So they say that the best creative projects are born from nothing. And that couldn’t be more true when we talk about the beloved Miami neighborhood of Wynwood. Today as the district is stuffed to the gills with stimulating art and galleries galore and with enough restaurants to satisfy any dining critic, you’d never guess that the area had very humble beginnings.
Originally an enclave for working class families starting at the beginning of the 20th century, Wynwood has had many iterations. By the 1920’s it was primarily garment district employing many of Miami’s newly arrived Cuban population by the 1960’s. In the 1970’s Wynwood experienced a decline and unfortunate circumstances such as drug trafficking and crime seemed to be commonplace. By the 1980’s, small groups of artists saw the potential of Wynwood to rid itself of its seedy reputation and began to plant the seeds of what Wynwood is today. But it wasn’t until the 2000’s that visionary and developer extraordinaire, Tony Goldman, owner of Goldman Properties, propelled Wynwood into a turbo-charged art mecca for Miami residents and visitors alike. It was his commitment, not to mention a whole heck of a lot of cash, to revitalize a once down and out neighborhood into one of the most visited places in Miami today.
You could spend an entire day here, the same amount of hours you could just lie still on the beach. But you will get so much more in terms of art, dining, shopping, and culture in Wynwood than you could in a prone position on the sand. Here’s my favorite way to spend sun up to sundown in Wynwood.
Arrive early before the crowds to enjoy the solitude over a rich drip of espresso accompanied by a healthy avocado toast that no one prepares better than Zak the Baker. Let’s face it, avocado is delicious, but it’s the bread that holds it that is the main attraction. And it better be good. Zak the Baker is THE bread supplier of so many Miami restaurants and it’s packed high on the shelves of practically every Miami supermarket, so you know you’ve come to the right place to start your day in Wynwood. If a savory breakfast is not your thing, then you’ve still come to the right place. Put a slice of their chocolate babka or one of their gooey cinnamon rolls in front of me, and I probably won’t talk to you for a full 10 minutes because I’m otherwise preoccupied with every taste sensation going on in my mouth with those sweet treats.
Grab a coffee to go from Zak’s and head for the crown jewel of Wynwood.
This is the best example that art doesn’t need to be housed in a building and that viewing larger-than-life pieces can seep deep into your soul. Not a typical art fan? Well, the Wynwood Walls will make you one because each huge mural, crafted by some of the greatest local artists Miami has to offer, are so stimulating and thought-provoking you just can’t help being drawn in.
To visit, you’ll have to purchase a ticket and reserve a time slot. Once those formalities are complete, then it’s off to explore several distinct areas within the walls to choose your favorite colorful pieces. The murals do change, so you can literally come here on subsequent visits and have a whole new experience. Take your time here and study each piece as you enjoy Miami sunshine and the last sips of that morning café latte.
As you emerge from Wynwood Walls and begin walking the neighborhood, you quickly realize that the ENTIRE neighborhood is swathed in impressive murals. You just can’t get away from the art and that’s a good thing because you can get happily lost in time as you round the next corner and discover yet another creative mural poking out behind a fence or painted on a restaurant wall.
You won’t need to stray too far from the Wynwood Walls to enjoy a midday meal. I’d highly recommend you grab a table at Wynwood Kitchen and Bar to enjoy some shareable plates of Miami fusion cuisine. Located next to the walls, ask to dine outside and you’ll be in the midst of the restaurant’s own art covered walls while you fill your hunger with juicy ropa vieja empanadas or some savory vaca frita. The vibe is cool urban chic and everything coordinates to that theme from their staff to their own art pieces to their creative cuisine.
You’ll probably want to loosen the pants a bit and sit back as you nurse another mojito, but alas, there is more of Wynwood to explore.
While Miami is mostly known for its Cuban population, this little gem of a shop is actually the collective work of four friends from our other cultures represented in Miami-Peru, Venuezula and Mexico. Get your Instagram-worthy goods such as straw handbags, tassel earrings and beautifully embroidered clothing so you’ll be all set to look Miami cool.
The Wynwood Shop (196 NW 24th Street)
This is the epitome of Wynwood displayed in an airy atelier. Offerings of art, home decor, fashion, and accessories are yours to purchase created by hand-picked local artists and emerging designers. This is truly a small business that you want to give your hard earned dollars to as the owners imagined this endearing shop to give a voice to those who create from the heart first, rather than just with sole profit in mind. Here you will find something for yourself or that special person who deserves a one-of-a-kind gift that only The Wynwood Shop could provide.
Finish the afternoon in Wynwood with a little dessert!
You’ll most likely visit Miami when the temperatures are definitely higher here than at your home, so it would be perfectly normal to crave “something cold”. The perfect place for a cool down is at Morelia Gourmet Paletas. Forget yet another ubiquitous ice cream cone, and instead go for these intensely fruity ice pops made with 100% natural ingredients and a lot of love. You can even create your own flavor!
When the sun goes down in Wynwood, the fun goes up! Even if you cannot spend an entire day in the neighborhood, at least come for nocturnal merriment. The great thing about Wynwood is that it’s pretty much come as you are, so no need to don fancy clothes- most evening venues are as relaxed as they come- you’ll be at home here in shorts and a T as you would with a pair of high heels and sparkly attire.
Your actual dinner can wait just a bit, first things first and that’s to quench your thirst! Forget the fruity tropical drinks that are associated with Miami, and indulge in what Wynwood is known for- great craft beer. And there is no better place to enjoy a brewski than at J. Wakefield Brewing.
Upon approach you might think this another art gallery, but behind the graffiti-laded facade lies a 15-barrel brew house that uses local ingredients twisted into unique beers utilizing tropical mangoes, spicy ancho peppers, farm-fresh peaches and many more interesting flavors. If you love the sours, then this sweet spot will fit the bill for some pre-dinner fun.
End your day at one of the most sought after restaurants in Wynwood, if not Miami. It’s popularity isn’t an indication that you haven’t found a gem. Some jewels have to shine bright, as they are unique and very special. And that’s KYU for your dinner choice.
The menu is tapas-style with more than ample portions for one, two or even three of you. This is the type of restaurant that you can have fun discovering the palates of your fellow diners, but I’d definitely recommend a portion of their out-of-this-world Korean Fried Chicken, Crispy Tuna Tartare and Thai Fried Rice Stone Pot. As mama always says, eat your greens, and fortunately that’s easy here at KYU. The alluring vegetable menu includes, Whole Grilled Maitake Mushroom with Ginger and Soy, Japanese Sweet Potato with White Miso and Black Sugar, and Thai Coconut Creamed Spinach with Crispy Shallots. What a scrumptious way to get in your 5-a-day vegetable rations.
Stay here for awhile and then take your final stroll through the Wynwood streets to mop up any murals you may have missed and revel in a day and night well spent in Wynwood.
But wait......you don’t have to make the Wynwood discoveries on your own! Come join us on a Miami Culinary Tour Wynwood Food and Art Tour! Our carefully crafted tour led by expert storytellers will regale you with insider secrets about Wynwood art and you’ll be treated to best culinary offerings the neighborhood has to offer. Don’t miss the chance to experience Wynwood from a local’s point of view. Ready for some incredible arts and eats? Join us today!
By Robyn Webb