An IABC conference tradition is the “dine around”. Since conferences are held in various cities, this gives the hosting chapter a chance to showcase restaurants in their cities. They select a few restaurants and conference delegates sign up to go to one. The fun part is you never know who you will meet on the dine around. Sometimes, you make connections and memories you soon will not forget.
Such was the case in Miami. I met my group in the hotel lobby, which was packed with people, an indication of what was to come. Other groups going to other restaurants were meeting there too and we watched as one by one they piled into cabs and left. We were the last group in line for a cab so we headed outside and waited. And waited and waited. After one hour of waiting for a cab, we contemplated walking. It seemed like a short walking distance, the problem was (as we were told by hotel staff) it wasn’t a safe area. We were tired, we were hungry, and we were thirsty. Clearly it was starting to show since the next thing we knew, one of the hotel managers in charge of our conference was offering to drive us in her car. So off we went. She wasn’t familiar with the area and we got lost. When we got back on track, we were further delayed by a critical mass meet up. We got dizzy watching bike after bike buzz past us, so we turned around and tried to find another way there.
It was only 10 minutes away, but it had taken an hour and a half it took us to get there. We reached our destination in the Wynwood Art District, a restaurant named after it’s location, Wynwood Kitchen and Bar. It didn’t look like much on the outside but none of us expected what we saw when we walked into the brick building. Art covered the walls of two large dining areas. We walked past through them out onto a covered patio. We took a few moments to take in the floor to ceiling covered walls, it was then that I realized a different artist “owned” each wall. This wall is described by the restaurant’s website as “retro imagery such as food and airline advertising, and the result is an all-American surrealism that inspires, charms, disturbs and amuses”. There was a grass covered area where a band stood on a raised platform playing jazz music. I barley noticed them because the murals on the walls behind them were breathtaking. We then realized there was much more to explore on the Wynwood Walls beyond where the band stood and made a note to do so after our meal.
I had a hard time with the menu because I wanted everything. My options for soup alone was a hard decision: gazpacho or black bean – two of my all time favourites. It was another tapas-style restaurant even though the group didn’t know one another well, we all shared our dishes with each other. Roasted beets, empanadas, pork belly, mexican elote (corn) and the grilled skirt steak with chimichurri sauce were only some of what I managed to sample. All excellent, so much so that we almost forgot the complications we had getting there. They offer a menu of artist inspired cocktails, each cocktail as unique as the artist it’s named after.
After our meal we got up and walked around explored the rest of the walls and artwork. What a brilliant idea to combine nuevo latino cuisine and showcase these artists all under one roof. It was one of the most unique dining experiences I’ve had. We walked out satisfied with our meals and even more satisfied with the cultural experience. Check out all the artists here.