Look, dining out on South Beach ain't cheap. Patrons are paying for the ambiance, a gander at celebs and models, and, ultimately, the high rents. Short Order gets that the following restaurants can be cost prohibitive. But if you are looking to make the scene on South Beach, and enjoy some delicious food in the process, these five spots are where you should park your (leveraged) Ferrari and pig out in style. LeBron James sighting optional.
Casa Tua does not make it easy for their patrons to find or snag a last-minute reservation. Walled off by high hedges and an imposing gate, Casa Tua is difficult to discover. Once you do make it inside, though, the hustle and bustle (and frankly some of the griminess) of South Beach melts away in this cozy, charming and chic Italian restaurant. Casa Tua is meant to evoke a friend's home in Italy: There is an open kitchen, communal table, outdoor courtyard and welcoming dining room, which is decorated with nostalgic pictures and books. All of this serves as foreplay for the terrific wines and pasta on Casa Tua's menu. Of course, luxury like this doesn't come cheap. Starters are in the $20 range (from tuna tartar to burrata), while pasta dishes span $22 to $38 (admittedly, the latter is tagliolini with crème fraiche and caviar). Meat and fish are even pricier with New York strip steak ($42), seared lamb chop ($40) and seared branzino ($38). However, the idyllic ambiance at Casa Tua makes up for the expense. To make it a full night, try to sneak upstairs to the members-only lounge, where you will mingle with socialites, minor royalty and models.
1700 James Ave., 305-673-0973
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Joe's Stone Crab
When it first debuted in 1913, Joe's was not expensive by any stretch of the imagination. The seafood eatery didn't even start serving stone crabs until 1921. And as recent as 1963, the tasty crustaceans were wholesaling for 30 cents a dozen. Times have changed and now an order of jumbo stone crab claws averages $65 a serving and $45 for large claws. Locals know to wait a few days after the October 15 annual reopening of Joe's to request said stone crabs in order to avoid any frozen ones leftover from the summer. Nevertheless, once you are hooked on stone crabs, they are a delicious, albeit costly, addiction. The venerable restaurant also serves a wide variety of fish spanning jumbo crab cakes ($19.95), sesame seared tuna ($25.95), ginger salmon ($19.95), sautéed scallops ($20.95), swordfish ($31.95) and mahi mahi ($23.95). Don't miss their coleslaw ($5.95), fried sweet potatoes ($6.50), grilled tomatoes ($6.25) or Key lime pie ($6.95).
11 Washington Ave., 305-673-0365
The epicenter for all things indulgent, excessive and fabulous, Prime 112 is also celeb central. This is where Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade hangs on a regular basis, as well as Michael Jordan, former President Bill Clinton and Kim Kardashian. Sink into an 8-ounce filet mignon ($38) or 14-ounce New York strip ($47) and you'll know why. Salads are gargantuan, too, especially their overflowing signature Prime 112 salad ($19) with romaine, spinach, hearts of palm, cucumber, grape tomatoes, asparagus, smoked bacon and green goddess dressing. There's also lobster bisque ($23), four-cheese fondue ($18), oysters Rockefeller ($18), deviled eggs with caviar ($18) and the infamous Kobe beef hot dog ($25). It's loud, chaotic and you may have to wait an hour for your table. But the food is spot-on, the service professional and the people-watching unprecedented.
112 Ocean Drive, 305-532-8112
You may need a second mortgage to dine at Nobu, but the fish is so fresh, pristine and innovatively prepared that it's worth the hefty bill. Not only did Nobu reinvent the way people eat sashimi, sushi and seafood, but their black cod with miso ($30) has been replicated on menus all over the world. So, too, has their rock shrimp tempura with spicy sauce ($24), an addictive tangle of fried, but not greasy, shrimp (you can also order it with a sweeter ponzu sauce). Other standout dishes span their lobster shitake salad ($40), yellowtail sashimi with jalapeno ($27), squid "pasta" ($23), seabass papillote ($48), tenderloin of beef ($46) and king crab leg with wasabi glaze ($38). Nobu also has the widest selection of sushi with options like fluke, hamachi, big eye tuna, bluefin toro, octopus, live scallop, sea urchin, queen conch and snow crab. And their "bento box" chocolate fondant with green tea ice cream has become a classic dessert.
1901 Collins Ave., 305-695-3232
Lincoln Road's priciest restaurant, Meat Market serves up creative steakhouse fare. Located in the former Pacific Time space, Meat Market's dining room is bright and straightforward. Clearly, the food is the star here, as chef/partner's Sean Brasel's dishes sparkle from the kitchen. It's also, as the name implies, a "meet market," where older men are dripping in flashy watches and even flashier blonde dates. You won't see any fat on the steak, nor the patrons. Appetizers start at $15 and top out at $22; go for the American Kobe beef sliders ($15) and crab and lobster cake ($19). In terms of steaks, the 12-ounce filet mignon is $44, the 28-ounce porterhouse is $60 and the six-ounce Japanese A5 Kobe beef rib eye is $95. A 6-ounce lobster tail can be added to any order for an additional $25 for the ultimate surf and turf action. There's also wild salmon ($33), seabass ($34) and blackened mahi mahi ($27). If you can't wrap your head (or wallet) around $60 steak, then hang by the crowded bar where maybe you'll meet your next Mr. Right Now.
915 Lincoln Road, 305-532-0088