Editor’s Note: We finally went to Carbone. Read our full review here.
Carbone is a new Italian restaurant in South Beach. Or, perhaps it’s an all-day diner for squirrels. Or maybe it’s a zero-gravity omakase. The truth is, we don’t really know what Carbone is, because we can’t get a reservation at Carbone.
And that’s alright. We’re not ashamed. It’s OK to admit that you can’t get a table at Carbone, because trying to find any availability on their Resy page is like trying to find a needle in a haystack, if that needle was made of ice and the hay was on fire. But there’s no need to scream and cry on the sidewalk in front of a nervous maître d’, because we’re giving you some Carbone alternatives. They include cool places within walking distance, other great Italian restaurants around town, and more spots worthy of your fanciest clothes.
Macchialina is the obvious Carbone substitution. Not only is it one of the best restaurants in South Beach, but they serve phenomenal pasta and other Italian dishes. They now have some great new outdoor seating too, complete with lights, plants, and a covered patio to protect your spaghetti pomodoro or sheep’s milk ricotta ravioli from the elements. Also, it’s just one mile north of Carbone, and you won’t need to hire your 14-year-old cousin to hack into Resy in order to get a reservation.
If you’re hellbent on visiting a popular NYC restaurant, go to Cote. The upscale Korean steakhouse in the Design District is excellent - a perfect storm of food, service, and atmosphere. Meat is the main event here, and various servers will take turns tending to the beef sizzling away on the grill located in the center of the table. Every dish - from the tangy ceviche to the melt-in-your-mouth ribeye - is just amazing. If it’s your first time here, definitely start with the Butcher’s Feast, a $58 per person tasting menu that feels like a 90-minute performance dedicated to all things protein.
Want to feel like a cool kid and eat some of the best food in Miami? Then come to Boia De. The little Buena Vista Italian restaurant, which is currently running service outside on the sidewalk/parking lot, is outstanding. Come here to eat grilled broccolini, beef tartare, white truffle tagliatelle, and drink wine that your friend will inevitably describe as “funky.” We’ve also seen people doing bone marrow shots here, which is something that’ll probably get you a few dirty looks at Carbone.
Luca Osteria is an Italian restaurant in Coral Gables, which is certainly not South Beach (more like South Beach’s wealthy aunt who always shows up in a new Ferrari). However, the food here is really great and it’s also home to one of our favorite dishes in the entire city: the patate fritte, a plate of little fried potato balls covered by a creamy layer of parmigiano fonduta, black truffle, and an egg yolk. The pasta here is excellent too, and includes a perfect cacio e pepe that you might be too full to finish because you ordered two helpings of that patate fritte. You’ll probably still need a reservation for dinner here. There’s lots of outdoor seating good for people watching and a small, bright dining room that’s a bit more lively.
Casa Isola is another Italian option in Sunset Harbour, and is just a short drive from Carbone. We loved our dinner here from the first plate, which was the pane al prosciutto: a warm little circle of bread with cubes of prosciutto baked in and a parmesan honey butter for smearing. They also have a (mildly) spicy rigatoni with Calabrian chiles and vodka sauce, and a tender veal parm that was big enough to have its own zip code. It’s casual here and you will feel overdressed in a tuxedo, but if you’re coming on a weekend, you’ll still want a reservation. Luckily, you won’t need to hire a private investigator to get one.
Uchi originally came from Austin, not Thompson Street between Bleecker and Houston, but it’s still a really good out-of-town restaurant worth your time. Uchi is in Wynwood and has a massive menu of excellent sushi, sashimi, and fried milk for dessert, which is just a blast to eat. You’ll most likely need a reservation to eat here, but, unlike Carbone, you’ll definitely be able to get one before we send a man to Mars. They’re also now accepting day-of takeout orders, so, worst case scenario, you can just light some candles and throw a white bed sheet over your coffee table.
The Coconut Grove restaurant might be a little far from Carbone, but they also serve some really excellent pasta, like cavatelli with truffle potato cream and parmesan, crab spaghetti, and rigatoni with veal, beef, and pork bolognese. Also, they do a snapper milanese that’s a f*cking work of art. The place is upscale enough to warrant a special occasion, but you’re more likely to run into your Aunt Judy here than someone with over ten million Instagram followers. Personally, we’re cool with that. (We like Aunt Judy.)
Is there an outfit you really wanted to debut for a fancy dinner? Well don’t dramatically shove it back in the closet just because Carbone is booked until June 67th, 3009. Instead, grab a reservation at Sushi By Bou, an omakase spot inside the Versace Mansion. Like, really inside, as in: upstairs-in-a-private-bedroom inside. Every bite in the 60-minute, 17-course dinner is very good, and a perfect excuse to dress like you’re going to a New Year’s Eve party at J.Lo’s house. Just be prepared to drop $125 per person.
The Surf Club Restaurant
Carbone promises its guests a dose of old school glamour, which it really doesn't deliver in the slightest. You can, however, find that vintage glamour at The Surf Club, an incredibly expensive yet amazingly delicious restaurant in Surfside. The restaurant (which is from a chef whose last name rhymes with smeller) is located inside the Four Seasons Hotel, a historic property that will make you feel like Elizabeth Taylor stepping out for a night of whatever it was they did for fun in the '50s. Order a Caesar salad prepared tableside, steak tartare, oysters rockefeller, or the $138 beef wellington, which - yes - is so freaking expensive but is also one of the most memorable pieces of beef you'll ever meet.
Here’s another NYC-imported Italian restaurant in South Beach for you. They do pizza here (very, very good pizza). It can still be a little tough to get a table because they don’t take reservations, but we’ve found it easier ever since they expanded with outdoor seating. Pizza is what you should absolutely order here, but getting the baked artichoke special is also a good idea.
So maybe you want to go to Carbone because you’re looking for a dinner that feels like a big event. Well, every meal we’ve had at Cafe La Trova tends to feel like we’re celebrating something, even if it’s just a random Tuesday. The big and delicious Cuban restaurant in Little Havana makes for a great dinner party. They have fantastic live music, suave bartenders who will randomly start playing musical instruments, and shareable dishes like arroz con pollo and whole fried snapper.
If you’re just in it for the pasta, and don’t really care about any of the bells and whistles that come with a buzzy restaurant, try Osteria Baiocco. The Italian restaurant in MiMo is in a big house just off Biscayne Boulevard, but we thoroughly enjoy their perfectly al dente, simply prepared pasta. They have outdoor seating, a big wine list, and huge white columns that’ll make you feel like you’re about to be recruited by a sorority.
In the venn diagram of “great food” and “fancy restaurant,” Stubborn Seed lies in the middle. Their menu changes often, but has things like crudos, warm celery root with crispy maitake mushrooms, and aged ribeye. An eight-course tasting menu is also available for $150 per person. It’s also approximately a three minute walk from Carbone, and there’s even a slight chance you could get seated at the bar if you don’t have a reservation.