There are some restaurants that are so entwined into the fabric of a city, that they become attractions in their own right. In New York there is Nathan's and Carnegie Deli. Atlanta has The Varsity, and Los Angeles, Pink's. One of the touristy things I do when traveling is seek out these legendary restaurants, and on a recent trip to Miami we paid a visit to an icon of South Beach...Joe's Stone Crab.
We arrived at Joe's Stone Crab early...like, before they opened early. I'd been warned by fans of the restaurant that they did not take reservations, and their wait time on the weekends can be just as legendary as the place itself. So we decided to avoid the crowds and get there right at open, even if some places were still serving their Early Bird Special. After a short wait in the restaurant's adjoining bar, the Maitre D' opened the doors with a bit of panache, and I half expected him to bow in appreciation for the crowd.
|The Old-School Sign Out Front...Credit: Bloomberg|
If you're in to places that kick it old school - did I use that phrase properly? - then Joe's Stone Crab will be right up your alley. Our appointed server escorted us past a receiving line of his colleagues, all of which were in black tie, and to our white linen covered table. Contrary to that first impression, however, the dining room has a very casual feel, and definitely fits its South Beach location. As I looked around the room, it was easy to imagine J. Edgar Hoover at a corner table while fellow regular, Joe Kennedy, discussed the family business a few seats away.
Although there are plenty of other options on the menu, we were of course there for the stone crab. This was good, because the server gave us about 22 seconds to look over the menu before asking if we were ready to order. The stone crabs come in four different sizes - Medium, Select, Large, and Jumbo - and are naturally priced as Market on the menu. We decided to start with an order of Conch Fritters, and followed that up with two sets of "Select" claws.
|The Menu - Credit: TripAdvisor|
The fritters arrived just a few minutes after we placed our order, and before I had even finished my first one, our plate of crab arrived as well. The conch fritters were a great start, but once the crab hit the table they were like last year's present on Christmas day. As I picked up my first of seven claws, there was no denying I was in for something special.
With the first bite of crab and creamy mustard sauce, my salivary glands nearly burst in excitement. The crab was sweet and savory, but it was the sauce which made all the difference. As I finished my first claw, I knew we would struggle to eat the entire portion, but with a little bit of perseverance, we polished the plate clean.
|Us with Our Plate-O-Crab|
Since we were in South Florida, it seemed appropriate to order a slice of Key Lime Pie for dessert. A few minutes later, our server emerged with our pie in one hand, and the bill in the other. In case you haven't picked up on it already, the entire experience at Joe's is rushed from start to finish. This isn't fine dining...it's turn and burn at its finest. Be warned, one could easily drop $200 on a meal that lasts less than an hour. Thankfully, I was prepared for this type of service, and just accepted it as part of the experience at Joe's. I'm sure there are many, however, that don't see it the same way.
In the end, I was glad to have scratched Joe's Stone Crab off my bucket list of legendary eateries. The recipe for a good experience is to get there early, expect to be rushed, and close your eyes when you get the bill.
~Insert Dude-like Closing Here~