It's a Friday at Joe's Stone Crab, power lunch day at the restaurant that has personified power lunch in Miami's elite circles for decades.
At one table, former Florida Bar president and Greenberg Traurig partner Alan Dimond is lunching with his best friend of 40 years, former American Bar Association president and Boies Schiller & Flexner partner Stephen Zack, and son, Scott Dimond of Dimond Kaplan & Rothstein in Miami. They're celebrating the senior Dimond's birthday and end their meal with a piece of cake with a candle and song.
At the next table, Joe Serota, a founding partner of Weiss Serota Helfman Pastoriza Cole & Boniske, is breaking bread with Miami attorney Robert Hertzberg, general counsel for Joe's and a friend for two decades.
Today, the "family tables" at the center of the main dining room are reserved for Miami's power brokers. They are occupied by U.S. District Judge Ursula Ungaro, former Florida Bar president Miles McGrane III, former Miami Heat player Alonzo Mourning, Mount Sinai Medical Center CEO Steve Sonenreich and Miami Beach Police Chief Raymond Martinez.
Rubbing elbows with the most powerful lawyers, lobbyists, judges, tycoons and celebrities in Miami doesn't come cheap, but Joe's delivers. Patrons call it some of the best food around, including Joe's famous stone crabs, fried chicken, Lyonnaise potatoes, clam chowder, grilled tomatoes and, of course, the key lime pie that is so beloved people have it flown in from around the world.
"It's a power lunch-type place that's always a lot of fun," Serota said. "At the end of a tough week it's a fun place to celebrate. Besides the food being good, the waiters are very friendly and professional. More than anything it's a great place to see people you know and do some reminiscing."
The catch is, unless you are truly a mover and shaker, you may not be able to get a reservation and may have to wait two hours to eat. On Valentine's Day, diners waited four hours to be seated.
Table Of One's Own
In Miami, where new restaurants seem to pop up weekly, Joe's is no flash in the pan. The iconic eatery got its start 100 years ago when Hungarian immigrant Joe Weiss and his wife opened a small Miami Beach lunch counter and served up fish sandwiches.
It wasn't until 1921 that Joe's started serving stone crab, which no one even thought were edible until a Harvard University scientist encouraged the owner to give it a try. The shellfish were served with hash browns, cole slaw and mayonnaise for $1.25. An instant hit was born.
Joe's son Jesse propelled Joe's into the limelight. A self-described "character," Jesse attracted VIPs like Will Rogers, Gloria Swanson, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Joseph Kennedy and J. Edgar Hoover.