Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
To call the Lorraine a quirky mom-and-pop operation is probably too charitable. The lobby carries an eerie, slightly tense feeling. On the afternoon of my arrival there was no music, and the most consistent background sound was that of the wall-mounted air-conditioning unit, not so hidden behind an old tube TV. Guests generally didn't stick around long; they waited to attend to business with the staff and then departed. The near-silence broke when staff members conversed among themselves in Spanish, but that happened relatively rarely. When I sneezed, the sound echoed across the room. The overhanging dullness was further enforced by a lonely coffee machine in the corner, lacking cups. The following morning, the TV had been turned on to Fox News -- at least that's something to mask the silence.
The liveliest lobby moment came when Luis, who worked in the office, sat on one of the lobby's leather sofas to make a cell-phone call: "You're going to turn into a fucking Big Mac with long hair," he told whomever.
Given the cheap rates, the Lorraine attracts a lot of younger guests looking to party. Among the clientele, I spotted several 20-something American women who brought in a cardboard box full of liquor and mixers. With few bars in the immediate area, they were wise to make drinks in the room. The rooms offer mini-fridges for liquor storage and meager space to make drinks.
Service is scarce and often unprofessional -- several of my requests were met with no action at all.
My room lacked pots and pans for use on the stove, as well as cups to drink from the faucet. Furthermore, the dispenser for shower soap had not been replaced. I called the front-desk clerk to fix the problem. After waiting 45 minutes, no one showed up. When I checked back later at the front desk, the clerk told me someone would bring the soap up. I waited for 30 minutes, and again received no soap.
The desk staff is occasionally curt, and often impolite. A member of the housekeeping staff conversed in Spanish with the front-desk attendant while a different guest waited to be helped. The clerk turned to him only after he had finished his conversation. TripAdvisor users also complain about the service, calling it both "unaccommodating" and "unfriendly." My experience backs up that assessment.
At one point, Luis, who worked in the front office, sat on a sofa in the lobby to field a loud, profanity-peppered phone call. Because he wore wraparound shades and jeans, it initially didn't seem like he worked for the hotel. I only became sure he was an employee when, after initially saying, "We don't provide parking," he helped several guests find a space to park.
In a display of relaxation rarely seen at any hotel, several members of the staff accepted a Domino's pizza delivery at the front desk, and left the box there. They served the slices onto plates and ate them, lunch-counter style, at the front desk. In fairness, it was slow and therefore few guests would have seen this, but still.
On the other hand, one desk staff member was willing to offer her opinions on where to eat, sending me 10 blocks south to a Peruvian restaurant on 16th Street and Washington called Chalan on the Beach. The place doesn't have a Web site, but here's Citysearch's take. I'm no Peruvian food expert, but I enjoyed the Pescado a lo Macho.
It's near the beach beach, but there's not much to eat nearby, a busy intersection, and low to moderate foot traffic at night.
At 26th Street and Collins Avenue, the Lorraine is right on the Miami Beach/South Beach border. It's much closer to the action than, say, the Holiday Inn or the Four Points Sheraton, its Miami Beach counterparts about 20 blocks north. It's by no means in the heart of the action, and it doesn't carry the street noise of properties further south, but there's a very chi-chi restaurant and lounge scene forming around the Gansevoort Hotel, only three blocks south.
One condo building separates the Lorraine from the beach. The pathway to the boardwalk and beach begins at the end of the block. To the west, across Collins Avenue, there is a wooden path that sits immediately on Indian Creek. It's a nice place to snap some photos of fancy boats and waterfront homes.
On Collins Avenue, most of the Lorraine's neighbors are apartment buildings. Cars take the turn from Indian Creek Drive onto Collins at high speeds, requiring that parents, and even solo pedestrians, show vigilance.
A Dutch-Indonesian restaurant, Indomania, is the nearest dining option. Urbanspoon users give Indomania an 86 percent approval rating. The Miami New Times has also given it a positive review. Many guests get their morning coffee and breakfast goods from Bros Cafe, a bodega/deli on Collins that shares the building with the Lorraine. Other businesses in the Lorraine's building include a salon, a travel office, and a tobacco shop.
The approach to the beach means a one-block walk on 26th Street, past an apartment-building parking lot and a private pool.
The beach itself is wider here than it is 20 blocks north, where most Miami Beach resorts are located. But the beach here isn't as crowded as the area along Ocean Drive, 10 blocks south. I spotted families with small children playing in the waves, as well as some dudes tossing a football accompanied by some female peers. Overall, the beach is fairly quiet and spacious. There is a scattering of seaweed, like anywhere in Miami Beach, but very little litter.
