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Swensen’s closes after 44 years of serving ice cream and diner food in Coral Gables

It’s the end of an era for a beloved Coral Gables institution

Swensen's in Coral Gables has officially closed its door after serving South Florida since 1977. Pictured: their iconic ice cream menu.
Swensen's in Coral Gables has officially closed its door after serving South Florida since 1977. Pictured: their iconic ice cream menu. (Courtesy of Nicole Lopez-Alvar)

CORAL GABLES, Fla. – Since 1977, generations of families have taken their children to a rare one-stop-shop eatery off of US-1 in Coral Gables — a magical place where they could please their yelling toddler with a grilled cheese sandwich and order themselves a hot patty melt, and then could turn the corner and order up a giant ice cream sundae from an old school-inspired ice cream parlor.

The gem of a restaurant was called Swensen’s Grill & Ice Cream Parlor, and it has officially closed its doors for good in April.

Although Swensen’s was once a popular restaurant chain based in San Francisco with franchise locations across the United States, this particular location was privately owned and seemed to withstand the test of time. According to the Canadian franchise’s official website, only three Swensen’s restaurants ended up remaining in the United States, including the one in Coral Gables.

However, after the business next-door, Spec’s Records & Tapes, liquidated all assets and permanently closed in 2013, many locals and University of Miami students (who had been fans of the restaurant for decades) feared the end was finally near for the ole’ restaurant and ice cream shop.

Despite all odds, the restaurant even made it to see the COVID-19 pandemic.

Just this past August, the restaurant posted their “Special Pandemic Menu” on their Google business page, as well as a flyer for their Christmas special. Even this past January, the restaurant posted on Google they were hiring part-time and full-time positions.

Swensen's "Pandemic Menu" posted on behalf of the restaurant on Google. (Courtesy of Swensen's on Google)

Furthermore, Swensen’s, which had been owned by Salim Mitha according to Florida records, tried to revamp its image over the past five years, even providing delivery on UberEats and updating its menu to include modern items such as a truffle mac n’ cheese, “Nica Sliders,” a mac n’ cheese burger, and a selection of craft beers.

However, years of memories have come to an abrupt end in April of 2021. According to the Miami Herald, “a notice on the restaurant window states the business did not pay its property taxes due in March, violating its deal with the landlords, Nancy and Louis Sabia.”

Swensen’s last Instagram post was on Dec. 4, 2020.

Nevertheless, news of the sudden closure will be bittersweet for some. Those who grew up in the area will remember sitting at a booth in the dimly lit restaurant to cure their late-night munchies, or, will remember the Spec’s music store located next door, where teenagers — spanning from the late ‘70s to the early oughts — would buy giant posters, CDs, vinyl LPs, gadgets, and more for all their music needs.

In a post by Miami Stadium on Instagram, fans of Swensen’s and Spec’s alike shared their thoughts on the closure. “Swensen’s Spec’s CD Warehouse & Wendy’s...my every weekend growing up,” reads a comment on the post. Another person commented, “COVID takes another hometown tradition,” while another fan commented, “My hometown is disappearing little by little, year by year.”

Local10 News has reached out to Swensen’s for a comment on the closure. However, we have yet to hear back.

If you have more details on the closure, or would like to share your memory, please contact me at nlopezalvar@wplg.com. Or, leave your comment below.

About the Author:

Nicole Lopez-Alvar is a Miami-born and raised journalist and TV personality covering South Florida and beyond for Local10.com.