When Joe Allen closed its Miami Beach doors after more than a decade of serving New York ex-pats, patrons were devastated. Joe Allen, which served upscale versions of American comfort food -- pizzas, burgers, stews, meatloaf, and decadent gigantic desserts, was more than a restaurant. It was a place where many sought shelter from the spray tans, neon, and fake boobs of Ocean Drive just a short walk away. This was a restaurant where regulars found a seat at the bar or a table -- even when the reservation book was full. Co-owner/host/manager Mario Rubeo was always at the restaurant, making sure the staff were in top form at all times.
About six months after Joe Allen's South Beach demise, Cafe 46 has risen, like a slightly-ruffled phoenix from the ashes. Mario Rubeo has taken pretty much the same menu and moved it across the causeway to Miami. It may be coincidence or plain dumb luck that the new restaurant is located on 46th Street, since the flagship Joe Allen is located on W 46th Street on New York's famous Restaurant Row.
Cafe 46 is still a work in progress. It's darker and less polished than Joe Allen. A substantial wood bar serves only beer and wine for now. Exposed air ducts and unfinished floors give the restaurant a bohemian quality. Servers are dressed casually, in sneakers and chinos, as is none other than Mario Rubeo who, once again, is working the door. He greets everyone who comes in, mostly patrons from Joe Allen who have heard about this second coming from friends, since Rubeo does not have a PR firm hustling to get the word out. "Hey folks," he says as he hugs me. "Good to see you, but it's not Thursday."
I should note that my husband and I ate at Joe Allen's bar every
Thursday. When we first moved from New York to Miami Beach eight years
ago, we didn't know too many places for locals that wouldn't break the
bank. An internet search found Joe Allen. It was a familiar name, since
I worked in theater for years and relied on Joe Allen in New York as a
go-to place. The Miami Beach locale would become the same
As I look at the menu, there's a serious case of
déjà vu. Everything is the same -- from the type font to the
pan-roasted matzo chicken ($15) that my husband craved for the past six
months. I was almost teary eyed seeing my beloved bread pudding and
banana cream pie on the menu.
The food is almost exactly as it
was at Joe Allen. Without comparing item to item (and it's difficult not
to), the pan roasted corvina with lemon and capers ($24) was perfectly
cooked, served steaming hot, and wonderful. The matzo chicken was
moist, but the crust seemed a little too mealy.
Banana cream pie was large, with a rich banana taste that wasn't killed by adding lots of sugar.
we waited for our car from the valet ($3), I spoke with Mario for a
bit. He said the back of house staff is virtually the exact same crew,
but most of front of house is new (and, to be frank, that's where Cafe
46 needs improvement). He said that he thought of retiring, but got
bored. He spotted this space after a lunch in the neighborhood and knew
this was the place. "When we opened Joe Allen on Purdy, it was
industrial. There was nothing but warehouses in that area. But some
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condos had just come up and I took a chance. I feel the same about this
Déjà vu all over again.