The décor -- off-white and pale green walls and bright white sheets -- reflects plenty of sunlight and gives the room an airy, spacious feel. But some key details are a little off-putting. Important phone numbers are listed on a photocopied piece of paper that's taped to the wall above the nightstand. Classy. The kitchenette, which lacked pots for the stove or even glasses for water, is equipped with a mini-fridge that has moderate rust stains below the ice tray.
The bed in the room where I stayed is a bit hard, and the mattresses errs on the thin side. But the sheets are smooth and comfortable, and I slept fairly soundly. For the same price, I got a much more comfortable bed at the Metropole, a quiet place much closer to the South Beach action. (Although I stayed at Metropole on a Thursday night, versus Friday night at Lorraine.)
However, hallway noise is an issue. At 7 a.m., I woke to voices reverberating along the halls and the echoes of doors slamming shut.
Electronics: just a Philips clock radio and an old, 20-inch Sanyo tube TV that hangs in the corner beside the balcony door.
Deluxe rooms feature small balconies with two wrought-iron chairs, and a table of the same design. The banister is pretty worn and clearly needs to be repainted. The outside doorknob has paint speckled on it. The view of 26th Street and Collins Avenue isn't a pure oceanfront vista, but I frequently found myself out there, enjoying the ocean breeze and watching passersby.
The bathroom is passable, but had some notable flaws. There is some dark coloration on the grout in the shower, and the shower head has some rust buildup on its nozzles. Fans of fancy toiletries would not be impressed with the 1980s gas-station bathroom/YMCA "hand/face" soap dispenser. A separate dispenser for body wash had been removed from the bathroom, and when I called to get some to the room, no one responded. Though these dispensers are common among low-end Caribbean hotels, they're virtually unheard of in Miami, even at the cheapest hotels.
No pool, no gym, and a negligible business center. Thankfully, Wi-Fi is free, strong and fairly consistent.
The business center, if one could call it that, is a single computer next to the front desk, lacking a printer.
When I went to check out the guest laundry facilities on the lower level, a staff member informed me that guests are not supposed to be there. It wasn't a great place to hang out anyway, so I obliged and took off.
The Lorraine is a worn, dingy property in an off-beach location with plenty of roadway traffic and nothing on-site for kids to do.
The clientele here tends to be at or near college-age, and there's a busy intersection about 50 feet from the hotel's entrance. Families don't need to cross it to get to the beach. But access to the Intracoastal Waterway involves negotiating the busy interchange.
Between the party-ready clientele and lack on-site kids activities (or even a pool), the Lorraine isn't great for families. I didn't spot a single young child during my stay. Most of the clientele are young adults there to soak in the Miami Beach party scene, with an occasional married couple or business traveler.
There's some rust, mildew and mold in the bathroom, but the rest of the room -- and the hotel -- is fairly clean.
Several flaws in the bathroom overshadow a very clean bedroom area, which is spotless aside from some rust on the fridge. In the bathroom, the grout between the tiling in the shower shows discoloration, the shower head is rusting, and the area beneath the sink looks like a mold-growing Petri dish.
As for the remainder of the hotel, the lobby and hallways are generally orderly, barring some sugar spilled on the lobby coffee table and left overnight.
Most guests dislike the Bros Café, the on-site deli. Nearby, there are a few options -- most dining is about 10 blocks south.
On site, there's the Bros Café, which is really just an ordinary deli counter. Most guests aren't enthralled with the place. Colin Crotta of San Francisco, a University of Colorado -- Boulder student in town for the Ultra Music Festival, said that the service at Bros Café is bad and the methods of preparation don't seem clean. He said he'd seen the staff placing his hamburger on an unclean surface before serving it. He said his biggest complaint about staying at the Lorraine was that there was "no good food anywhere near here." My bacon, egg and cheese bagel was far from excellent, so it might be best to stick with coffee and prepackaged food.
There's a handful of other restaurants in the vicinity of the hotel, including the chichi Chow restaurant in the Gansevoort Hotel (three blocks away) or an Oyster favorite for high-end Italian, Talula, only four blocks south of the hotel. But the majority of dining in South Beach is about 10 blocks south at the Lincoln Road Mall.
No pool, no direct beach access, no gym, weak service, gas station-style soap dispensers in the moldy bathrooms, and all in an off-beat location -- the Lorraine is a rip-off. Though the rooms come with kitchenettes, the hotel doesn't stock the essential tools to make them useful. For the same price, go with the Townhouse Hotel.