Miami’s Wynwood evokes hipster’s paradise, but surprisingly far from cliché

Posted September 28, 2015


MIAMI — A mere 10 years ago, broken shop windows, violence, gangs and crime took up the streets north of downtown Miami. A few furniture shops were all that the neighborhood had to offer and, even then, it was a park your car outside the store, run in and get out, death-defying sort of feat.

Coyo Taco in Wynwood (2300 NW 2nd Ave.) from top left the octopus salad, carne asado taco and Mexican-style corn

Coyo Taco in Wynwood (2300 NW 2nd Ave.) from top left, the octopus salad, carne asado taco and Mexican-style corn (Photo by Kit Pilosof)..

Warehouses, shops, galleries, restaurants, bars and cafés have now merged together connected by spray-painted murals referencing everything from cartoon characters to euphoria.

Thousands of checkered shirts, skinny jeans and conversed-feet walk these graffiti streets every day; the cooler passersby tend not to take pictures next to the flower walls and instead immerse themselves in the art and people.

Regardless of one’s purpose, Wynwood evokes a hipster’s paradise that is surprisingly far from cliché.

A yellow boa constrictor wraps its three-foot body around the neck of a petite Asian woman while she talks with a group of her friends. A skinny man in basketball shorts and a beanie moves his legs and arms in waves against the metal railings of a bar, presenting a more lyrical version of Egyptian dance. In South Beach, the bouncer might warn this man once before calling for security, but no one looks twice here.

This particular bar is called Wood Tavern: its outdoor space triples its indoor bar and includes two large trucks selling alcoholic snow cones, tacos and fajitas, for less than $10 each. Bar-goers gather around the mega fans and sit like gossiping high-schoolers on wooden bleachers. The bathrooms are chock-a-block with graffiti, people compete on an oversized Jenga set and the music is underground rap that people bob their heads to, actually listening to the lyrics.

“It’s almost like an adult playground,” said Madison Roehrig, a junior at the University of Miami, who came across this bar among others like it whilst taking a summer course at UM this past July. “A few of us were kind of lonely in the summer and wanted a place to chill and meet people; not like a South Beach club where you can’t talk to one another.”

The most popular time to come to Wynwood is the second Saturday of each month for Art Walk where the streets are packed with music, food trucks, live art and exhibitions. On a recent June day, Minimax, a music-driven event company, hosted “The Secret Garden Party.”

“I came at around 6 p.m., and everything kept getting more exciting,” said Tessa Thomson, 21, from Toronto. “There were people doing yoga, drinking, smoking, eating, dancing, performing.”

The Secret Garden Party was held in a warehouse with a line-up of eight deep house DJ’s including Kike Roldan and Ennio Skoto, both based out of Miami.

“We are lacking events like this in Toronto, the Miami art community is awesome and smaller parties like this I enjoy more than Art Basel which can often be too built up,” said Thomson.

People don’t seem to mind waiting in line for things – Panther coffee shop located on 2390 NW 2nd Ave., houses customers that want to enjoy the taste of coffee rather than shoot it like tequila before a 6 a.m., workout following another iced coffee following a day at the office. The Miami-based coffee shop with silver floors and red shipping containers for walls offers coffee from Nicaragua, Rwanda, Ethiopia and Brazil along with fresh pies, almond croissants and ‘snickerdoodle’ cookies with peanut butter and potato chips baked in.

Restaurants are packed from 11 a.m. until 3 a.m. Coya Taco in particular always has a line that wraps out of the door. You look at the menu in line – chicken tacos for the amateur eater and the cactus taco if you’re feeling adventurous – order at the counter, get a number, sit down and wait to be served.

“The first time I came here I thought one taco would be the conclusive end of a bar hopping night,” Roehrig said, “but there’s no such thing as one taco, the giant pitcher of sangria was too tempting not to try and the restaurant just so happens to open up into a secret bar.”

Sophia Peraticos, 19, moved to Miami from London, when she was seven but considers herself a local.

“Wynwood’s sort of right on the bottom of Little Haiti and up until a few years ago was a dangerous area that happened to have a lot of open, cheap spaces that catered to the needs of local Miami artists for gallery spaces and studios. A ton of young artists were finally able to be seen through the walls or the Artwalk initiative,” Peraticos stated.

“For a minute, there it was a really cool, cutting edge artistic hub with an awesome new culinary and café scene. Even my friends have had the opportunity to showcase their art works. That’s the cool part of Wynwood, the only sad thing is that it is becoming a sort of basic girl’s Instagram background and that’s not what it’s about.”

Graffiti artists, architects, muralists, artists and other creative minds saw potential in Wynwoods run-down, crime-heavy streets about 10 years ago. They used its street-cred to reconstruct washed out buildings and paint warehouses until people decided it was the cool thing to do.

With its coffee drinking, brunch eating, art and bar hopping, taco eating, street dancing inhabitants, Wynwood is far from the norm. Everything breeds there – stores are art galleries, restaurants are clubs, visitors are bankers and opera singers. There are few places like this where so many different people – families, groups of young people, wandering individuals – can gather together seamlessly. Travel tip: best enjoyed without your iPhone filters, this is when people might look at you startlingly.

If You Go

  • Getting there: South Florida residents can take the South Miami Rail Station Northbound (5100 towards Green Line Palmetto Station), get off at the Lyric Theatre Station Rail, take the No. 2 bus at Overtown Station Northbound on 550 NW 1st Ave., and get off at NW 2nd Avenue, at NW 29th Street (40 minutes)
  • Car from Coral Gables: Take the U.S. 1 and I-95 Northbound to North Miami Avenue then take exit 2A I-195 E, continue driving down North Miami Avenue to NW 2nd Avenue (25 minutes)
  • Car from South Beach: Take the MacArthur Causeway to I-395 W and I-95 N to North Miami Avenue. Take exit 2A from I-195 E and continue on North Miami Avenue to NW 2nd Avenue.
  • Parking: Recommend finding street parking as lots are expensive (tip: remember the wall you park near as you can easily get lost
  • Restaurants: Joeys for Italian, Gigi for lunch and get bao buns, R House for Sunday brunch, Sugarcane for small Asian dishes, Michaels Genuine for banana bread pudding and Soyka for casual food with a live jazz performance
  • Bars: Prohibition Restaurant and Speakeasy, Wynwood Kitchen and Bar, Cafeina, Gramps
  • Galleries: Gallery Diet, Bakehouse Art Complex and, if you’re a newbie, the Wynwood Walls (although it is best to walk around and see what interests you)