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Friday, April 12, 2024

Muñecas hosts grand opening for new location at 4th Ave Food Park

The Roaring ‘20s-themed event featured meals, music and mixers

An employee prepares food at Muñecas Taco Garden and Bar on Sunday, Jan. 14, 2024.
An employee prepares food at Muñecas Taco Garden and Bar on Sunday, Jan. 14, 2024.

A 1920s-themed grand opening party drew a glitzy and glamorous crowd Jan. 14, with many event-goers looking the part. Guests donned shiny flapper dresses, vintage fur coats and three-piece suits and lined up through the parking lot, ready to attend the grand opening of Muñecas Taco Garden and Bar.

The restaurant serves Miami-inspired cuisine and has now found its second home at 317 SW 4th Ave.

Previously located downtown, the business moved a few minutes away to 4th Ave Food Park and held a soft opening Sept. 21. After three months of getting used to the new space, it launched the event at 6 p.m. Jan. 14 to formally open and celebrate its new bar and restaurant.

With a background in working for restaurants and a passion for sharing food from her hometown in South Florida, 33-year-old restaurateur Emily McClure founded Muñecas in 2017 with her then-partner, now husband, Art Guy. 

The pair met while McClure was in the process of starting her own restaurant. She needed a kitchen to cook in, and Guy’s restaurant, Steamers, offered just the spot. After taking over Steamers, the restaurant eventually evolved into what it is today: a Latin, Asian and Caribbean fusion restaurant. 

“I started by using a lot of the ingredients that were already at his restaurant,” McClure said. “That’s how we developed the menu ... trying to be creative with what we had available to us.”

The restaurant’s theme of family doesn’t stop there. The name, which means “doll” in Spanish, came from McClure’s nickname given to her by her late father-in-law.

“He always told me that you’re an architect of your future…and that you can do anything that you want to do,” McClure said. “So I named it in honor of him.”

What started as a taco cart developed into an outdoor restaurant, previously located in the corner of Bo Diddley Plaza. 

Though recent concerns were aired about Gainesville’s small business economy, Muñecas has stood the test of time. 

McClure credits Muñecas’ outdoor seating arrangement for helping the business withstand the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, which disrupted the operations of restaurants across the country.

4th Ave Food Park is more than six times the size of Muñecas’ former spot, McClure said, giving it the capacity to support additional features like a cocktail bar and catering services. 

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Among the guests in attendance at Jan. 14’s grand opening celebration were Lauren and Michael Dean, Gainesville natives who enjoy Muñecas’ cuisine. After trying the night’s menu, the pair looks forward to trying out the business’ new catering option.

“We’ve been here since they’ve been in this building a few times, so we knew the food was going to be great,” Michael Dean said.

The event also featured raffles for baskets of 4th Ave Food Park gift cards and Harlem Globetrotters tickets, a live DJ and an all-you-can-eat taco station to showcase its catering chops.

Proceeds made from the raffle benefited Porter’s Quarters Farm, a community effort that works to combat food insecurity and promote self-sufficiency by teaching Gainesville’s Black community members how to grow and store their food.

“We’re in this community now, we just moved in and we want to make a connection with who our neighbors are,” McClure said. “We want to incorporate some of [Porter’s Quarters’] ingredients in our menu too, once we get things rolling here.”

Access to fresh food is a driving force for Muñecas. All of its ingredients and dishes are made in a scratch kitchen, McClure said.

“It feels like a lot of people are starving for high-quality food,” McClure said. “I know when I go out to eat I have a hard time finding that.”

Caroline Glynne is a Gainesville resident and employee at Muñecas. With 11 months of experience working for the business, she enthusiastically greeted customers while donning a gold flapper’s getup.

“My favorite part is that the culture is very positive [at Muñecas],” Glynne said. “I feel like all the co-workers are actually friends. It’s actually a good sense of community and family.”

The new location is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday to Friday, and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday to Sunday.

Contact Bonny Matejowsky at bmatejowsky@alligator.org. Follow her on X @bonnymatejowsky.

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Bonny Matejowsky

Bonny Matejowsky is a third-year journalism major and a Fall 2023 Avenue Reporter. When she’s not writing, you can find her thrifting or watching Twin Peaks.


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