In 1913, Joe Weiss opened a small lunch counter on Miami Beach. That was the beginning of what was to become Joe’s, a fixture today in Miami, Chicago and Las Vegas. From its inception Joe’s Seafood attracted anyone who knew anything about good food. Al Capone, they say, came in every day at 5, under the alias Al Brown. He'd pull up with his entourage, sit down, have dinner and leave. Because he respected Joe’s wife and her hard work, every Mother's Day, up pulled a truck with flowers and a horseshoe reading, "Good Luck Mother Joe's."
One day Joe Weiss decided to try something new: he threw stone crabs, never before considered a delicacy, in boiling water, and that was the beginning of Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab. When they started serving them cracked with hash browns, cole slaw, and mayonnaise, they were an instant success. And this is the way they’ve been serving them since to Will Rogers, Amelia Earhart, Gloria Swanson, Robert Frost and Damon Runyon, who helped fan the flames of the Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab legend.
Joe’s has been in Miami for 93 years, in Chicago for 10 and opened in Las Vegas at the Forum Shops at Caesar’s Palace 5 years ago, in partnership with Lettuce Entertain You and Michael Rotolo, Managing Partner.
It’s deceptive when you enter. You see a bar and some tables and assume that’s it. Au contraire: there are several dining rooms at Joe’s, accommodating approximately 500 people. But despite the size, the tables are spaced far enough apart that you can easily hold a conversation without distraction. The multi-level space includes a full-service bar and a main dining room with a café overlooking the hotel’s luxury shops. An elevated second level contains a circular banquet room under a rotunda and floor-to-ceiling windows that open to views of the Las Vegas Strip. There’s an elegance to Joe’s with its terrazzo floors, rich mahogany wood in the bar, simple wall treatments, palm trees, hanging fixtures and murals dating back to Joe’s origins in Miami.
Because Joe’s specializes in stone crab, it’s something not to be missed, even if it’s just as an appetizer. You can order a Stone Crab Cocktail served chilled with Joe’s secret mustard sauce ($17.95) or as an entrée (Market Price).
The crabs are hand harvested, one claw at a time, in the warm waters off the Gulf of Mexico. Once harvested, the crabs are thrown back into the sea to regenerate, which takes about three years. The claws are served cracked but in the shell, and your server will be happy to show you the proper technique for eating them. Yes, it’s an art!
If you’d prefer Alaskan King Crab, Joe’s offers that too, prepared at your table and served with drawn butter ($59.95). Since they’re fresh, it’s not necessary to keep them in brine, so they’re more sweet than salty as a result.
If you’re not into seafood, there are usually eight fresh fish to choose from, as well, varying from season to season. Chef Gary Baca, a partner in the establishment, has exclusive arrangements with several fishermen who overnight their catches to him. Baca will experiment with the fish to determine the best methods of preparing them to bring out their natural characteristics. One of my favorites is the Parmesan Crusted Halibut ($29.95) that is crispy on the outside but tender in the center. So many restaurants overcook halibut until it becomes rubbery and unpleasant to eat. Not so at Joe’s. It’s pan seared and served with a lemon butter sauce and a touch of cilantro.
And while Joe’s specializes in seafood, their steaks are top notch too, imported from Chicago. Most are “wet-aged,” meaning they’re cut and cryo-vac’d, vacuum packed in individual bags so they’re juicier and less gamey than dry-aged steaks. The 12-ounce center cut bone-in Filet Mignon ($38.95) is an amazing piece of meat. You can only get two of these cuts from a single cow. They’re thick and juicy and simply brushed with butter and a little salt and pepper. It’s seared, then left to rest for about twenty minutes, then broiled under high heat till it’s done to your specification.
Attention to detail is critical to Chef Baca. Even the salt and pepper at each table is specially selected. Baca uses roasted Tillicherry peppercorns and sea salt in the grinders to enhance the flavor of his steaks.
The sides at Joe’s are just as special as the main courses. Each portion enough for two. There’s Jennie’s Mashed Potatoes ($7.95) prepared with Asiago cheese folded into the potatoes, then topped with breading and grated cheese and browned. Yum! That’s only one of eight different potato offerings. Joe’s Grilled Tomatoes ($7.95) is unique, as well, sliced and grilled with Dorman’s American Cheese and spinach.
Okay, it’s time for what you’ve been waiting for: dessert. Yes, indeedy, they’re special too. We sampled three of the nine homemade pies ($6.95), including Peanut Butter with Hot Fudge, a traditional Key Lime and the exotic Havana Dream Pie layered with custard and served with caramel de leche.
Joe's is open every day of the year for lunch and dinner.
So there you have it: a little bit of Miami in Vegas. Bon appétit!
Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab
The Forum Shops at Caesar’s Palace