The Meatball Joint Closes

The Meatball Joint, Bernie Matz's third South Beach restaurant, closed yesterday evening with a meatball and craft beer party, thrown by chef/owner Bernie Matz.

The restaurant, which opened spring of 2012, was located on Alton Road, adjacent to chef Matz's Bernie's L.A. Cafe.

Matz, who also runs the popular Cafe at Books & Books on Lincoln Road, told Short Order that while his meatball restaurant was popular, financially the restaurant wasn't making a profit. "The Meatball Joint was a labor of love, but the numbers weren't there in the summer, which went into a tough fall."

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Matz said that he owns the Meatball Joint trademark and that the brand name is strong. "People loved the product, " he said. "But then we had a long, hot summer.  My partners and I decided it was time to move on."

The restaurant's configuration didn't lend itself to a large menu, which was an issue. The chef/owner told that, "the space was originally an ice cream shop, then a sushi place. There wasn't a real kitchen to speak of, so that meant having a limited menu. And even if you love meatballs, you're not going to eat them every day."

Matz confided that maybe South Beach wasn't the right location for a meatball restaurant and that he's open-minded to reopening on mainland Miami, possibly with an expanded menu. "I've always envisioned The Meatball Joint as a casual sports bar, with alcohol and a menu with other options."

The chef told Short Order his other two restaurants are going strong. "Bernie's L.A. Cafe is staying and doing great," he said, adding that the addition of two new Fiat delivery cars is helping business. Matz also said that he might expand his Latin American-influenced concept to the mainland and even once considered the space now occupied by The Federal. The Cafe at Books & Books is celebrating eight years on Lincoln Road.

Matz is taking an optimistic view on the restaurant's closing. "It's not the first restaurant in the world to open and close. And I also have two other "kids" that I have to tend to."

The Meatball Joint's meatballs were named one of Miami's ten best by Short Order.

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Laine Doss is the food and spirits editor for Miami New Times. She has been featured on Cooking Channel's Eat Street and Food Network's Great Food Truck Race. She won an Alternative Weekly award for her feature about what it's like to wait tables.
Contact: Laine Doss