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Sep 17, 2006 04:20 PM

Don Shula's Miami Beach - Miami Spice experience

Last night we went to Don Shula's and ordered off the spice menu. We chose that restaurant because it had a good selection of entrees and we were a party of six - four of whom are meat and potato types.

Being from north Broward, we got lost, got stuck in traffic, and had a hard time seeing in a torrential downpour on Collins, and that made us a half hour late, but I called them and they said no problem. So that was nice.

The lobster bisque was wonderful and the ceasar salad was very good, albeit small portioned.

We all ordered filet mignon except one person ordered the chicken. The steak was tender and delicious, melt in your mouth good. We also ordered a side of creamed spinach off the regular menu. It was delicious.

The desserts listed on the Miami spice website showed the chocolate molten chocolate lava cake, but at the restaurant they took it off and had a choice of creme brulee, key lime pie, and cheesecake.

Those that ordered the cheesecake said it was very good. I tasted the creme brulee and key lime pie and both were delicious. The key lime pie was wonderfully tangy and not overly sweet - the way it should be.

Ok, that's the good stuff. Now the disappointments.

Upon being seated, it took a little longer than expected for our server to get our drink order. One of our guests, not a big wine lover, wanted a reisling type wine by the glass. They didn't have any offered that way or even half bottles.

So, ok, she'd settle for white zinfandel, they had it on the menu by the glass and 1/2 bottles. They no longer carried either, so she couldn't have any wine. Frankly, white zin is a sin, but they should at least offer a reisling by the glass. I guess. Ok, maybe not.

The rest of us ordered a bottle of Pine Ridge merlot for $68, it was fabulous. The server opened it, did the ritual of serving a taste then pouring each glass. After that we were pouring our own glasses.

Truthfully, I don't mind that so much, however at the end of the meal our tab had an automatic 19% gratuity added to it and it was based on the wine as well as the food. This bugged the person who picked up the check, but I’ll get to that later.

Our water glasses weren’t refilled at first, until I asked. Later they were doing it. We also noticed slowness in clearing our plates, but it wasn’t that bad, really.

Our entrees came and everything was lukewarm – at best – including the steak. The béarnaise sauce had the consistency of mayonnaise and was not melting on the steak, since neither was hot enough to cause that reaction. Funny that the plates were hot as hell though. The mushrooms, potato hash browns, peppers, and béarnaise were room temp. The steak was warm, but at medium rare, it became cold quickly.

My side of creamed spinach came, it was hot, and good, but a really small portion. Like 1⁄2” - 3⁄4” thick in the gratin dish. I expected smaller portions from the spice menu, but when I ordered the spinach I expected a heartier serving so that I could share a little with two of the other diners.

What raised my suspicions about how they handle Miami spice menus was when they asked us at the beginning of the meal what dessert we wanted. WTH? Even early bird restaurants wait until the meal is over. And nothing chocolate was offered. WTFOMG!!!???

Fine, whatever, before I even have my salad, I’ll tell you what I want for dessert. They brought out the desserts and then asked if we wanted coffee or tea. By the time they came out with it we were pretty much done with our dessert.

I’d like to blame this entire dining experience on our waiter, but for some reason I’m not sure I should. I liked him. He was kind, polite, and professional. His helpers weren’t exactly on their toes and there was mass chaos when it came to figuring out which pot had coffee, decaf, or hot water. I think if Don knew what was going on, he'd be really p.o.'d.

Then the check came. They added a 19% gratuity to the entire check including the $68 bottle of wine. I understand that must be their policy either for Miami spice or just for parties of 6 or more. Although, it’s usually less, like 18%, right?

1% doesn’t bother me, but my dining partner and I don’t necessarily want to tip that much on the wine, especially when we poured it ourselves and weren’t asked if we wanted any more after we killed the bottle. My partner was the one picking up the tab and I’m going to have to reimburse her for some of it since I picked out a wine that was more than we usually spend.

Now to answer what you all might be thinking. Why didn’t we voice our complaints to management?

Our four friends were in town 1 day from Amsterdam. We only see them once or twice a year for 1 day. We were having a great time, laughing, and carrying on. I’m not going to make a stink about anything unless there was something seriously bad in or wrong with my food. No need to be a Debbie Downer there. I’ll save it for the chowhound board. ;) We’ll end up sending off an email to management though.

Overall, the feeling I get is that they are doing this Miami spice thing just for publicity or that they don’t care how they treat their patrons who are choosing the spice menu. I felt like a cheap early birder and I don’t appreciate that. Our bill with tip and tax was $368. That is NOT cheap. Or is it? The only consolation I could offer our host was “imagine if we had ordered off the regular menu!!”

I got the feeling I was the last table at a wedding to receive my banquet food and that’s just sad. The steaks are unbelievable, but I don’t think I’ll venture down to Miami Beach for them in the future.

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  1. Wow...that was a long one! Nice nickname!!!

    We did the Spice at Shula's last year because they were one of the few places to offer it on a Saturday night.

    I must say we fared better foodwise. Service was nothing special-nothing to complain about either. 19% is a little much to include automatically. I mean really. I almost always throw 20% anyway...I just feel it's insulting when they automatically include more than 15%. Especially when the service is mediocre at best! Try Smith and Wollensky for a real Miami Beach steakhouse experience. Good service-no auto grat!

    I am with you on the complaints to management. When you have a guest/s it's not worth all the drama. Send an email and maybe they'll throw you a bone...???

    As for the that still considered Miami Beach way up there? Not much happening up yonder in condo canyon that's for sure! Don;t you have a Shula's in Broward anyway...Yankee Trader? Oh ya, it'll be a couple more years before the Broward VCB enacts a spice deal...they'll catch on sooner or later! They always do.

    As for the Spice deal...this is an awesome time for places to really shine! Why they try to do it on the cheap-and some even make you feel that way for ordering it, is a mistake and a lost opportunity for the establishment.

    and as they say...A fish stinks from the head down!

    However, I don't get the feeling that Dandy Don Shula is very involved in his operation...and it shows!

    1. You're right, Don is god knows where.

      We would have gone to the Ft. Lauderdale restaurant, but our friends were staying in Sunny Isles and had no car. Live and learn. I never checked chowhound to see if there were any reviews, bad or good, so I'll be sure to do that next time.

      Anyway, tonight we had a celebration and we did the $99 dinner for two at Mortons (which I will post about). It was AMAZING! Huge portions, excellent service, and what a steal!!Truly amazing and it made up for the pitiful experience at Shulas.