possible new places. I always liked this location, so I talked to the landlord here and we made a deal. Then we built what I think is necessary in this neighborhood for a good locals’ café or eat-and-meet place.”
Smit said he took the name for his new restaurant from the nickname the UM students gave his old place. “They would say, ‘Meet me in the Grove at the Spot,’” he said. “And that’s how I came up with the name for the new place, The Grove Spot.”
The Grove Spot opens Monday through Saturday at 8 a.m. and the normal closing time is 1 a.m., although the kitchen closes at 10 p.m. The bar closes at 11 or midnight, depending on the crowd, and it may remain open until 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday, and possibly even 1:30 a.m.
“We have breakfast all day, sandwiches for lunch and home-cooked meals at the end of the afternoon,” said Smit. “We also do a Happy Hour to let people unwind after a day’s hard work. And we do not serve Sunday night dinner, though in the future we will have a Sunday brunch.”
The food is really quite good at The Grove Spot and prices are reasonable. “There’s nothing on the menu that’s over $15,” Smit said. “Our sandwiches are all under $10 and so are our breakfasts. We also have house specialties, like the Auschmeider, which is the north European version of two fried eggs with ham and cheese. Or you could have real Irish bangers, which are very popular with eggs.
“Some items have been taken from the old Pommes and Pane menu, like the Breakfast Sandwich, an American favorite — scrambled eggs with bacon and cheese on whole wheat bread. Some people stop by to get it and take it with them to snack on while they’re driving to work or to eat later at the office.”
Smit said he wants The Grove Spot to be a place for Coconut Grove locals to come and enjoy themselves.
“I don’t want to be a club, so I don’t have club prices,” he said. “And I don’t want to be a sports bar, so we don’t have too many TV sets; but if an event is important enough, then we’ll show it. And I don’t want this to be a college bar, so there are no beer specials. We aim at a mature crowd of people and we have our specials for the locals.”
Smit added that he’s not looking to attract a tourist crowd to The Grove Spot, nor is he looking for out-of-towners.
“There’s no need for someone to come all the way from Fort Lauderdale to my place because there are thousands of other beautiful and well-established places to go to,” he said. “But if you are in the neighborhood, I would like very much for you to come and visit me.”
For more information, call 305-774- 6696.