Italia Spring 2020 Ineffable Miami: Kendall West by Alejandro Ruiz-Paiz

Student Biography

CC BY 4.0

My name is Alejandro Ruiz-Paiz and I am currently a sophomore in Florida International University’s Honors College. I am majoring in Accounting, and minoring in Business Analytics, and hope to soon attain my CPA (Certified Public Accountant) license as I head into the public accounting industry. I am a local “Miami-an”, as one could say, as I was born and raised in the city of Miami, Florida. I truly do have an immense love and sense of pride for the city of Miami and hope to one day be able to raise a family of my own in this beautiful city. Despite my great love for Miami, and the fact that I have lived here for 19 years, it is very possible that a tourist that comes to visit the city for a weekend could potentially explore more parts, and learn more of the history of Miami, than I have in my entire span of living here. For this reason, I am glad that, throughout my past two semesters, I have had the opportunity to take part in Honors College courses at Florida International University taught by Professor John William Bailly, where we have explored the city of Miami as tourists and have learned about its culture, history, artwork, flora, fauna, and everything else that Miami has to offer. Furthermore, I have also had the chance to explore a specific neighborhood of Miami and learn about its individual characteristics in relation to the rest of Miami. The neighborhood I chose to explore for my ineffable Miami project was Kendall West and I have documented everything I learned from this incredible experience down below. I want to thank you for reading and I hope you enjoy!

Geography

Kendall West, also commonly known as West Kendall, is an incredible neighborhood of Miami-Dade County, which due to its youth in establishment, does not always receive the amount of recognition which it deserves. As West Kendall is relatively newer and less populated than many other neighborhoods of Miami, it is often less-recognized than some of these other better-known neighborhoods, but I am here with the goal of changing that by sharing with you some of the greatest features that West Kendall has to offer. West Kendall is located on the western ends of Miami-Dade county and is relatively close to the Everglades National Park. It is defined geographically by SW 157th Avenue on it western border and by SW 147th Avenue on its eastern border. To the north it is bound by SW 42nd Street, which is commonly known as Bird Road, and by SW 88th Street on the southern end, which is commonly referred to as Kendall Drive (Google Maps). The total squared mileage of West Kendall is roughly 3.08 mi2. Despite being a young and small neighborhood, West Kendall is an incredible place that has a plethora of greenery and parks, a wide range of delicious cuisines, and many fun activities that one can take part in.

History

Photo by Alejandro Ruiz-Paiz/ CC BY 4.0

West Kendall is a very new neighborhood in relation to most of the other neighborhoods that exist within Miami, and as a result does not have a dense history to its origin. West Kendall began developing when more people started looking westward of Kendall for new land in order to build more homes and construct new residential areas. This westward expansion began to occur in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. Not to be confused with Kendall, as central Kendall began developing in the early 1900’s.

Only certain landmarks from West Kendall that exist today, existed prior to the 1980’s as everything west of central Kendall was mainly farmland and undeveloped fields. For instance, one of the only establishments that existed prior to the 1980’s was the Kendale Lakes Golf & Country Club, currently known as the Miccousukee Golf & Country Club, which began construction in 1970 (“Miccosukee Golf & Country Club – Marlin Course”). Also, another establishment from West Kendall that was built before 1980 was the Miami Executive Airport which was built in 1967. All in all, West Kendall has evolved into an incredible neighborhood, with flourishing businesses and people, in the short time that it has been around.

Demographics

West Kendall, in a similar relation to most other parts of Miami, is a melting pot of people that come from all around the world, but consist primarily of Latin American countries. According to the World Population Review, based on the most recent United States census, it is estimated that the population of West Kendall is roughly 39,491 residents (“Kendall West, Florida Population 2020”). 91.81% of the West Kendall population is white and 85.96% of the white residents are Hispanic. This is a common trait that can be seen in most residential areas of Miami where a vast majority of the population is of Hispanic background. The average family sizes of the households in West Kendall are 3.41. A majority of the West Kendall population consists of older adults as the overall median age is 41 years old. Lastly, the median household income for families that live in West Kendall is $53,566.

