I’ve always wanted to do some blog posts chronicling the food adventures that come up in my travels, rare as my travels may be. Luckily, when I decided on a near-whim to take a trip to Miami for the first time in my whole life, I thought this would be a perfect opportunity to try some great restaurants in the area and finally do just that. So, here I am in this room at a quaint(-ish) Art Deco boutique hotel just a stone’s throw from the turquoise waters of South Beach’s shores writing my reviews.
When I first arrived on Saturday afternoon, I really had no idea exactly where I wanted to eat in this town, besides the legendary Cuban restaurant Versailles over in Little Havana (an experience I’ll write about in another entry), so I just took to Google to see what kind of places folks buzzed about. I had a hankering for seafood, so I queried “Seafood Miami Beach” in the search and read articles on Eater, the Miami Herald and even checked out reviews on Yelp and TripAdvisor. One establishment that appeared near the top of every list I saw was Joe’s Stone Crab, located near the southernmost tip of Miami Beach. No, this is not to be confused with Joe’s Crab Shack, that chain of so-so seafood restaurants. This place is Miami Beach’s very own and has been for over 100 years and, more or less, they must’ve been doing something right throughout that time because dining here is as close to an old-school dining experience as you’ll get around here. You enter the restaurant and you’re greeted by an actual maitre’d. Like, tuxedo and all. And if you’re lucky enough to avoid a 2-hour wait because you’re flying solo for the evening as opposed to having a sizable party, you’re whisked away to the extensively large, yet elegant dining room and sat at a white-clothed table and greeted by a member of the wait staff, also betuxed. (Yes, I just made up a word.)
I knew that I wanted to try the signature meal at Joe’s Stone Crab: Joe’s Classic Meal, which starts out with a “deconstructed” coleslaw, a main course that includes “a full order of large stone crabs” with a Dijon mustard sauce, creamed spinach, hashed browns, and is finished off with a slice of key lime pie. This three-courser will set you back $68.95, plus tax and gratuity. Why so high, though? Florida Stone Crab is considered a quite a delicacy and is only harvested between October 15 and May 15th of each year, which lends the dish to being a seasonal rarity and Joe’s happens to be the largest purchaser of stone crabs each season. How are stone crabs harvested, you ask? Well, (and this is the part where those who are squeamish or members of PETA might want to like go to Amazon right now), they essentially amputate the crabs as the fishery. But supposedly they feel little to no pain and in many cases the claws eventually grow back.
So, back to the dining experience. Upon being seated and greeted by the waiter, he immediately presented me with a basket with assorted breads. Certainly more bread than one person can eat in one sitting. I suppose… In any case, it was bread and butter. Nothing to really scream about.
The next course, however, was a little more unique. After I ordered my meal and sipping on a glass of Sauvignon Blanc, the courses of Joe’s Classic Meal start coming out. I was presented with their signature coleslaw, or so they call it. This was more like a composed pickled cabbage salad (but not sour like sauerkraut) topped with mayonnaise and sweet pickle cubes, flanked with two tomato salads. In all honesty, it was quite different and surprisingly elegantly presented with its no-nonsense ingredients, not to mention rather tasty.
After that’s done, the real star of the meal was presented: an order of about 7 or so stone crab claws, with the shells thoughtfully pre-cracked in the kitchen (as the shells on these suckers are quite hard) along with mustard sauce for dipping and the sides of their hashed potatoes and a nice little portion of their garlic-heavy creamed spinach. All was absolutely delectable. The only criticism I have here would admittedly be nitpicking. I would’ve preferred (and actually expected) the crab claws to be served warm. That and some melted butter would have made me even more pleased with the meal than I already was.
Finally, after stuffing me with crustacean meat, they brought out a slice of their famous key lime pie. Famous with good reason. It was just the right amount of creaminess, tartness and sweetness, all atop a delightful and buttery graham cracker crust. Again, my only complaint, if you can call it that, was that it could’ve stood to spend just a little more time away from the freezer before serving, but it wasn’t rock solid. Otherwise, great!
All in all, I would say that this was a fantastic, albeit expensive, dining experience. By the way, if the cost of the crabs scares you, I will tell you this: One of the big tenets of Joe’s is that they want anyone to be able to afford a meal when visiting their restaurant. Anyone who’s seen that “Let’s go someplace nice” episode of Friends knows what I’m talking about. If your budget just doesn’t allow for a stone crab meal, consider this: for just a tenth of the price of Joe’s Classic Meal, you can order four pieces of what’s said to be the best fried chicken in Miami Beach. Throw in a side dish and you’re still well under $20. Another thing to consider if you don’t want to endure the long wait for a table: There’s also Joe’s Take Away, which offers a lot of the same items on the menu: fried chicken, key lime pie and, of course, stone crabs. This allows you enjoy the best of both worlds: the great food of Joe’s Stone Crab without the semi-formal setting and the crowds. It’s a more laid back atmosphere that I’d love to try during my next trip to Miami Beach – along with that fried chicken that I sadly didn’t get a chance to try during this trip.
Joe’s Stone Crab
11 Washington Avenue
Miami Beach, FL 33139