Miami

The signs point the way. Photo courtesy Dirty French Steakhouse

The RundownMiami

Inside the ’80s Glam of Miami’s Dirty French Steakhouse

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Miami has never been lacking for see-and-be-seen steakhouses. But no place combines scene with steak quite like Dirty French.

The Brickell steakhouse from Major Food Group — the team also behind Carbone, HaSalon, and Sadelle’s) is a case study in cultivating a complete dining experience: The décor immerses you in ‘80s Miami glam, and the food is an education in global French influence. Whether you’re there to be seen or just want dinner, Dirty French is undeniably fun — it’s a meal that feels more like a three-hour vacation than a simple night out.

So what, exactly, is going on under that big neon sign? And what should you be expecting to eat, drink, and experience once you’re there?

Here’s all you need to know about Dirty French, and how to plan a perfect night inside.

1. This ain’t your Dirty French from NYC.

If you’re familiar with Dirty French from its New York City original, you’re probably accustomed to its wood and red leather brasserie motif with a menu of French-inspired creations like mussels etouffee and steak frites. The Miami version of Dirty French is decidedly a different concept, though it maintains French features on the menu.

“Miami is a synthesis of taking the classic steakhouse format and seeing it through the lens of Dirty French,” says Major Food Group chef and partner Rich Torrisi. “The menu is much more — this is a French steakhouse and that’s not what Dirty French in New York is.”

Dirty French Miami takes over the Morton’s space in Brickell, so the steakhouse vibes are strong as soon as you step through the door. The space is dark — you won’t be looking out any windows — and the overarching atmosphere is that of a place that’s both hidden and energetic. Think of it like the city’s hottest underground nightclub that serves bone-in prime rib.

The dining room. Photo courtesy Dirty French Steakhouse.
The dining room. Photo courtesy Dirty French Steakhouse.

2. The décor is pure Miami ‘80s movie set.

Everything about Dirty French creates an escape from the world outside, beginning with the neon-filled valet. Inside, Ken Fulk’s design is meticulous, beginning with the bar plastered in jungle wallpaper, palm frond chandeliers, and low-slung cheetah print chairs. It’s pure Miami decadence, where over-the-top tropical meets mirrored walls and golden ceilings, an unapologetic homage to the excess that made the city.

“Everything exudes the Miami tropical Latin playful vibe,” says Torrisi. “It’s a lot of energy. It’s loud. It’s shiny. But it makes sense.”

From the bar, guests are led down a narrow, red-lit hallway as joyful noise grows louder from the dining room at the end. The short walk ends as you step into a big, Moroccan-shingled dining room, where zebra print chairs and low ceilings trap the rooms unyielding energy. Waiters in ruffled shirt tuxedos roam the room, reflected in the mirrors lining the walls under chrome arches. Torrisi says this is Fulk’s crown jewel of Major Food Group’s Miami projects, as its décor does as much – if not more – for the experience as the food.

You should be ready for a night out. This isn’t a subtle place. — Chef-partner Rich Torrisi

Drinks… Photo credit: Courtesy of Dirty French Steakhouse
… for getting dirty. Photo credit: Courtesy of Dirty French Steakhouse

3. Hitting the bar before dinner is a must.

Like a lot of sceney restaurants in Miami, the cocktail bar at Dirty French is an experience of its own. The Copa-Cabana-meets-Babylon-Club motif lends itself to an entertaining start to the night, where you can sample some unusual twists on classic cocktails.

The crowd is the typical collection of Miami beautiful people, but the air here lacks the pretension of a stereotypical hot spot. Palm fronds will do that, as will playful cocktails that are equal parts delicious and delighting. The Kahuna is the Instagram showstopper, a tropical concoction of mezcal, Campari, and grapefruit served in a metal pineapple glass. The Rob Roy is made with single malt and is a must for whiskey drinkers. For something befitting the décor, the Caribbean Mule with rum, ginger, and lime makes for a crisp kickoff. But you’ll never go wrong with any of the classic martinis, which just feel right when eating in a place so fancy.

Share the wealth. Photo courtesy of Dirty French Steakhouse
Share the wealth. Photo courtesy of Dirty French Steakhouse

4. Come prepared to share, and come hungry.

In the communal celebrating spirit of the restaurant, Dirty French’s menu is meant for sharing. It’s long on the sort of French-influenced creations that made the New York original famous, with a big menu of standout steaks to go alongside.

If one dish exemplifies Dirty French’s culinary prowess, it’s the mushroom millefeuille, a king trumpet mushroom sliced thin like a terrine and served atop a yellow corn curry. It’s a must-order, but you’d also be remiss to skip out on the fresh seafood appetizers. The shellfish tower is the move for a large group, but if you’re a twosome check out the diver scallops with makrut lime, or the tuna tartare with bird’s eye chile.

The prime-aged steaks are the stars of the show, but don’t let the “French” part of the name lead you to think it’s all steak frites and chateaubriand. It’s a full lineup of prime aged cuts, from simple 8-ounce filets and 16-ounce ribeyes, to the 36-ounce tomahawk that’ll make the whole room stop to ogle your dinner. If you’re not feeling red meat, the chicken and crepes showcases Dirty French’s range, serving the dark meat with Moroccan spices and the breasts in a creamy French tarragon sauce.

5. Dessert comes with a roving cart of Chartreuse.

If the decadent décor and epic food weren’t enough for a memorable night out, dessert leaves you with a lasting impression. The opera cake is certainly the most unusual selection, with peanut butter and chocolate feuilletine topped with banana ice cream. Though the beignets with chicory and caramel sauce seem fitting in the Francophile spirit of the restaurant.

The food isn’t what makes the end of the meal so cool, though. It’s the waiter in a deep-lapeled dinner jacket and bow tie who rolls by as your dessert comes out with a full cart of Chartreuse. The bottles are nearly the size of the waiter’s torso, and watching him pour small shots out of it is a fitting final act to a dinner show that is nothing if not endlessly entertaining.

A hot night awaits. Photo courtesy of Dirty French Steakhouse
A hot night awaits. Photo courtesy of Dirty French Steakhouse

6. The high energy dining room is meant for a night out.

“This is not a quiet, date night kind of place,” Torrisi says. “It’s a place you want to hang out.”

That doesn’t mean it should be ruled out as a place to take someone you want to impress. The immersion in Florida flair and steakhouse chic ensures at the very least you and your date will be smiling. Dirty French is the kind of place people pose unapologetically with magnums of wine, while a soundtrack of ‘80s music reminds everyone of a time filled with devil-may-care reckless abandon.

“You should be ready for a night out. This isn’t a subtle place,” Torrisi continues. “It’s a place where the music is louder and you’re meant to engage with the space around you with four, five, six other people. The room is built for that — it’s built for a good time.”