With a cheery bright-green awning out front, unfinished wood and colorfully painted walls, a pleasant and folksy playlist of artists like Jack Johnson and the Lumineers, and a premise based around healthful foods for all, Green Spot Kitchen is like the poster child for positive eateries.
The small restaurant offers a wide selection of gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian, dairy-free, and ethical carnivorous options for those with dietary restrictions or a desire to eat whole, natural foods.
"We decided to open a place where people could unite," says owner Sasha Michael. "After trying to listen to what people wanted, we chose to do something to benefit the community. People want to eat healthier."
Free-range and grass-fed meats are used in items like tacos, which come with bison or chicken, crunchy shredded cabbage, fresh cilantro, and a side of house Phoenix salsa. (A vegan option combines chopped vegetables marinated in a citrusy ceviche sauce, served in fresh cabbage shells with a side of tzatziki, a blend of cilantro, cucumber, and yogurt.)
Sandwiches are all served on gluten-free sprouted grain bread with a side of pickled vegetables. Choose from the "steak which" (with grass-fed steak, Maui onions, agave mustard, provolone and mozzarella cheese, and oven-cured tomatoes with black pepper), the veggie sliders (with a house-made vegetable patty, oven-cured tomatoes, and lettuce served with chili lime aioli), and the "kale bison which" (with an eight-ounce kale burger, fresh kale, oven-cured tomatoes, and GSK sauce, a fresh take on Thousand Island).
Snacks, such as the artichoke fries (crispy battered artichokes with salty Parmesan, fresh chopped parsley, cayenne pepper, and a lemon on the side) and refreshing cilantro guacamole served with fresh cucumber slices, offer healthy bites for those looking to stay away from the usual greasy chips and fries.
Liquid meals are also available, with options ranging from the Green Spot juice (kale, spinach, cucumber, ginger, green apple, and lime) to the "Indulgent Smoothie," with fresh-pressed coffee, peanut butter, bananas, almond milk, and organic chocolate.
While Green Spot places a large emphasis on well-being, for Michael, the concept rose from the ashes of a fallen family business.
The soft-spoken Toronto native and his family already owned a couple of restaurants in his hometown. Then, in 2000, Michael; his father, Waheed; and another partner, Michael Girgis, took over the previous lease for the remaining 13 years (with extension options) for a space in Haulover Marina in Miami. Around four years later, Solo on the Bay opened in a stunning open-air space overlooking the Intracoastal Waterway.
Then, hurricanes Katrina and later Wilma hit in fall of 2005, substantially damaging the property. A week later, Michael says, Solo was open for events but needed serious repairs. The county landlords told them to move forward with the fixes: Solo would be reimbursed from the designated FEMA funds later. Michael looked into finding a partner with additional capital and was put in touch with Darden Restaurant Group (the owner of Seasons 52) and other potential investors.
Darden was interested in the location, but, Michael says, they told Miami-Dade County Parks, Recreation, and Open Spaces that they wanted a single-story building. Michael claims that's when the trouble started.
After nearly two dozen code violations, numerous fences erected around the property, county-ordered power cutoffs, and, eventually, a disastrous fire to the building, Michael says he and his team were out nearly $200,000 and were told they no longer had rights to the property.
They filed a lawsuit for unlawful eviction, attempting to recoup the money invested in the building after the hurricane damage, and after seven years of trying to take the case to court, Michael was notified that Judge Jennifer Bailey would see the case in front of a jury on February 12, 2014.
Two days before it was scheduled to go to court, Bailey dismissed the case with prejudice; Michael's attorney told him he doesn't have the right to appeal.
Although he was disappointed with the outcome, Michael says he learned a lot from the costly experience and wishes the best to Darden and Seasons 52 -- the firm is investing $6.3 million in the property.
For now, he plans to use his hard-earned knowledge to further his mission of creating an energizing place that promotes tasteful healthy food.
"It's important to use setbacks as fuel," says Michael. "This is something I learned watching my father establish Solo on the Bay, and it's something I'll never forget. He showed me by example that whatever the mission, a positive attitude is worthy of practice."
Follow Sara Ventiera on Twitter, @saraventiera.
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