First impression: It's been 20 years since new York City-based The Palm opened its Miami restaurant in Bay Harbor Islands. One visit and you'll see that it's become a favorite for a certain kind of moneyed Miamian. Like the New York original, the menu includes all the steakhouse classics, from a crabmeat cocktail ($19.90) to a fine lineup of USDA aged prime steaks and chops.
Background: First opened in 1926 by Pio Bozzi and John Ganzi, family members still oversee the 28-location chain. Because the first location on Manhattan's Second Avenue was close to King Features Syndicate, cartoonists did caricatures in exchange for meals. Those caricatures quickly covered the walls. That tradition continues with as many as 300 caricature of local notables placed on walls before a new restaurant opens.
Ambience: Those caricatures give The Palm a more casual saloon feel than many steakhouses. Worn wooden floors, wooden booths and not-too comfortable chairs add to that air. But white table linens and uniformed wait staff quickly bring some elegance to the experience.
Starters: I'm a big fan of the salads here, which the staff will gladly divide among diners. The so-called West Coast Gigi ($15.90) is a delightful vinaigrette-tossed mixture of iceberg, roasted peppers, hardboiled egg, avocado, shrimp, green beans, tomato, onion and bacon. Calamari ($11.90) is dusted in corn meal and fried crispy before being tossed with lemon and cherry peppers.
Entree excellence: You must eat steak. And you'll do no better than the 16-ounce New York strip ($47.90). Every bite is as good as the last. Temperature is never a problem at The Palm. Since the restaurant doesn't charge for sharing, I'd also recommend the 26-ounce prime rib ($45.50). For $3.50, steaks can be served with such house made sauces as brandy peppercorn and bordelaise. Italian specialties include veal or chicken parmigiana ($31.50) or simple linguine with red or white clam sauce ($23.90). Three, four and five pound Nova Scotia lobsters are another house specialty and worth the asking price of $24.95 per pound.
Side issues: Hash browns ($10.50), baked potato ($9.75) and steamed asparagus ($11.90) are here. But don't miss the old-fashioned creamed spinach ($11.90) or my favorite — Half & Half cottage fries and fried onions ($9.90). All sides are served as huge portions for at least two diners.
On the lighter side: Seafood can be broiled, blackened, sauteed or peppercorn crusted.
Sweet!: Shareably large, I'd recommend the authentically creamy tiramisu ($9.30) or the equally good carrot cake ($15.50).
Service: While this seasoned group of waiters are pros, they sometimes come across as having been doing this a few too many years. Boredom has a way of creeping into the tone of service — unacceptable at these prices. On one recent visit, we practically had to beg to hear the complete beer list and drawn butter came five minutes after lobster.
Dining deal: Now through May 31, the restaurant is offering a $49 per person three-course Italian dinner: choice of three salads; bone-in rib veal chop parmigiana or Nova Scotia lobster ravioli; broccoli rabe or capellini arrabiata and a choice of tiramisu or gelato for dessert.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun