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What: Large, meaty, and pretty to look at, Florida stone crabs have become nearly synonymous with south Florida thanks to institutions like Joe’s Stone Crab in Miami (and, naturally, an aggressive marketing campaign—they’re very expensive and have a strict harvesting season along the state’s Gulf and Atlantic coasts, roughly Oct. 15-May 15, that coincides with high tourist season). But that aside, they are deliciously sweet when fresh, fun to eat, and sustainable, thanks to laws prohibiting fishermen from taking the whole crab and the crab’s ability to regenerate its claws fully within a year or two.
Where: Joe’s Stone Crab (11 Washington Ave., map) has been the place for stone crabs since 1913. The massive restaurant is an experience in itself—there are no reservations, so expect a long wait (see tip below) in a bar and lobby area packed with well-dressed people. The bustling dining room, the old-school tuxedoed waiters, the walk past the crazy kitchen—they’re all part of the draw here. It’s quite expensive, but worth visiting at least once in your life.
When: During regular season (mid-Oct through mid-May; call for exact dates), lunch hours are: Tues-Sat, 11:30am-2:30pm; dinner: Sun-Thurs, 5pm-10pm. During summer, hours are limited—Wed-Thurs & Sun, 6pm-10pm; Fri & Sat, 6pm-11pm—and the stone crabs served are frozen, not fresh. The restaurant closes in early August for two months.
Order: Get the large stone crabs for a good amount of claw meat; they’re listed as “market” price, which means five claws for around $50 (find them cheaper at the source in the Florida Keys!). The claws are served chilled and pre-cracked, with a mustard dipping sauce. The menu has some other high points, so don’t feel obliged to empty your wallet on too many crab orders: Try the rich, sherry-spiked seafood bisque, delicious chopped salad, creamed garlic spinach, some sweet potato shoestring fries. We also hear the mussels, fried chicken (amazingly, it’s only $5.95), hash browns, and most fish dishes are good. And, of course, the key lime pie.
Good to know: Your best bet for avoiding a two-hour wait at dinner (and spending a small fortune at the bar) is to either arrive for the first seating, when the restaurant opens for the night, or to put your name on the list and plan on walking around South Beach for an hour or two—never a bad idea. When you return, check in at the host stand; you’ll likely have whittled your wait down to 20 minutes or so.
Alternatively: Our favorite crabhouse in southeast Florida is the cavernous, canal-fronting Rustic Inn (4331 Ravenswood Rd., Ft. Lauderdale, map), near the airport in Fort Lauderdale, where seasonal stone crabs are just one of the great local delicacies you can crack into (our favorite here is actually the Florida golden crab; see also Florida Keys: Golden crab). Also in that area, there’s Catfish Dewey’s (4003 N. Andrews Ave.; map) in Oakland Park, offering varying levels of all-you-can-eat stone crabs during the season, and in Lantana (near Lake Worth), try Riggins Crabhouse (607 Ridge Rd., map)—a casual restaurant that specializes in all things crab, from stone crabs (when in season) to Dungeness crabs and Maryland garlic blue crabs.
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