Food

Hipsters love this bar. Foodies love this restaurant. But both have to leave Wynwood

Bon Appetit named Palmar Chinese restaurant in Wynwood one of the top 50 restaurants in the country.
Bon Appetit named Palmar Chinese restaurant in Wynwood one of the top 50 restaurants in the country.

The last hipster out of Wynwood can now turn off the lights.

A blockbuster real estate deal announced Thursday to bring high-rise apartments with galleries and restaurants to Wynwood will displace a seminal craft beer bar that helped spark Miami’s craft beer boom and made Wynwood a cool-kid hangout. And it also means the end for Palmar, a modern Chinese restaurant that Bon Appetit named one of the country’s best new restaurants last summer.

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Adam Darnell and his wife, Nicole, a fourth-generation Miamian, started Boxelder Craft Beer Market in 2014 as South Florida’s craft beer scene was just taking off. Many credit the couple with nurturing that growth as they featured craft beer from around the country and boosted local brewers by selling their beers. It was home for the mustachioed, the bearded and the remaining local artists in the neighborhood.

Behind the bar, they invited local chefs to try out new ideas. They became an incubator for pop-ups such as Steve Santana’s (Taquiza) Super Good Chicken and Michelle Bernstein protégé Michael Ombia’s United States Burger Service. El Bagel food truck parked there for two years and recently announced a stand-alone restaurant.

But as Wynwood transitioned from neighborhood cool-kid hangout to full-on tourist destination, Adam Darnell said he saw his regulars disappear.

“The people who supported us haven’t been by regularly in a long time. Our business was as a neighborhood bar and I just don’t think it’s a fit for Wynwood anymore,” he said.

The independent breweries that made Wynwood a scene also mostly disappeared.

Labeled one of the hippest neighborhoods by TripAdvisor, Wynwood will have new office buildings, apartments, and even parking.

Wynwood Brewing, the first craft brewery in Miami, merged with the publicly traded Craft Beer Alliance. Anheuser-Busch InBev opened a brewery here under the name Veza Sur. Boston Brewing Company wholly owns Concrete Beach Brewing. And the Heineken-owned Lagunitas Brewing bought a 28,000-square-foot warehouse last year, where it will build another corporate-owned brewery.

Only J. Wakefield Brewing, whose beers have been recognized as some of the best in the country, remains independent in Wynwood.

“As the big guys are trying to get in there, we’re trying to get out,” Adam Darnell said. “For us, Wynwood has been complicated the last few years.”

Palmar was another casualty. In August of 2018, Bon Appetit named it one of its top 50 nominees for best new restaurant.

“Wynwood is hot and it’s not going to stop,” Palmar owner Javier Ramirez said. “It’s going to look like Midtown in five years.”

Wynwood remains a hot spot for higher end restaurants: Alter, by the James Beard nominated chef Brad Kilgore; Kyu, an Asian-inspired woodfire cuisine spot by chef Michael Lewis; and Brian Nasajon’s Beaker & Gray.

Boxelder and Palmar were told in an email that redevelopment wouldn’t begin for at least 18 months as The Collective, a British startup that has 8,000 co-living units operating or under development in Europe, takes over. Both were told they would be invited to return after the 2- to 3-year buildout. But both are looking for their next projects outside of Wynwood.

The Darnells are working with Taquiza’s Santana to open a new microbrewery, Offsite, at 8250 NE Second Ave. in Little River, where they will serve Santana’s Super Good fried chicken. And Adam Darnell said he is looking for another spot for Boxelder in downtown Miami. He said he will use the buyout clause in his real estate lease — he had signed a 5-year renewal on June 1 — as “moving money.”

Ramirez said he’s looking at locations in downtown, as well as Little Havana, for Palmar. In the meantime, Palmar has a second location in Little River’s food hall, The Citadel.

“We’re actually glad to be getting out of Wynwood,” Adam Darnell said. “Our demographic doesn’t venture out here anymore.”

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Miami Herald food editor Carlos Frías won the 2018 James Beard award for excellence in covering the food industry. A Miami native, he’s also the author of “Take Me With You: A Secret Search for Family in a Forbidden Cuba.”
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