The Bitches love Miami. The warm weather, the tropical vibes, the handsome men, the posh hotels, and the great brunch. What more could you want?
A half a dozen of us wound up in Miami last weekend unexpectedly. We had intended to enjoy a relaxing week of hiking, boat rides, massages, and meals prepared by an in-house chef at villa in St. Lucia. I’d really been looking forward to island vibes, rest, and relaxation. Then, we spent several days in airports thanks to Hurricane Matthew. Since half of the group was stranded in Miami, I made the executive decision for a change of plans—we were off to Florida.
While we were still able to make use of our tropical pool floats, Miami was, expectedly, much faster paced than the islands. We spent a whirlwind few days partying poolside and then partying some more at South Beach night clubs and Brickell bars, punctuated by shopping and beaching. Salsa was danced. Phones were lost. Boys were kissed. Hangovers were cured by the hair of the dog.
After five rowdy days, we convened on Sunday for brunch. The destination of choice was 27 Restaurant at the Freehand Hotel, a tropical hostel on Miami Beach with a great outdoor cocktail bar and restaurant.
Freehand is a total hidden gem in Miami Beach. From the outside, it doesn’t look like much, but we could have spent hours hanging out at this hostel, pool, bar, and restaurant. The bright colors and leafy cover provided a hipster oasis in the hubbub of Miami Beach. We waited a bit for a table, sitting poolside and observing the mix of visitors from around the world. We acknowledged that we should have come by earlier with our pool floats in tow as this was definitely a place to stay awhile.
Our group of six was seated inside the cottage-like restaurant, located alongside the pool and filled with kitschy curios—vintage relics that a hip Florida grandmother may have in her home.
The mismatched china, postcard from Florida-inspired placemats, and quirky furniture made the restaurant feel like a cozy artist retreat. The cocktail menu was creative with options like the Salty Dog, the Smoky Margarita, and the Colada Chico. Alana ordered the Brunchy Spritz, a light, refreshing beverage with vodka, aperol, passion fruit and Florida citrus. Several ladies ordered the Campari OJ, with Campari and citrus drink that looked deceptively like grapefruit juice.
Cara and I ordered the Cold Brew cocktail, which was made with Amaro Averna, cold brew from local roastery Panthe, an Allspice reduction, and Hazelnut whipped cream. It was heavenly.
We started out with a round of appetizers from the menu that features inventive dishes from all around the world.
First, the pan de bono—as any Brazilian dish does well with this group. The petite bread rolls were served piping hot and filled with cheese. The guava butter was an innovative accompaniment. We can appreciate nearly any carb filled with cheese so this was right up our alley.
While not terribly global, the pecan bun was utterly delicious. Sticky, sugary, and moist—this was a very happy way to start brunch. We kept going back for bites after our entrees since it made a perfect dessert.
We also ordered the ceviche, which was prepared in the Asian style—in a sweet soy sauce with fresh veggies. We loved it.
Before heading to the beach for some last minute fun in the sun, Shruti went with the falafel salad for something light but hearty. The colorful plate consisted of fresh veggies, pickled salad, hummus, and tabbouleh. She went straight in for the hummus and pita. The pita was slightly burnt and tasted more like paratha. The falafel was flavorful and well prepared. She noted that falafel can sometimes be too dry, but this was perfectly moist. However, the real winner on this plate was the Tabbouleh salad, which was incredibly satisfying and savory thanks to the fresh mint.
Alexis, along with Cara, opted for the carne asada tamales. On this trip, both ladies had been particularly in sync with their choices in food, but always had ordered their own dishes as opposed to sharing. This dish is one that was worth sharing—it was plentiful! Alexis enjoyed the thick tomatillo salsa that came atop of the tamales—salsa verde is a favorite of hers and this one was exceptional. The tamales were warm, and while the corn mixture with tamales can often be dry, this one was not. The poached egg on top rounded out this dish and made it the perfect spicy, savory brunch dish.
Alana, with her ever adventurous spirit, ordered the Bibimbap. Bibimbap is a culturally popular dish in Korea, and literally means “mixed rice.” The Korean offering is just one of the many diverse flavors the restaurant brings from the mix of Miami proper. For those of you who have never had Bibimbap, it’s like a do-it-yourself fried rice, minus the fried. The black sticky rice base is covered with a mix of fresh vegetables—from parsley to thin zucchini slices—all smothered in rich Asian spices and topped with a soft boiled egg. Alana found it maintained the integrity of the spice and diversity of Miami, while adding a new flavor to the traditionally Korean plate. Hearty and flavorful, the Bibimbap left her feeling energized and ready for some artisan craft shopping in Wynwood.
Annie is a sucker for Shakshuka so she knew she wanted it immediately. 27 Restaurant serves a traditional Israeli Shakshuka. She was disappointed to find that the baked eggs were overwhelmed by the sauce; she’d prefer a more equal ratio. But the sauce had a nice zing to it, and she happily sopped up the remaining sauce with the grilled ciabatta.
I ordered the steak and eggs, as I often do. The moist, tender hanger steak was cooked on the rarer side of medium-rare, but I didn’t mind. The eggs were perfectly fried sunny side up. I wasn’t crazy about the hash browns, because I don’t love it when they’re chopped into little squares. I find it boring.
The service was candid and even a tad goofy, but it perfectly fit the vibe of the restaurant. We were utterly charmed by the entire experience.
The Bitches say: A, for a tropical oasis hidden in a hostel on Miami Beach. Enjoy delicious, global fare then spend your day drinking cocktails from the Broken Shaker poolside hanging with both locals and international tourists at this kitschy hostel.
27 Restaurant at the Freehand
2727 Indian Creek Drive
Miami Beach, Florida
The Freehand serves brunch on Sundays starting at 11 a.m.