Food & Drink

Food tourism comes to Wynwood for a taste of art, culture and empanadas

A TASTE OF WYNWOOD: Tour guide Mirka Harris, center, serves Key lime pie at Fireman Derek’s Bake Shop during a Miami Culinary Tour.
A TASTE OF WYNWOOD: Tour guide Mirka Harris, center, serves Key lime pie at Fireman Derek’s Bake Shop during a Miami Culinary Tour. For El Nuevo Herald

Exploring Wynwood is to get to better understand Miami’s culture, through street art and culinary arts. Its murals, graffiti, galleries, restaurants and stores reflect the spirit of a district that’s in continual movement.

That constant change is what draws people — mostly locals — to Miami Culinary Tours’ route through Wynwood, nicknamed the Miamian tour. The walking group ($69 a person) departs daily from Wynwood Walls, which has displayed outdoor works from more than 50 artists in 16 countries since its 2009 debut.

“This is an area that people in Miami don’t know so well, and that’s why 90 percent of those who participate in the tour are locals,” said Grace Della, founder and director of Miami Culinary Tours. “Sixty percent of what we discover is culinary, the rest is art and history.”

A recent group gathered next to a Dalai Lama poster by muralist Shepard Fairey, most famous for creating the 2008 “Hope” portrait featuring President Barack Obama.

“The story of the Wynwood neighborhood is tied to the deceased art collector and real estate promoter Tony Goldman, [who] thought up the idea of revitalizing the community and creating the largest concentration of street art,” tour guide Mirka Harris began. Then, dropping jaws: “And one square meter of a Fairey mural is valued between $10,000 and $40,000.”

Up first on the food tour is Wynwood Kitchen & Bar (2550 NW Second Ave.), where Harris explained the varied origins of what the group would be tasting.

“I don’t call it Latin food because the dishes are different in the countries where they originate. But in Miami, and more so in Wynwood, the talented chefs are creating their own versions of typical Latin dishes, of the food that is most sold in Miami and which the locals eat the most. It’s new Latino fusion.”

The restaurant sent out ropa vieja empanadas, chicken with chipotle, sweet maduros with whipped cream and other bites.

“This empanada is very different. The green sauce gives it a special touch,” said Michelle Garcia, a Doral resident who was on the tour with her sister, Karen Garcia of Coral Gables. “This was the best birthday gift for my sister. I knew she wouldn’t say no.”

Karolin and Peter Bendig, visiting from Germany, sipped on a La Rubia beer from Wynwood Brewing Co. (565 NW 24th St.) and joked with others about how their homeland created the hamburger and exported it to the world.

After Harris talked about the murals of Wynwood Walls changing in December before Art Basel Miami, the group dropped in to the Peter Tunney Experience (220 NW 26th St.), where the artist was at work in his gallery.

Tunney told his visitors about “the luck we have to be able to be here and now.”

The culinary tour continued toward Mmmm Wynwood (2519 NW Second Ave.) with a stop for fresh organic juices at JucyLu Life Market (2621 NW Second Ave.)

Esther Abreu was on her bachelorette party with friends. The Kendall resident, getting married this month, was born in New Jersey and is of Dominican and Italian descent. She said she enjoyed taking in the culture of one corner of Miami with her friends.

“It’s amazing to be here learning about the food and art of my city,” Abreu said. “I especially loved the mural of a woman breastfeeding by Swoon, and seeing the face of Flagler, the father of Miami, and a mural by Alexis Diaz.”

The group noshed on ahi tuna apps at R House (2727 NW Second Ave.), which Harris noted has monthly drag nights.

Broward County residents Elena Gorbacheva and Thomas Hecker signed up for the tour after Gorbacheva stopped in Wynwood for coffee one day.

“I wanted Thomas to experience its charm,” she said.

Hecker, amused to see a chicken roaming nearby, said he was “fascinated” by the experience.

“It’s different than Broward,” he said. “It’s another country.”

Jimmy Carey, chef-owner of Jimmy’z Kitchen (2700 N. Miami Ave.), came out of the kitchen to explain his mofongo dish to the group.

“It’s made of chicken, tomato sauce, onion and garlic,” said Carey, an Irish-American raised in Puerto Rico. “To eat it correctly, you have to smash the plantain down with the tomato.”

The route wraps up with stops at the new Made in Italy Gourmet (10 NE 27th St.) and Fireman Derek’s Bake Shop (2818 N. Miami Ave.), where visitors were tempted by smells of Key lime and other pies.

The Garcia sisters, who picked up cheeses and prosciutto at the last shop, couldn’t resist taking home a few of Fireman Derek’s pies for Karen’s birthday party.

Follow @IsabelOlmos on Twitter.