West Kendall Resident Biography: Marieugenia Ruiz-Paiz

Photo by Marcela Ruiz-Paiz/ CC BY 4.0

Marieugenia Ruiz-Paiz was born in Nicaragua in 1966. Marieugenia has lived in Miami since 1979, when she first moved here with her family. When she first moved to Miami, she lived in the area of Fontainebleau until 1983, where she and her family then moved to Kendall later that year. She remained in Kendall until she moved to West Kendall in the year 2000 and has lived there ever since.

Marieugenia’s thoughts on West Kendall:

Alejandro: What is your favorite thing about West Kendall?

Marieugenia: I really like the restaurants that we have in West Kendall, because some of them like Olive Garden, Fuddruckers, and Texas Roadhouse are sometimes rare to find in Miami, as there are not many of them.

Alejandro: What is your least favorite thing about West Kendall?

Marieugenia: I don’t like the fact that it is pretty far from everything as is it is very far out west and is not a centric area.

Alejandro: What is your favorite place to eat within West Kendall?

Marieugenia: I really like Amici’s because they have the best lasagna and garlic rolls.

Alejandro: How do you think West Kendall will change in 10 years?

Marieugenia: I think it will look more modern and will be more populated as people continue moving out westward.

Alejandro: Do you enjoy living in West Kendall?

Marieugenia: Yes, I love living in West Kendall!

Landmarks

Due to West Kendall’s overall youth as a neighborhood, there aren’t many distinguished or historical landmarks that it has to offer, but there are definitely some landmarks that are notable to the West Kendall locals. One of the main landmarks of West Kendall is the Miccosukee Golf & Country Club logo that lies at the entrance of the country club. This logo is special because it is made out of different colored rocks and stones to depict the Miccosukee logo in a unique and interesting way. This logo would be considered a landmark because it is notable to many of the residents of West Kendall that have been to the Miccosukee Golf & Country Club, and because of the fact that the golf course is one of the oldest establishments that was built in West Kendall. Another landmark within the neighborhood would be the West Kendall Baptist Hospital. Despite being a relatively new building, the West Kendall Baptist Hospital is one of the larger constructions within the neighborhood and is located towards the western end of West Kendall. Therefore, being a very notable building, the hospital is a clear signal that one is reaching the western ends of West Kendall and will soon begin to enter Homestead if continuing to drive in that direction. Lastly, another notable landmark from West Kendall would be the West Kendall Regional Library. The West Kendall Regional Library is a very significant location within West Kendall as it is a voting site during political elections. When elections come around it is very common to see mass amounts of political groups of people coming together and chanting different things outside of the library in reference to political candidates. Similarly, it also common to see a massive line of voters that wraps around the building when political elections come around.

Green

Green spaces and parks is a category in which West Kendall definitely does not have a shortage of as there are dozens of great parks with infinitely many things to do all throughout the neighborhood. Some of the parks within West Kendall include Olympic Park, Lago Mar Park, Kendall Green Park, Kendale Lakes Park, Westwind Lakes Park, and Eden Lakes Park. The vast amount of greenery and parks that West Kendall has is one of my favorite aspects of the neighborhood as there are a plethora of different spots in which one can pick from to go out and enjoy nature or exercise. One of the more popular parks within West Kendall is Westwind Lakes Park as it offers the opportunity to take part in dozens of different activities ranging from sports to picnicking. Some of the sports which one could take part in at Westwind Lakes Park include soccer as they have a full regulation soccer field, skateboarding as they provide one of the only skate parks within West Kendall, volleyball as they have two full regulation sand volleyball courts, and many other sports that one could play in the wide space of open grass such as football, frisbee, and throwing a baseball. Similarly, one could also go to Westwind Lakes Park with their families in a more leisurely setting by picnicking in one of the tiki-style roofed areas with tables, taking your young kids to the small water park area that provides great fun for toddlers, or simply going out to lay on the grass and enjoy nature. Many of the other parks also offer great amenities such as Lago Mar Park which has basketball courts, playgrounds for kids, volleyball courts, and a workout area. In fact, Lago Mar Park is my neighborhood park as it is very close to my home, so I often find myself running or biking to the park and taking part in many of the activities they offer such as playing basketball with friends or doing exercise at the workout area. All in all, the vast amount of greenery is an aspect which I really do appreciate about West Kendall due to the fact that it is sometimes rare to see a significant amount of parks in other neighborhoods due to the mass urbanization that exists in Miami, so it is a great thing to see that they place a strong importance on preserving and providing great parks and green spaces within West Kendall.

