A Miami couple’s decision to open The Copper Door B&B in Historic Overtown launched an entrepreneurial dream intended to last a lifetime. It also set Jamila Ross and Akino West on a course that personifies the proverb, “When God closes a door, He opens a window.”
“When we opened the bed and breakfast, we also curated breakfast for our guests. When the pandemic hit, we created Rosie’s,” says Ross, creative brand director for Copper Door Properties and the Independent Hospitality Group.
After coronavirus restrictions shuttered businesses, the innkeepers started offering their buzz-worthy breakfast and brunch dishes to go. Chef West shares how the idea for Rosie’s Pop-up materialized. “It became part of what people knew us for at Copper Door, serving breakfast. One day our lawyer said, ‘You should start serving some of the food you used to serve at Copper Door.’”
Ross pursued funding avenues to expand the Copper Door owners’ options. A small federal loan and $10,000 grant from Beyoncé’s Beygood Foundation and the NAACP helped renovate the B&B and kept a revised dream alive. Rosie’s Pop-up soon became an outdoor patio destination with long lines of foodie fans.
“We took that money and purchased a food trailer. The food trailer gave us an opportunity to have a full kitchen and cook real food out of that space,” West explains. “From there, it became a super special place, and people knew what we were trying to do.”
The name Rosie’s reflects the spouses’ beliefs about making their businesses serve more than a monetary purpose. “The name came from Jamila’s mom,” says West. “The concept was to pay homage and tribute to our grandmothers and moms who took care of us. We built a concept based on them, the love and the family we’ve created together. That’s the bigger story.”
Ross calls Rosie’s a cute and marketable name and mentions that her mother loves the tribute. The pop-up’s story also includes the couple demonstrating the kindness their parents taught them. She and West joined with World Central Kitchen and other charitable organizations to feed hungry people in Miami. “We worked with a lot of great chefs and a lot of great organizations that were all about feeding the homeless or the impoverished during that time frame,” West says.
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“It was very, very busy. It’s great to give back to those in need,” remarks Ross. By August 2021, Rosie’s Pop-up was on the move after the B&B closed. The owners knew the pop-up concept deserved its own space and began planning for the new location.
Rosie’s: The Backyard
This past summer, Rosie’s: The Backyard began welcoming guests to a new full-service restaurant in Miami’s Little River community. Patrons dine outdoors at 7127 NW 2nd Avenue under trees and umbrellas. The menu incorporates some of the pop-up’s most popular dishes with new creations.
“Our menu highlights Southern American classic brunch items. We take pride in incorporating Italian nuances and cooking techniques into the menu,” says co-owner Ross. Chef West, her husband and partner, continues, “Southern food was something I grew up with and really loved. I just wanted to depict this in a way that can be seen as more elevated. And then what I really enjoy cooking outside of southern food is Italian cuisine.”
Open Thursday to Sunday, The Backyard seats about 80, double the previous capacity, and takes reservations. Ross admits Rosie’s outdoor setting presents some challenges in Florida’s heat. “All of our guests have stuck it out with us and have been great along the way on rainy days or days warmer than others. We’re excited to continue into the fall and winter seasons when it will be a little cooler.”
The excellent craft drinks and lighter brunch fare appeal to some patrons. “We have more items we started playing around with that are lighter, like our fresh smoked salmon dip or our seasonal burrata. It was served with mangos, and now it’s peaches,” Chef West says.
The mango is fresh off a tree on the grounds of The Backyard. The owners make it a point to buy top-quality cheeses, bread and other products from local purveyors. Diners seeking Rosie’s most popular dishes tend to order the chicken and waffles, chicken and biscuits, lemon ricotta pancakes, shrimp and grits, and a housemade pastrami hash with sweet potato, green onion gremolata and feta cheese.
“We do a 24-hour braised brisket that’s rubbed and brined for seven days before that, and then it is smoked for eight hours. Our pastrami hash is the most creative dish on the menu,” notes Rosie’s chef.
Rosie’s current location is a stepping stone to what will become the pop-up’s permanent home. West and Ross chose the property for the grounds and an old 1,800-square-foot house they hope to finish renovating next year. “It’s an old home that I think was built in the 1940s or so,” says West. “It has a pretty decrepit roof. We have to raise the roof and increase the height from eight feet to 12 feet, which will allow for the expansion of the restaurant space.”
Before Rosie’s moved to Little River, the pop-up spent time in Allapattah. Ross and West housed it inside another restaurant concept they developed, 7th Café, which operates on the ground floor of an office building Monday through Friday.
Ross clarifies how 7th differs from Rosie’s. “It is a casual dining experience meant for people on the go. The concept is all-American, with fresh bagels each morning, house-smoked pastrami and a great omelet with smoked salmon. The menu includes a bacon, egg and cheese breakfast sandwich New York is known for.”
Chef West came up with the 7th Café menu that celebrates his wife’s NYC roots. “The idea was to create a concept based on where she is from, New York. It is food that she loves and cares about and that I fell in love with when she took me there.”
It is no surprise that Rosie’s owners are curators of more than one culinary concept. Together they have more than 30 years of experience as food and beverage professionals. West worked for a James Beard award-winning Miami chef, Michael Schwartz. He also spent time at the three-Michelin-starred NOMA in Denmark.
Although Ross focuses on managing their restaurant operations, she graduated from the Culinary Institute of America. She worked for famed Chef Jose Andres in Beverly Hills and Miami earlier in her career. “Jamila can throw down, and she definitely has a lot of input into our menus,” her husband acknowledges with enthusiasm.
What Ross enjoys most now is telling stories through the food the couple’s restaurants present to patrons. “For example, Akino has been working on our buttermilk biscuit recipe over the last ten years or so. I like having those types of conversations and integrating our guests into the thought processes, love and dedication behind the dishes. That well-rounded experience is what I love to share.”
So what motivates these culinary curators to keep going and trying new approaches to being restaurant entrepreneurs? “The positive response from the community and our guests has been so fulfilling. That along with having people on our team who wake up each morning, come to work and stick with us through the hard times and the great times and feel inspired by what we are doing,” Ross says.
West agrees the passion they and their team put into the Independent Restaurant Group’s concepts uplifts everyone involved. “We want them to be inspired by our story, what we are here to create and what we have accomplished so far. That’s been the motivating part, to see how they have taken our story and inspiration and created this big picture.”
As they look toward tomorrow, Rosie’s owners are sharpening their focus on the fine-dining concept planned for a renovated house in Little River. “Right now, we’re known as a brunch venue. With the permanent space, we’ll include afternoon snacks, happy hour, a full-service dinner menu and bar seating,” says Ross.
The Miami restaurateurs hope to break ground on the construction this year. The historic feel that Little River’s developers are preserving and the diversity that new businesses represent excite The Backyard’s founders. “When you get everyone to come to one table, there’s no diversity or culture at that point. It’s just we’re here together as a family. That’s what I love about what we do,” West comments.
His partner is thrilled about the future envisioned for their employees. “I look forward to creating a strong foundation within all of our restaurants, one that includes health care and other employment benefits. We want to provide an educational system based on professional growth and industry advancement for our team.”
Rosie’s creators hope their restaurant will earn a James Beard Award or a Michelin star once it has a permanent home. Ross and West know for sure that they will continue investing in dreams with a purpose. Chef West concludes, saying, “I’m here to provide great hospitality, dining experiences and memorable conversations. What we’ve created is special and unique. That’s where we want to shine.”