My family and I had a simple, light lunch at Joe's not too long ago. It was our first time in Miami, and thus, at the original.
I've been to Joe's Seafood, Prime Steaks & Stone Crab in Chicago, a collaboration between Joe's Stone Crab and the Chicago-based Levy Restaurant Group, and I have to say, that the atmosphere of the original one in Miami, though similar, is much better. In large part, this is because the restaurant has bright windows that (on a sunny day, like the day we went), lets in gobs of wonderful sea-side sunshine. The one in Chicago is much darker - the main dining room tucked away from natural light and much more masculine and steak-housey.
Service here was stellar. It's the type of brassy but attentive march of the penguins - efficient, slightly gruff, but accommodating tuxedo'ed men and women.
The food is way over-priced, but very good. (You can see and read more detailed information about what we ordered and ate by clicking here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ulterior...) I saw it as paying for the experience more than the food. I have no idea what the going rate is for stone crab claws. I won't pretend to know. What I do know is that $34 seemed like an awful lot of money to lay down for seven ("Select" size) claws. But they were good - cracked and prepped all ready for you to de-shell (just enough to make you believe you actually got the experience of eating shell-in crab without all the mess)... so, I guess, I was more than fine with $34 for 7 "Select"-sized claws as the going rate.
I absolutely abhor iceberg lettuce. I rarely meet a salad using iceberg that actually appeals to me. When I see/hear people ordering it, I want to pull my hair out. Let's just all admit that the famous steak house "Wedge" is just a vehicle for blue cheese and bacon - it's not a salad at all. This being said, Joe's "Chopped Salad," - a mix of iceberg, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, and carrots all chopped up and tossed with canned black olives, honey-roasted peanuts and feta cheese managed to tame my violent objections to the appearance of the otherwise worthless lettuce. It was the vinaigrette, actually... it was wonderful. It could have made moldy bread taste like a slice of heaven. For the same reason, the restaurant's "Lettuce, Tomato, Onion" salad though spartan, seemed inspired. The recipe is on Joe's Stone Crab's website.
I know that everyone RAVES about Joe's key lime pie. They're famous for it (and, apparently, everything else on their menu). I found this beautiful wedge disappointing. I think that a few things contributed to my disappointment:
1. The pie had obviously been pre-cut and stored in a deep refrigerator. It was served near-frozen. This is one of the biggest turn offs for me. While I don't mind a chilled, pie, I really should haven't to cut my pie with a fork and knife. The cold state also negatively affect the state of the curd. The curd had hardened and became a terribly rich play dough-like consistency that made an unpleasant eating experience - it was like eating frozen paste - you had to let the curd melt in your mouth, which totally numbed the tastebuds... I couldn't taste the graham crust.
2. The curd was too sweet. Only when I studied the picture that I took of it did I noticed (but not at the time we ate it) that there appears to be something poured over the pie - like a sugar glaze (you can see it dripping down the sides of the pie). I wanted more of the key lime tang.
Am I convinced that Joe's Stone Crab has the best stone crabs? No. Am I convinced that they have the best key lime pie? Definitely not. Am I convinced they can do magical things with iceberg lettuce. Absolutely. Was I pleased with my overall experience at Joe's? As punch.
I can see Joe's becoming a special light lunch tradition if/when I visit South Beach in the future. Otherwise, I can be happy knowing I've been once.