Transportation

Photo by Alejandro Ruiz-Paiz/ CC BY 4.0

As West Kendall is still a relatively new neighborhood to Miami, and is quite far from the touristic spots such as Downtown Miami and Miami Beach, there are not many public transportation options that are available in West Kendall. Transportation within West Kendall mainly consists of automobiles in the streets as there is very limited options for public transportation. The primary option for public transportation within West Kendall is the public bus system which takes multiple routes around the neighborhood. The West Kendall Transit Terminal was created several years ago with the intention of alleviating traffic congestion on the widely used North Kendall Drive, and has gained popularity over the years as it “carries approximately 800 riders daily” (“Dade County – Transportation and Public Works”). Despite the positive impact which the public bus system has provided, the notorious Miami traffic still rings true in West Kendall due to the fact that a vast majority of transportation is done through automobiles. I believe that one action which should be taken towards bettering transportation for West Kendall residents is that highways should be extended out to West Kendall. I believe that this implementation would make an incredible impact for the residents of West Kendall because it would make the commute to other parts of Miami a lot quicker and easier for people, considering the fact that West Kendall is far from many areas of Miami and often takes a long time to get there due to traffic on main streets.

Food

Food is a big part of every neighborhood as it tells you a lot about the people that reside within the neighborhood and about their diverse cultural backgrounds. West Kendall has a wide range of restaurants that focus on cuisine from many different countries around the world, especially those from Latin America. Some of my favorite restaurants within West Kendall in which one can find authentic cuisine and great people include some of the following:

Fritanga Montelimar

Photo by Alejandro Ruiz-Paiz/ CC BY 4.0

Fritanga Montelimar is one of my long-time favorite restaurants as it serves authentic and delicious food from where my family is from, which is Nicaragua. Fritanga specializes in serving authentic and delicious Nicaraguan food. Nicaraguan food is sometimes hard to come across as there are not many restaurants that specialize in Nicaraguan cuisine in Miami, and especially in West Kendall. Throughout Miami there are several “Fritanga” restaurants, but they are all separate entities and do not all belong to a single chain. They have an incredibly unique and interesting way of distinguishing themselves from the other “Fritanga” restaurants, and they accomplish this by adding a different city of Nicaragua to the name of the restaurant following the word “Fritanga.” Therefore, the city of Montelimar is added to the restaurant name in order to distinguish itself from other similar Fritanga restaurants. The word “Fritanga” originates as a sort of slang from Nicaraguan culture that refers to home-cooked Nicaraguan foods that are sold in the streets and in the market in Nicaragua. Fritanga’s have been adapted into established restaurants here in the United States, and have become quite popular throughout all of Miami. A similar characteristic that all of the Fritanga restaurants share is that they all operate through a cafeteria style of ordering where one moves along the counter and asks specifically for what they would like to order or add to their plate.

Fritanga Montelimar is located on 157th Avenue and 72nd street in the Shoppes at Lago Mar and was opened in 1999 (“Fritanga Montelimar”). Fritanga Montelimar serves dozens of authentic Nicaraguan foods such as carne asada (grilled steak), serdo asado (grilled pork), Gallo pinto (rice and pinto beans), queso frito (fried cheese), vigoron (boiled yuca, coleslaw, and chicharrones), and a plethora of other dishes. Apart from these main dishes, Fritanga Montelimar also serves many traditional Nicaraguan desserts and beverages such as tres leches (cake made of three different types of milks), cajeta (hardened caramel), cacao (cacao-based beverage), atole (corn-based drink with milk and cinnamon), and Milca (raspberry soda). One of the most popular dishes they serve, and one of my favorites as well, is carne asada with arroz blanco (grilled steak with white rice) and it is commonly served with a side of tajadas (plantain chips). I truly love this restaurant, not only because they serve the food that I grew up eating with my family my whole life, but also because of the fact that the people there are always incredibly nice and genuine at this small family-owned restaurant.

