Where To Go Instead Of Carbone
It's not worth it anyway.
Here's the bad news: it's still pretty impossible to find a table at Carbone that doesn't require eating at 5pm or 11pm. The good news? You don't really want to eat here anyway. Because dinner at the always-slammed South Beach spot is simply not worth the effort. So here are some places to go instead. This guide includes other great Italian restaurants around town, and more spots worthy of your fanciest clothes. Not only are they all actually good, but they also won't leave you crying on the sidewalk in front of a nervous maître d’.
Not only is Macchialina our favorite restaurant in South Beach, but it's also our favorite Italian restaurant in all of Miami. They serve phenomenal rotating pasta and other Italian dishes, and 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.
Prime 112 is one of South Beach's see-and-be-seen originals, and they still do it better than most. The South of Fifth steakhouse is where you go to dress up and spend too much money on steak and dangerously spillable martinis. It's also nostalgic in all the right ways. Reservations have to be made over the phone and NBA players do actually eat in the same dining room as the civilians. Prime 112 still holds up—and not just because of the scene, but also thanks to a fantastic ribeye, multiple forms of delicious potatoes, and complimentary bar bacon.
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If you’re hellbent on visiting a popular NYC restaurant, go to Cote. The upscale Korean steakhouse in the Design District is 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 ribeye that evaporates the moment it touches your tongue—is just amazing. If it’s your first time here, definitely start with the Butcher’s Feast, a $64 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 go to Boia De, an adorable Italian restaurant that can fit in most overhead compartments. It’s a really fun spot where you’ll eat the world’s best chopped salad, beef tartare, king crab tagliolini nero, and drink wine that your friend will inevitably describe as “funky.” Unfortunately, reservations have become a bit tough to get here as well. But you can always try to come super early and snag walk-in bar seating, which is our favorite seat in the house anyway.
Luca Osteria is an Italian restaurant in Coral Gables, which is certainly not South Beach (more like South Beach’s wealthy aunt who always calls the police when her neighbor throws a party). 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 is excellent too. There’s lots of outdoor seating good for people watching and a small, bright dining room that’s a bit more lively.
photo credit: @Hot.Chefs
Is it the spicy rigatoni you crave? Well, Casa Isola is also in South Beach. It's also a much more casual option that also happens to make a spicy rigatoni we like better than Carbone's version. They also make a very solid veal parm and have a patio that works great for eating a big bowl of noodles outside. 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 huge menu of excellent sushi, sashimi, and more really interesting dishes with Japanese influence. You’ll most likely need a reservation to eat here, but you’ll definitely be able to get one before we send a man to Mars. Plus, they have first-come, first-served bar seating, which is where you need to sit to enjoy Uchi's great Happy Hour (5 to 6:30pm every day) anyway.
The Surf Club Restaurant
Carbone attempts (and fails) to give its guests some old school glamour. But you can find that vintage glamour at The Surf Club, an incredibly expensive yet amazingly delicious restaurant in Surfside. The restaurant 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 specialize in 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 their outdoor seating. Pizza is what you should absolutely order here, but getting the baked artichoke special is also a good idea.
Cafe La Trova
So maybe you want to go to Carbone because you’re looking for a dinner that feels like a big party. 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 dead set on visiting a Major Food Group restaurant—and preferably one that serves pasta—Contessa is your best option. It’s more accessible and mature than Carbone. Reservations are almost shockingly easy to find and the quieter crowd isn't as migraine-inducing. Almost everything in here is pink: the walls, the ceilings, the bathrooms, and the round bell-shaped sofas. There’s patio seating on the first floor and a terrace that overlooks the Design District on the second floor. You will still be overcharged here for your perfectly fine fusilli in pesto sauce or clam pizza. But if you do leave still hungry, at least you’re a short walk from some excellent dining options in the Design District.