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Wynwood Kitchen & Bar's Jennifer Wagoner on the Art of Gatekeeping

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This is The Gatekeepers, in which Eater roams the city meeting the fine ladies and gentlemen that stand between you and some of your favorite hard-to-get tables.
[Photo: Mark Roskams]

Jennifer Wagoner, manager of Wynwood Kitchen & Bar, has an impressive CV. An accredited sommelier, Wagoner has worked at Escopazzo and Wish, where she honed the wine list into a compilation of small production wines that earned theWine Spectator Award. But does she have the patience to deal with the antsy arty crowd that clogs her doorway? That's another story. But of course she does.

It's 8 p.m. on a Saturday night. Gallery Walk, no less. What's the wait for a table?
I'm thinking 30 minutes or so. Sip on a cocktail and walk around the walls and it doesn't feel like a wait at all.

What about earlier in the night?
Walk right in and relax. Get your seats for the parade.

Is there anything I can do to make my wait shorter? How about gifts or cash to speed things along?
Gifts or cash are always accepted. I can always use a new pair of shoes. Most of the time a smile will do and we get to everyone as they come in.

How many seats are in the restaurant?
Tell us about your favorite customers
They are the ones who value what we are creating here as a community. The art lovers, the families, the creators, our neighbors. The ones that come in and bring the passion of what they do into the space.

Do you get a lot of celebrities---real celebrities, not reality stars or celebs in their own minds?
We get our fair share of celebrities. Everyone here is famous.

How do you deal with VIPs when there are no tables left to give?
We build tables in the warehouse next door.

What's the most outrageous request from a customer that you've accommodated?
Nothing seems that outrageous. I always try to make things happen.

Any requests you couldn't accommodate?
No live tigers.

What's your favorite seat in the house?
Either right next to Slim (our David Sherry sculpture) in the Christian Awe room or outside on the grass, smack in the middle of it all.

Any secret off the menu items people can order?
Nice try.

When you're not at Wynwood Kitchen & Bar, where are you eating?
On the beach.

What's your most important gatekeeper tool?
A smile and a good sense of humor.