El Pasapoga

El Pasapoga is another incredibly delicious restaurant in West Kendall that specializes in Cuban cuisine. El Pasapoga is a family-owned restaurant that is located in the West Sunset Square shopping center. El Pasapoga is similar to many other cuban cafés that exist in Miami, but at the same time, is very unique as well. One of the main differences, apart from their delicious food, that I feel distinguishes El Pasapoga from other cuban restaurants is truly the incredible hospitality and familiar environment that I receive every time I eat there. Also, another distinguishing factor about El Pasapoga which is a very rare characteristic for a restaurant to have, is that they remain open 24 hours a day 7 days a week. I believe that they provide an incredible service to the community by being open 24 hours because they provide a quality place to eat, for people that have unconventional work schedules, such as policemen who may have over night shifts. The layout of El Pasapoga is similar to the common layout of most cuban cafés in Miami in the sense that it has a traditional sit-down area while it also has the walk-up window, also known as a ventanita. These walk-up windows are an extremely common feature for cuban restaurants to have as they have come to be a big part of the cuban, and Miami culture as a whole. These walk-up windows serve the purposes of small orders such as pastries, croquetas, and empanadas, orders of cuban coffee such as coladas and cortaditos, and for pick-up orders of a meal. El Pasapoga offers a large menu of authentic cuban cuisine ranging from breakfast food all the way to dinner. One of their main breakfast dishes consists of huevos fritos (fried eggs), jamón (ham), café con leche (coffee with milk) and a tostada (cuban toast with butter) (“The Best Cuban Food.”). Furthermore, some of their most popular lunch and dinner dishes include: picadillo (ground beef), vaca frita (fried shredded beef), ropa vieja (shredded beef), palomilla (steak), and bistec empanizado (breaded steak). Most of their dishes are served with white rice, black beans, and maduros (sweet plantains). Apart from their more popular dishes, they also offer several options that are not commonly seen in cuban restaurants such as pizzas, spaghettis, and a wide range of seafood. All in all, El Pasapoga truly is an awesome restaurant with great people and even greater food.

Paleta Mania

Paleta Mania is a small ice cream parlor located in West Kendall that makes delicious popsicles in a way that most people have never seen done before. They specialize in making paletas (popsicles) that are embedded with different fruits or other flavors within the ice cream. For instance, some of their flavors consist of a strawberry flavor exterior with a frozen strawberry embedded within the ice cream, a cookies and cream exterior flavor with an Oreo embedded within the ice cream, or a kiwi ice cream with a kiwi inside. One of their most popular flavors, which is one of my favorite as well, is one that has a strawberry exterior with a condensed milk filling on the inside (pictured above). All of these innovative ice cream creations are what drove me to try this place originally and the delicious results are what have led me to return multiple times. This small family-owned business is located on 167th Avenue and 95th Street and is a very new establishment as it opened in 2018 (“Paleta Manía”).

Businesses

Aside from the broad list of chain businesses and restaurants that exist in every neighborhood, such as large banks, big-name clothing stores, and big supermarkets, there are many small businesses as well, which truly define what West Kendall is made of. These non-chain businesses are often ran by hardworking individuals, or families, that have invested large amounts of resources in order to create a business which they have a true passion for, and many times these businesses grow to become staples of the neighborhood. Some of the businesses that have become popular favorites within the neighborhood of West Kendall include the following:

Kendall Ice Arena

Photo by Alejandro Ruiz-Paiz/ CC BY 4.0

The Kendall Ice Arena is a prime example of a business that has truly become a staple in the West Kendall community. The ice arena has been around for many years and has become a place where many families enjoy visiting and a place for young teenagers to gather with their friends. Aside from being a place that one visits to leisurely ice skate, have fun, or have birthday parties, it has also made a mass contribution to the neighborhood by providing a place where kids can get involved with ice related sports such as figure skating and hockey. The Kendall Ice Arena not only makes that contribution to the neighborhood of West Kendall, but in fact provides that opportunity to the entire city of Miami as it is one of the only ice-skating arenas in the whole city. Due to the fact that Miami has a tropical climate almost year-round, and there are no places in which one can ice skate in the winter, ice sports do not have a big presence in Miami, but the Kendall Ice Arena has provided the opportunity for people to get involved with organized ice sports. The Kendall Ice Arena has created hockey leagues, figure skating leagues, and offers training sessions where individuals can learn how to ice skate (“Kendall Ice Arena”).

