Wynwood evolves into art center, drawing local residents and visitors

Posted October 14, 2014


With rampant crime, high unemployment rates and drug trafficking a daily occurrence, Wynwood was considered a dangerous stepping-stone for working-class immigrants who couldn’t afford to live elsewhere in the late 1970s.

A collection of desolate manufacturing warehouses and factories, a bright future for Wynwood seemed a bitter joke. That was the most accepted reality for the neighborhood until a group of artists, led by Helene Pancoast and Faith Atlas, bought the empty Flowers Baking Company building in the late 1980s. The 2.2-acre building was named the Bakehouse, and became known as Florida’s largest working artist space.

With the rise of the Bakehouse Art Complex, so did Wynwood’s gradual evolution into the up-and-coming art mecca it is today.

Combined with the birth of Art Basel in 2002 and the property investments by Tony Goldman, of Goldman Properties, Wynwood slowly brushed on a more vibrant face. It became appealing to locals and tourists alike, inviting them to pace its grime-filled concrete and view its contemporary art, whether found casually on the street or formally in a gallery.

The Wynwood Arts District, which is northern Wynwood and most active on NW 36 Street, is now home to more than 70 art galleries, stores, restaurants and bars. Taking space in often worn down buildings, there’s a certain charm to each locale, yet a common motif always ties them together — art is always present, at all times, whether through vintage décor, music or appealing cuisine.

Every second Saturday of each month a community art walk is held in the Wynwood Arts District. The 60 or so art galleries that participate in this monthly event run from NW 36 Street to south of NW 20 Street, and between NE 2nd Avenue and NW 6th Avenue. Gourmet food trucks gather near the Wynwood Walls to offer an array of choices to foodie Wynwood wanderers.

The Wynwood Arts District is chockfull of art gallery choices. The Bakehouse Art Complex holds more than 60 working studios within its low-key, Bohemian walls and is home to over 70 resident artists. The artists, who range from photographers, sculptors and painters, work openly in front of the public everyday of the week.

Any surface within the building is considered an artist’s canvas, so it wouldn’t be surprising to catch a work of art painted on the elevators. On the second Friday of each month, a reception is held featuring live music and an open wine bar.

During Wynwood’s monthly Art Walk event, some galleries worth visiting are the Praxis Fine Arts, NOW Contemporary, and the Wynwood Walls. The Wynwood Walls were born from Tony Goldman’s vision of street art and graffiti being accepted and respected forms of expression.

The Wynwood Walls, located at NW 2nd Avenue between Joey’s Italian Café on NW 25 Street and Wynwood Kitchen & Bar, attracts thousands of visitors a year. Celebrated artists, such as Shepard Fairey, who is known for his “HOPE” portrait of Barack Obama used during the 2008 campaign, is just one of more than 50 artists who have contributed work.

Although it is known for its art, Wynwood’s culinary scene is always developing creative, art-fused eateries, bars and restaurants where tasty cuisine is never lacking.

Wynwood Kitchen & Bar is a restaurant that fuses Latin cuisine served Spanish tapas-style, where a meal there usually consists of several, small plates meant to be shared. Venezuelan Executive Chef Miguel Aguilar took over and created the new menu in 2011, featuring starter dishes such as its popular, signature ropa vieja empanadas dish, which is served with an aromatic, bold-flavored cilantro crema. Another starter is the lemon-pepper calamari, that when dipped into its accompanying marinara sauce creates a harmony of spice, mildness and taste bud heaven.

The pork belly, rubbed in an adobo seasoning mixture that consists of spices, fruit and vegetables, doesn’t fall behind as a choice, packed with fatty flavors that melt like butter in your mouth. Main dish recommendations include the 48-hour crispy pork served with a creamy, white cheddar chipotle grits and a side of spicy, pickled peppers, as well as the signature ropa vieja.

Enjoyed in an artsy, modern dining room consisting of soft gray leather seats and dark wood tables, it is balanced out with several 20-foot colorful, abstract paintings by German artist Christian Awe that hang in the dining room. An 11-foot, multi-colored sculptural man by David Benjamin Sherry stands in the dining room entry.

Featuring a full bar with a wine list of more than 70 vintage wines and 40 handcrafted beers, Wynwood Kitchen & Bar, with its efficient service, quality food and price, is a must for Wynwood visitors.

Other popular spots include Jimmyz Kitchen Wynwood, known for its Latin cuisine such as its mofongo dish, a Dominican Republic staple, which is fried green plantains with crunchy pork rinds; The Butcher Shop and Grill for quality deli meats, raw or cooked, such as certified prime black angus; and for dessert, key lime pie or pie shakes at Fireman Derek’s World Famous Pies.

