Stepping into Mr. Wright’s Gold Digger Saloon in Wynwood, one is reminded of a now-shuttered Miami icon: Tobacco Road. Perhaps it's the dark wood bar or the Americana-themed knickknacks lining the walls, but both spots eschewed the usual Miami trappings of neon lights and palm trees.
Owner Jorge Moreno wanted to contrast the Old Havana style of his other establishment, Moreno’s Cuba in South Beach, with a gritty, whiskey-and-moonshine-style bar honoring the smugglers, brothels, and opportunists of turn-of-the-century Miami — Arizona, that is.
Moreno claims a man named Mr. Wright peddled elixirs and tonics in Miami, Arizona, during the late 1800s. "Around 5 o’clock, when the gold miners were on their way out of the mine, Mr. Wright would convert his healthy establishment into a bustling saloon and brothel called the Gold Digger."
The Gold Digger Saloon's decor is composed of Moreno’s personal collection of memorabilia, stained glass antiques, and thrift-store finds, as well as handmade wooden tables. The eclectic mix creates a comfy bohemian vibe that will immediately put any tired Wynwood wanderer at ease. The lighting is soft and muted, like a Chicago speakeasy during Prohibition. The saloon is open-air but temperature-controlled by fans or heat lamps as needed.
The menu, printed on parchment paper, lists cocktails and food selections. The tonic and elixirs section playfully warns that those wanting a piña colada should leave — this is a whiskey, tequila, and moonshine bar. Order a Gold Digger (whiskey straight up) or a To Kill Ya (tequila with a worm). There's also a wide selection of local beers.
Food options include cornbread ($6), Tequesta corn on the cob ($6), and homemade Indian empanadas ($8). Heartier eaters can chow down on the wild rice chicken plate or
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“As a child, I grew up watching Clint Eastwood Western movies and loving the soundtrack from Ennio Morricone," Moreno says. "I built Mr. Wright’s Gold Digger Saloon to live out my childhood dream. Mr. Wright’s Gold Digger Saloon also contrasts my Cuban roots that inspired my other restaurant, Moreno’s Cuba, on Miami Beach. I wanted to create a trip to another time, and that’s the Gold Digger Saloon.”
The saloon offers live music Wednesday through Sunday. In keeping with the nostalgic theme, tunes are mostly rockabilly, gypsy, flamenco, Latin classics, and '80s and '90s hits. Wednesday nights, Old World Gypsy presents live music and a huge pan of paella. Thursdays, Jorge Moreno’s band plays throwback Latin music.
Gold Digger's clientele has so far proven diverse: Tourists, hipsters, and bikers drink side-by-side, celebrating everything from birthdays to just a casual night out. The mix of patrons creates an easygoing atmosphere where everyone feels welcome.
Mr. Wright’s Gold Digger Saloon. 111 NE 20th St., Miami; 786-493-7537; mr-wrights.com.