Guayaberas Cubanas. High Quality, Authentic Cuban Guayabera

Photo by Alejandro Ruiz-Paiz/ CC BY 4.0

Another unique business which can be found in West Kendall is the Guayaberas Cubanas store. In this small business, they specialize in selling authentic Cuban clothing, and specifically guayaberas. Guayaberas are traditional Cuban shirts for men that are usually made out of linen or cotton, generally are short sleeve button downs, and almost always have front pockets. The Cuban culture has a massive presence around all of Miami so it is very common to see stores such as this one that specialize in selling traditional Cuban clothings and artifacts. Although, seeing this store in West Kendall is quite unique due to the fact that these types of stores are more commonly seen in touristic places such as Miami Beach or Little Havana, and not as much in residential areas such as West Kendall, which is a reason as to why I found it to be very interesting. Considering the fact that guayaberas are a staple in the Cuban culture, the Guayaberas Cubanas store is a representation of the culture and the people that make up the community of West Kendall.

Miccosukee Golf & Country Club

Photo by Alejandro Ruiz-Paiz/ CC BY 4.0

The Miccosukee Golf & Country Club is another prime example of a business that has become a staple within the West Kendall community. The Miccosukee Golf & Country Club is one of my favorite places in all of West Kendall because of all of the different activities that one can do there. Miccosukee is not simply another golf club, but truly is a place where the whole community can gather and everyone in the family can enjoy. Throughout the golf club they offer a 27-hole course, a driving range, a mini golf area, and a swimming pool (“Miccosukee Golf & Country Club – Marlin Course”). In the swimming pool at Miccosukee, they offer a swimming program where they teach little kids how to swim called “Little Swimmers”, and in fact, this is the place where I learned how to swim when I was young. They also have a small restaurant where the whole family can enjoy a meal after a day of playing golf or swimming. Apart from the golf course itself, Miccosukee also has a very popular bike path that is used by hundreds of West Kendall residents to go for jogs, to bike, or to take leisurely walks and enjoy nature. The Miccosukee Golf & Country Club is a special place to the West Kendall community because it is more than just a golf club, but is a place where the whole community can gather to enjoy nature, exercise, or play golf.

Summary

Overall, West Kendall truly is like no other neighborhood in the world as it is incredibly unique in many of its characteristics. With numerous amounts of parks, a wide range of unique businesses and restaurants, and endless activities to take part in, I say it with happiness to call West Kendall my home. As there is in any neighborhood, there are many things that work about West Kendall, while there are also several things that could use improvement. I believe that one of the great factors that exists within the neighborhood is the mass presence of entrepreneurship in small businesses and restaurants. Contrastingly, I believe that the neighborhood can improve on taking more initiatives towards creating notable and significant landmarks. Despite being a young neighborhood, I believe that West Kendall can take a bigger step towards introducing more culture, art, and history into the streets and neighborhood. All in all, I have truly gained a greater love for my neighborhood of West Kendall and am thankful that I chose this location for my project.

Sources

“Dade County – Transportation and Public Works.” Miami, http://www.miamidade.gov/transit/releases/11-03-02-terminal.asp.

“Fritanga Montelimar.” Fritanga Montelimar – Miami Florida – Since 1999www.montelimarfritanga.com/.

Google Maps, Google, https://www.google.com/maps/place/Kendall+West,+FL/@25.7098103,-80.4402778,13.67z/data=!4m5!3m4!1s0x88d9c01685f61447:0x80582d9e9d33de3e!8m2!3d25.7089512!4d-80.4380722

“Guayaberas Cubanas.” GuyayaberasCubanas.com, http://guayaberascubanas.com/mens/linen-guayaberas.

“Kendall Ice Arena.” Kendall Ice Arena, http://www.kendallicearena.com/.

“Kendall West, Florida Population 2020.” Kendall West, Florida Population 2020 (Demographics, Maps, Graphs)worldpopulationreview.com/us-cities/kendall-west-fl-population/.

“Miccosukee Golf & Country Club – Marlin Course.” Miccosukee Golf & Country Club – Marlin Coursetheflgolfcourseseeker.blogspot.com/2013/11/miccosukee-golf-country-club-marlin.html.

“Paleta Manía.” Ice Cream, Popsicles, Paletas Shop in Miamihttps://paleta-mania.business.site.

“The Best Cuban Food.” Pasapoga Restauranthttp://pasapoga-restaurant.com/.

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