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Things to do: Welcome to Westchester

We are pleased to introduce Ashley Martinez as our new editorial fellow. Ashley graduated in May from the University of Miami School of Communication, and for her first writing assignment, we asked her to tell us what’s awesome about her Miami neighborhood. Welcome, Ashley, and for the rest of you in The New Tropic family, welcome to Westchester.

Alright, let’s get something out of the way: Westchester gets a bad rep. Though not as trendy as sultry South Beach or hipstery Wynwood, this little suburb is home to some classic Miami institutions. This area is located between SW 40 Street and Calle Ocho, or Eighth Street, and stretches from the Palmetto Expressway to SW 117 Avenue. The 2010 Census noted 85 percent of Westchester’s population is Hispanic, which has filled the area with quaint Cuban restaurants, bakeries and family-owned spots.

Westchester is full of great places to eat and hang out, if you know where to look. So, here are some spots to explore when you’re looking for something away from the tired tourist hustle.

Grab a bite

Frankie’s Pizza: the mom and pop pizza joint

For more than 60 years, Frankie’s has been making fresh pizza from scratch on Bird Road. Handmade and piping hot, their unique pie is served in squares, allowing for a satisfying crunch in each bite. The joint is small, so take your pizza to go or head around the back for some picnic-style seating.

Arbetter’s Hot Dogs: the homey hot dog hut

The humble hot dog is the star of the show at Arbetter’s, a local favorite for its no-frills food and attitude. Small tables and a counter make for a cozy dining experience at this family-owned 50-year-old restaurant. Come prepared because it’s cash only, but expect their chili dogs, corn dogs and a mound of cheese fries to be pure comfort.

La Carreta: the traditional Cuban restaurant

More than just a hub of authentic Cuban cuisine, La Carreta is the heartbeat of Westchester. The cafecitos aren’t the only thing brewing here, because whenever a big event happens – from the latest news about Cuba to the Miami Heat winning a national title­ – this is the go-to spot for celebrating, discussing and catching up with friends.

 

Go local

Bird Bowl: the family-friendly night out

Go old school and enjoy some time at this classic bowling alley, complete with café, arcade, billiards room and a bar. It’s been around for 59 years and features specials every night of the week, like Thursday Ladies’ Night and weekend Twilight specials.

Florida International University: The college in town

Located on 107 avenue, FIU is home to the Patricia and Phillip Frost Art Museum, which offers rotating exhibitions, tours and opening receptions. The university always has events going on, so check out a play by the theater department, cheer on the home-town team at a football game (it’s no secret they need it) or spend the night star-gazing during a Star Party at the Stocker Astroscience Center.

 

Book Barn Book Exchange: the bountiful book shop

At this mom and pop shop, books fill every nook and cranny and shelves are stacked from the floor to the ceiling. With a trove of used $1 books to the latest best sellers, there’s a reason Miami New Times named it the best bookstore in 2014. Just as it was when it opened in the ’70s, it has no computers or cash registers, and patrons love the thrill of sifting through an overflowing box to find an unexpected read.

Tropical Park: the great outdoors

For the nature lover, Tropical Park is the place to visit. More than lush, open spaces, this park is home to a track, equestrian center, baseball fields, basketball courts, a boxing ring, tennis courts, soccer fields, playgrounds and a lake complete with kayaks rentals. This spot also features a farmer’s market on Saturdays and programming like Jazzercise throughout the week.

 

Bird Road Art District: the up and coming art walk

Though technically a few blocks outside of the area, this burgeoning art district is home to artists and a series of galleries and studios. It began as a slew of warehouse by a railroad track, which attracted artists in the ’80s. Today its monthly walk, which was recognized as the best art walk in 2011 by Miami New Times, brings together artists, collectors and visitors to enjoy all forms of art set against the industrial landscape.

Bonus points if you spot any of these landmarks:

Welcome to Westchester

This little sign means you’ve made it.

Whale Church

Affectionately dubbed “the whale,” the Baptist church Primera Iglesia Bautista de Coral Park is a prominent Westchester fixture.

Palacio de los Jugos

When you see the red and yellow tent, expect delicious, fresh-squeezed juice and Cuban food by the pound.

Did we miss any spots? Lets us know your Westchester favorites.

