Neighborhoods Up Close: How Wynwood Reinvented Miami Cool

A decade ago, stumbling into Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood may have thrown you off-guard. Darkened streets, lined with defunct body shops — their steel doors aggressively tagged with graffiti — interspersed emerging galleries and the occasional cluster of artists hanging outside their doors.

Today, Wynwood has emerged as one of Miami’s most colorful destinations, teeming with bustling restaurants, lively bars and retail shops attracting locals and tourists alike.

Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood has gone from industrial blight to irrepressible cool. (Zach Stovall)

Walls Made the Difference

Wynwood was born from a developer’s singular vision. The late Tony Goldman, who had formerly championed the renaissance of New York’s SoHo district by infusing the neighborhood with chic restaurants and clubs, attracting a crop of young hipsters to a once-gritty block, saw promise in Wynwood’s similarly industrial vibe.

Working alongside art world legend Jeffrey Deitch, Goldman transformed Wynwood into an open-air museum, inviting renowned street artists to paint giant murals in a subsection of the neighborhood that would come to be known as the Wynwood Walls. Starting in 2009, artists like Shephard Fairey, Logan Hicks, The London Police, and Okuda began to make their mark on the burgeoning neighborhood.

Wynwood blossomed from this artsy core, and began to change at lightning speed. By choosing to work specifically with street artists and highlight a growing worldwide movement for graffiti art, Goldman demonstrated his commitment to preserving the neighborhood’s roots. His development strategy aimed to preserve Wynwood’s architectural aesthetic, favoring revamping its signature industrial-style, low-rise buildings over towering new construction projects. His firm, Goldman Properties, carefully curated a selection of tenants that would honor his vision, selecting art galleries, retailers and restaurants for their cool factor rather than their bottom line.

Chef Norman van Aken’s Three at Wynwood Arcade in the Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood. (Zach Stovall)

A Neighborhood Transformed

Today, over 400 art galleries, design shops, indie retailers, and creative offices mingle among dozens of bars, breweries, and eateries lining Wynwood’s nearly 20 blocks.

Wynwood’s colorful aesthetic and artistic roots remain strong. Wynwood Kitchen & Bar — one of the oldest culinary destinations in the neighborhood — remains the perfect outpost for experiencing the quirky camp ambience while enjoying Latin-inspired tapas and refreshing cocktails. After securing a prime spot in front of Fairey’s everlasting mural, consider stopping into Frangipani for eclectic gifts, or crossing the street for some Italian-inspired shades by Illesteva, a favorite among it-girls and the style set. Afterwards, consider stopping by Zak the Baker to take home a loaf of the Israeli baker’s signature sourdough bread.

Wynwood has become ground zero for the city’s thriving brewery culture; head to J. Wakefield for a locals haunt with a kitschy Star Wars-themed twist, or check out the Latin-inspired Veza Sur. For a sweet tooth, don’t miss The Salty Donut – locals line the block for their infamous Tres Leches donut, a brioche bun dipped in white chocolate and filled with cream and a decadent meringue. Or, venture out for an artisanal cup of joe at Panther Coffee or MIAM Cafe.

For an upscale experience, head to the celebrated KYU, an Asian fusion concept run by former Zuma chef Michael Lewis. KYU is easily one of the most coveted tables in Miami; patrons clamor for a taste of Lewis’ bright and flavorful roasted cauliflower or florida red snapper glazed with brown butter white miso. It’s the perfect way to end an evening of experimental theater at the Miami Light Project or after taking in a new exhibition at Ascaso Gallery. Cap off the night with drinks and dancing at Gramps Bar, which tends to bring a lineup of local and national alternative bands to its sweaty outdoor stage; or tuck into COYO Taco and head straight to the back, where a bouncer will grant you access to a clandestine speakeasy spinning hip hop or disco depending on the night of the week.

From its derelict roots to its emergence as a world-class arts and innovation hub, Wynwood manages to retain its streetwise charm. Whether you’re seeking edgy or extravagant, indie or established, it’s likely that this exciting new neighborhood has it.

The mural lined walls of the trendy Wynwood neighborhood just outside downtown Miami. (Zach Stovall)
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