Thrifty grocery owners to open Palm Bay restaurant featuring Latin, Caribbean flavors

Cocina Cafe, a standalone version of Thrifty’s popular hot food bar, is set to open July 14

The Cocina Café Latin and Caribbean Food restaurant will open in Palm Bay on July 14. (Malcom Denmark/Florida Today)

PALM BAY, Fla. – Pedro Hernandez and his family already have proven themselves in the grocery business, with four Thrifty Specialty Produce & Meats locations across Central Florida.

Now they’re ready to take on restaurants.

Cocina Cafe, a standalone version of Thrifty’s popular hot food bar, is set to open July 14 at 1150 Malabar Road, Palm Bay, according to News 6 partner Florida Today.

“It will be the same thing we sell in the grocery food court area,” Hernandez said.


Cocina Cafe will feature a variety of Latin- and Caribbean-based meats and sides, as well as bakery items and coffee. It will be open for breakfast, lunch and dinner daily.

“We’ve had a lot of success through the years in the grocery stores,” Hernandez said about the prepared food section. “We wanted to bring the same concept with a little more comfortable seating.”

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The cafe will serve food similar to what’s available at Thrifty groceries, which are located in RockledgeMelbournePalm Bay and St. Cloud. Hernandez and his wife, Lonelis, own the Rockledge and Palm Bay stores. The other two are owned by their extended family.

The hot bars in the Thrifty stores are known for large portions at affordable prices. Hernandez said the most popular items on the ever-changing menu are roasted pork, stewed chicken and stewed beef oxtail.

“The empanadas also are very popular,” he said, as are the Cuban-style coffee, pastries and Cuban sandwiches.

And don’t forget the sides, heaping servings of yellow rice with pigeon peas, sweet plantains, black beans, macaroni salad with ham, and lots more.

Like the food at each grocery, food at the cafe will be prepared daily from scratch.

“We use secret recipes that we have,” Hernandez said, “recipes from my grandmother, mother and mother-in-law.”

In addition to dine-in and to-go meals, Cocina Cafe also will offer catering.

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Maria Mendre, who has been with Thrifty for more than seven years, will helm the kitchen at the cafe. She served as head chef for the Palm Bay grocery, so she knows the recipes well.

Pabel Soto, who has been with the company for 11 years, most recently as a store manager, will operate the restaurant.

A weekend celebration is planned for the grand opening, with local radio stations broadcasting from the restaurant Friday, Saturday and Sunday, along with raffles and giveaways.

The restaurant will be open 6:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.

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