Sweetwater as Text: Little Managua
The neighborhood of Sweetwater is in western Miami-Dade County, touching the eastern edge of the Everglades buffer zone. As of 2020, it has a population of 19,000, a significantly smaller number than the surrounding neighborhoods. According to the City of Sweetwater website, 94 percent of these habitants are of Hispanic origin (About Us).
This statistic is reflected in the character of the neighborhood. There are posters, signs on businesses and even labels in the grocery store that are entirely in Spanish. Walking around or in stores you often hear Spanish music. When I went to Sedanos grocery store, the customers were speaking Spanish and the workers addressed me in Spanish.
The area has a strong Nicaraguan influence and is sometimes referred to as Little Managua which is the capital of Nicaragua (Miami’s Best). This influence is shown in the architecture and design of the strip malls. For example, there is a cobblestone central plaza with a fountain typical of Managua at the strip mall on the corner of W Flagler Street and SW 107th Avenue. Most of the shops and some houses have terracotta roofing which is also typical in Managua. In the same strip mall, you will be pleasantly surprised to find the authentic Nicaraguan restaurant Madroño. It has been celebrated in many Miami guides. I found this establishment to be upscale and clean with professional servers. Madroño’s Bandeja de Antojitos “El Madroño” plate as pictured above presents diners a traditional range of delicious meats, sauces and chips topped with nutritious microgreens and edible flowers. If you can’t tell by your salivating mouth, this was beyond delicious and satisfying. I would recommend this dining experience as well as Raspados Loly’s down the street for a frozen dessert.
Madroño can be accessed directly as well as the rest of Sweetwater via the Sweetwater trolley. The trolley is free and runs from 8am to 7pm during the week and 830am to 5pm on weekends (Transit Schedule). The Metrobus and free Doral Trolley also serve the neighborhood but make less frequent stops and connect to the rest of Miami or Doral. Some spots I would recommend checking out along the Sweetwater trolley route are Ronselli Park, La Gocha which is a cute coffee and empanada shop, and Dolphin Mall. The Dolphin Mall is the largest shopping center in Miami and offers tourists discounts with a valid ID (Dolphin Mall). The trolley will also connect you to a few outside areas such as Miami Intenational Mall and Florida International University.
Because Florida International University hugs Sweetwater’s southern border, there are at least 5 multistory apartment buildings in Sweetwater housing these students. I live in these apartments and due to personal experience and conversations, most students do not explore Sweetwater beyond the few apartments and convenience stores nearby. This is a shame because there are delicious restaurants such as Madroño right in our neighborhood just waiting to be discovered.
“About Us.” City of Sweetwater, 24 Aug. 2020, https://cityofsweetwater.fl.gov/about-us/.
“Dolphin Mall in Miami.” Visit Florida, https://www.visitflorida.com/listing/dolphin-mall/25316/.
“Miami’s Best Latin Food.” Miami and Beaches, Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau, 17 Oct. 2021, https://www.miamiandbeaches.com/things-to-do/restaurants/miamis-best-latin-food.
“Transit Schedule.” City of Sweetwater, 13 Apr. 2021, https://cityofsweetwater.fl.gov/transit-schedule/.