In the late 1980s, Joe's began catering to out-of-town VIPs when the eatery ramped up its take-away service. Celebrities like Quincy Jones, Frank Sinatra and Ted Kennedy started ordering custom, cooler boxes of crab, key lime pie and other dishes, shipped overnight by plane.
Today, Joe's is known as the consummate power lunch spot in town even though it's across the bay from downtown Miami, but the drive doesn't discourage diners.
That's certainly the case for Michael Abrams, a lobbyist at Akerman Senterfitt and former state representative. Abrams is such a regular at Joe's lunching there 10 times a month for 30 years that he became the only person to get his own table. Five years ago for his 60th birthday, Abrams received a surprise present from Joe's when the management put a plaque with his name on his favorite table.
Abrams, co-chair of Akerman's government affairs and public policy group, said he has closed many a business deal at Joe's and landed two of his biggest clients Magic City Casino and Ameresco Inc., a Massachussetts-based renewable energy company over lunch.
"Everyone from out of town knows about Joe's," he said. "If I'm trying to land a client and they're coming in from out of town, I always go there. Meals are a very important part of business development."
On Fridays, you can usually find Abrams there, holding court at his table. "You can touch a lot of bases on a Friday," he remarked.
On a recent Friday, I stopped by Joe's for my very first visit with a current and former colleague. We started the meal with Stuffy's Rhode Island style, baked stuffed Quahog clams served with drawn butter, and marinated grilled artichoke with lemon boursin dip. These appetizers were the highlight of the meal for me.
The best bargain on the menu at $5.95 is a half broiled chicken with a side of skinny fried sweet potato fries. The $32.95 classic lunch special includes three claws, half an order of cole slaw, half an order of creamed spinach, a small order of hash browns and a slice of key lime pie.
I had the Shrimp Louis salad chopped iceberg lettuce with shrimp, peppers, garbanzo beans, chopped egg, black olives and Louis dressing for $13.95. The salad was so big I needed a doggie bag. To tell the truth, I really just wanted a Joe's bag with the iconic red crab on it.
We were sitting next to Zack and Dimond, and Zack insisted on handing me a piece of fried chicken, saying, "You gotta taste this."