With nearly 200 restaurants offering Miami Spice, "where do you want to go for dinner" takes on an entirely new level of stress.
It may seem surprising that we chose Morton's the Steakhouse out of all the participating local restaurants, but we were curious to see how they handle Spice. We were also in the mood for steak.
There's a reason why high-end chains like Morton's, Capital Grille, and Houston's have staying power. There's consistency at these places. That's important for weary business travelers who are simply too tired to "explore" new dining experiences and simply want a well-cooked dinner and a dry martini.
There's also a sense of familiarity. One local (and very creative) chef confided the other day that one of his favorite restaurants has always been -- and still is -- Houston's. "Maybe it's the food... but it could be the fact that I've been eating there since I was a kid and I have such good memories."
The first Morton's opened in Chicago in 1978 by Arnie Morton and Klaus Fritsch, who met each other while working at the Playboy Club in Montreal. It's now part of Landry's, a mega-giant in the restaurant and hospitality business that owns Chart House, Rainforest Cafe, and the Golden Nugget Casino, to name a few.
The steakhouse chain prides itself in serving only USDA Prime beef and has its own VIP rewards program, working much like a frequent flier program.
The Morton's in Brickell is an interesting location. While most restaurants are on the street level of office buildings or perched on the high floors of hotels, this one is located in the basement. There are no windows, making the dining room seem a little cavelike and claustrophobic. On a Thursday at 9 p.m., there were a handful of diners. The restaurant clearly caters to an "after work" crowd.
Once seated at a leather banquet, the show began. Our server handed us the obligatory oversized wine list, along with the menu. We were presented with a loaf of warm, yeasty bread by one person. Another person catered to our water needs. Cocktails were delivered to our table in a flash in a seamless display of professionalism. Plates were cleared, crumbs cleaned, silverware and napkins refreshed in the most seamless of ways. No one tried to "upsell" us when we asked for the Miami Spice deal.
The Miami Spice is offered for dinner seven days a week ($39) and features the usual steakhouse classics. Appetizers include Cesar salad, Heirloom tomato salad, and onion soup.
Entrees include a six-ounce center cut filet mignon (upgrade to a larger portion of meat for $10), honey-glazed salmon filet, baked stuffed shrimp, or chicken bianco with artichoke and capers.
Dessert choices are creme brulee, Key lime pie, or chocolate mousse.
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The food was all serviceable and well-cooked. There were no surprises here. No foie gras foams, no liquid nitrogen cocktails, no eel crudo, no celebrity chef. Was it a core shaker that we'll remember on our deathbeds? No.
But the service was impeccable and the food solid. The meal was civilized and the restaurant calm. There were no slightly inebriated parties. No celebrity sightings. No one was tweeting their meal. This was the business class of dinners. After a long, hard day at the office, whether you're on the road or close to home, there's something to be said for that.