For cultural nightlife seekers, Wynwood Arts District offers a few choices. The Wood Tavern, located across the street from the Wynwood Kitchen & Bar, is a popular weekend option among hipsters, businessmen, and college students. Known for its tacos, on Tuesday, they’re free.

With hip-hop tunes playing in its outdoor patio where quesadillas and tacos are grilled, it’s a fun place to be. With fair liquor prices, graffiti-covered walls and its laid-back feel, it’s a decent place to be on a weekend to bask in Miami’s diverse crowds.

Gramps is another Wynwood bar locale that is garnering attention for its entertaining energy divided into three distinct rooms — a railroad-like bar, an outdoor area and a cozier back room perfect for lounging.

Wynwood has certainly evolved from the run-down, dangerous neighborhood it was several decades ago to a modern and street art mecca that offers locals and visitors not only an eclectic array of art, but also a rising culinary and nightlife scene. Having grown exponentially in such a short amount of time, Wynwood’s future never looked brighter.

If You Go

  • The Wynwood Art Walk and gourmet food trucks take place every second Saturday of each month. Located on NW 36th Street to south of NW 20th Street, and between NE 2th Avenue and NW 6th Avenue. Tip: Go early in the evening to find good parking and to avoid heavy traffic. For more info: http://www.wynwoodartwalk.com/wynwood-art-walk.
  • Bakehouse Art Complex is located at 561 NW 32nd St., Miami, Fla., 33127, and is open to the public from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. daily. A reception is held on the second Friday of each month, with an open wine bar and music.
    For more info: http://www.bacfl.org.
  • The Wynwood Walls are located at NW Second Avenue – between Joey’s Italian Café on NW 25th Street and Wynwood Kitchen & Bar on NW 26th Street. There is no admission fee, and it operates from Monday to Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. It’s open until 12 a.m. Saturday during the Wynwood Art Walk.
    For more info: http://thewynwoodwalls.com/About/
  • Wynwood Kitchen & Bar is located on 2550 NW 2nd Ave., Miami, Fla., 33127. The cuisine is a Latin-tapas fusion that costs $30 and under on average. Cash and credit cards accepted. Its operating hours are as follows: lunch is everyday from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
 Dinner, from Monday to Thursday, is from 5:30 p.m. to last seating at 10:45 p.m., and Friday to Saturday from 5:30 p.m. to last seating at 11:45 p.m. 
The bar is open Monday to Thursday from 5:30 p.m. to 12 a.m., and Friday to Saturday from 5:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. Reservations are recommended. Walk-ins are accepted. Dress code is casual dress. For more info/online reservations: http://www.wynwoodkitchenandbar.com/home.html.
    Contact/reservations: 305-722-8959.
  • Jimmyz Kitchen Wynwood is located on 2700 N Miami Ave., Miami, Fla., 33127. Its cuisine is casual Latin, and prices range from $11 to $30. Cash and credit cards accepted. Its open Sunday to Thursday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Friday to Saturday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. No reservations.
    For more info: http://www.jimmyzkitchen.com/location-wynwood.php
    Contact: 305-573-1505.
  • The Butcher Shop Beer Garden and Grill is located on 165 NW 23rd St., Miami, Fla., 33127, and specializes in deli meats. Its price range is from $11 to $30. Cash and credit cards accepted. It’s open Sunday to Thursday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., and Friday to Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Both reservations and walk-ins are accepted. Contact 305-846-9120. For more info: http://www.thebutchershopmiami.com
  • Fireman Derek’s World Famous Pies is located on 2818 N. Miami Ave., Miami, Fla., 33127, and specializes in baked goods. It’s inexpensive, and both cash and credit cards are accepted. It’s open Monday to Friday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. No reservations. For more info: http://firemanderekspies.com. Contact: 786-449-2517.
  • The Wood Tavern is located on 2531 NW 2nd Ave., Miami, Fla., 33127. It’s a traditional, American bar, with drinks priced under $10. Cash and credit cards accepted. It’s closed on Mondays, and open from 5 p.m. to 3 a.m. Tuesday to Saturday, and Sunday from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. For more info: http://woodtavernmiami.com. Contact: 305-748-2828. Ages 21+.
  • Gramps is a cocktail bar, lounge and musical venue located on 176 NW 24th St., Miami, Fla., 33127. It has moderate prices, and cash and credit cards are accepted. It’s closed on Mondays. It’s open from 5 p.m. to 3 a.m. Tuesday to Saturday, and Sunday from 12 p.m. to 12 a.m. For more info: http://www.grampsbar.com. Ages 21+. Contact: 786-752-6693.

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