By Ashley Martinez
Ashley Martinez is an editorial fellow for The New Tropic. She recently graduated from the University of Miami with a dual major in journalism and psychology. Her work has been featured in The Hurricane, Distraction Magazine, The Communique, Gables Home Page and The Miami Herald. When she's not working on a story, she loves going to the theatre, singing show tunes, and all things Disney.

  • Big_Monkey

    As a Westchester resident, I certainly appreciate the love. However, let’s be honest here. Westchester, generally, is an unattractive area. There is too much cement and not enough canopy. What makes areas like the Gables, SoMi, and the Grove attractive (and that Westchester can emulate)? Tree canopy. Trees make a huge difference in adding character to a community and they drive up property values. Perhaps we can get out of this Cuban mentality of cementing our front and back yards and hat racking trees and start attracting real attention.

  • Big_Monkey

    As a Westchester resident, I certainly appreciate the love. However, let’s be honest here. Westchester, generally, is an unattractive area. There is too much cement and not enough canopy. What makes areas like the Gables, SoMi, and the Grove attractive (and that Westchester can emulate)? Tree canopy. Trees make a huge difference in adding character to a community and they drive up property values. Perhaps we can get out of this Cuban mentality of cementing our front and back yards and hat racking trees and start attracting real attention.

  • Andrew De Alba

    Mao’s! Colombian burger joint on bird right past tropical park. Late night favorite of mine

    • Liz

      Yum, going to check it out! I love Colombian food and I’m sick of the chains like Los Perros and La Moon!

      • Andrew De Alba

        Haha, sorry to disappoint but it’s very similar to those.

        However, if you’re looking for authentic colombian food at reasonable prices, my favorite place to go is Mi pueblo on Flager and 109th. That place is amazing (great lunch specials), I used to go there all the time as it’s down the street from FIU engineering center.

  • Andrew De Alba

    Mao’s! Colombian burger joint on bird right past tropical park. Late night favorite of mine

    • Liz

      Yum, going to check it out! I love Colombian food and I’m sick of the chains like Los Perros and La Moon!

      • Andrew De Alba

        Haha, sorry to disappoint but it’s very similar to those.

        However, if you’re looking for authentic colombian food at reasonable prices, my favorite place to go is Mi pueblo on Flager and 109th. That place is amazing (great lunch specials), I used to go there all the time as it’s down the street from FIU engineering center.

  • Kristian Toimil

    Wow, didn’t know Bird Road Art District had an Art Walk; definitely checking it out next time around!

    • Liz

      It’s great and much less crowded than Wynwood!

  • Kristian Toimil

    Wow, didn’t know Bird Road Art District had an Art Walk; definitely checking it out next time around!

    • Liz

      It’s great and much less crowded than Wynwood!

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  • JREcheverri

    Pueblito Viejo is a huge staple in the area with great food, drinks and entertainment

    • Liz

      I pass by that place all the time! Definitely going to check it out now.

  • JREcheverri

    Pueblito Viejo is a huge staple in the area with great food, drinks and entertainment

    • Liz

      I pass by that place all the time! Definitely going to check it out now.

  • Mark Weiser

    Westchester was a Jewish neighborhood. The Westchester Country Club on The Trail was huge! Their W shaped pool was like several Olympic pools together. The Whale was a synagogue.

    • Liz

      Thanks for sharing, Mark. I had no idea!

  • Mark Weiser

    Westchester was a Jewish neighborhood. The Westchester Country Club on The Trail was huge! Their W shaped pool was like several Olympic pools together. The Whale was a synagogue.

    • Liz

      Thanks for sharing, Mark. I had no idea!

  • MissFern

    La Suiza! Homemade croquetas are increíble!

    • Liz

      Mmmm gotta try it!

  • MissFern

    La Suiza! Homemade croquetas are increíble!

    • Liz

      Mmmm gotta try it!

  • LeeBetsy Prendergast

    My neighborhood!! Great article.

    • Liz

      Thank you for being apart of The New Tropic, LeeBetsy. We’re going to be pushing out more neighborhood guides similar to this!

  • LeeBetsy Prendergast

    My neighborhood!! Great article.

    • Liz

      Thank you for being apart of The New Tropic, LeeBetsy. We’re going to be pushing out more neighborhood guides similar to this!