Joe's Stone Crab
- ulterior epicure Nov 3, 2007 08:03 PM
My family and I had a simple, light lunch at Joe's not too long ago. It was our first time in Miami, and thus, at the original.
I've been to Joe's Seafood, Prime Steaks & Stone Crab in Chicago, a collaboration between Joe's Stone Crab and the Chicago-based Levy Restaurant Group, and I have to say, that the atmosphere of the original one in Miami, though similar, is much better. In large part, this is because the restaurant has bright windows that (on a sunny day, like the day we went), lets in gobs of wonderful sea-side sunshine. The one in Chicago is much darker - the main dining room tucked away from natural light and much more masculine and steak-housey.
Service here was stellar. It's the type of brassy but attentive march of the penguins - efficient, slightly gruff, but accommodating tuxedo'ed men and women.
The food is way over-priced, but very good. (You can see and read more detailed information about what we ordered and ate by clicking here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ulterior...) I saw it as paying for the experience more than the food. I have no idea what the going rate is for stone crab claws. I won't pretend to know. What I do know is that $34 seemed like an awful lot of money to lay down for seven ("Select" size) claws. But they were good - cracked and prepped all ready for you to de-shell (just enough to make you believe you actually got the experience of eating shell-in crab without all the mess)... so, I guess, I was more than fine with $34 for 7 "Select"-sized claws as the going rate.
I absolutely abhor iceberg lettuce. I rarely meet a salad using iceberg that actually appeals to me. When I see/hear people ordering it, I want to pull my hair out. Let's just all admit that the famous steak house "Wedge" is just a vehicle for blue cheese and bacon - it's not a salad at all. This being said, Joe's "Chopped Salad," - a mix of iceberg, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, and carrots all chopped up and tossed with canned black olives, honey-roasted peanuts and feta cheese managed to tame my violent objections to the appearance of the otherwise worthless lettuce. It was the vinaigrette, actually... it was wonderful. It could have made moldy bread taste like a slice of heaven. For the same reason, the restaurant's "Lettuce, Tomato, Onion" salad though spartan, seemed inspired. The recipe is on Joe's Stone Crab's website.
I know that everyone RAVES about Joe's key lime pie. They're famous for it (and, apparently, everything else on their menu). I found this beautiful wedge disappointing. I think that a few things contributed to my disappointment:
1. The pie had obviously been pre-cut and stored in a deep refrigerator. It was served near-frozen. This is one of the biggest turn offs for me. While I don't mind a chilled, pie, I really should haven't to cut my pie with a fork and knife. The cold state also negatively affect the state of the curd. The curd had hardened and became a terribly rich play dough-like consistency that made an unpleasant eating experience - it was like eating frozen paste - you had to let the curd melt in your mouth, which totally numbed the tastebuds... I couldn't taste the graham crust.
2. The curd was too sweet. Only when I studied the picture that I took of it did I noticed (but not at the time we ate it) that there appears to be something poured over the pie - like a sugar glaze (you can see it dripping down the sides of the pie). I wanted more of the key lime tang.
Am I convinced that Joe's Stone Crab has the best stone crabs? No. Am I convinced that they have the best key lime pie? Definitely not. Am I convinced they can do magical things with iceberg lettuce. Absolutely. Was I pleased with my overall experience at Joe's? As punch.
I can see Joe's becoming a special light lunch tradition if/when I visit South Beach in the future. Otherwise, I can be happy knowing I've been once.
$34 for selects (a designation I've only seen at Joe's) is not very outrageous. While Joe's is more expensive than other places, stone crabs don't come cheap. And aside from the stone crabs, I don't think Joe's prices are outrageous at all. Salads are all around $7, most sides are about $6-7, if you don't want stone crabs you can get a fish for around $20ish ... all pretty darn reasonable actually.
The selects, by the way, are how I almost always go. To me the meat is sweeter in the smaller crabs, and the selects my perfect balance between quality of the meat and work at picking the shells.
I find the near-frozen consistency of their key lime pie refreshing though yours may have gone too far.
Thanks for all the reports on your visit. Good stuff.
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Nice photos and review. I'm 47, born in Miami and I still haven't made it to Joe's yet. One day...
Is select the smallest size available? Is that for a pound? Just trying to get a frame of reference.
We had stone crabs last night at home. 6 or 8 (I forgot, too much bubbly) jumbo claws for $32.99/pound - 2.8 pounds. My SO wasn't able to finish, so I got to eat 1 1/2 more claws. :D My middle name is Champagne&StoneCrabHo. :D
Anyway, they are expensive no matter what you do.
Joe's has medium, select, large and jumbo in order of smaller to larger. Joe's prices orders by the piece rather than by the pound and you get 8, 7, 5, and 4 (I think) respectively. I have trouble converting what I visualize on the plate into pounds. In my experience the selects are much closer to the larges than the mediums.
I ate at Joe's this past Wednesday, I've eaten there many, many times and it's the most consistent finer eating establishments on the Eastern Seaboard. Joe's owns their own boats and actually sells Stone Crabs to other eateries. But for some strange reason, the Crabs don't taste the same anywhere else. We think it's the exacting temperature that the Crabs are served and most folks may not notice. The price isn't cheap but not expensive for selects when considering what you'd pay for a major chef's creation at a non-seafood restaurant. Yes, the atmosphere is usually electric and with eyes open you'd be surprised whom you might see. During last year's SoBe Wine & Food Festival, Paula Deen, Alton Brown and all the other food celebs waited out on the sidewalk just like everyone else! I had the keylime pie this past week and if anything they served it too cold but it was the same sweet and tart pie that I grew up with. The service is meticulous but during busy periods a bit forced so you're in and out perhaps a tad faster than you'd like. The chop salad remains awesome.
During busy periods we go to Joe's Take Away which is right next door, fight for the table, eat the crabs and get away without the $60 tip. They also have a very large selection of salads and desserts that are not available in the dining room at Joe's. Still a south Florida landmark that's just as good now as it was 5 decades ago.
If you're up further north and not looking for an upscale atmosphere, but want stone crabs, don't overlook Catfish Dewey's on Andrews between Oakland Park and Commercial blvd.
We were just there on Saturday. We never made it to their "all you can eats" (39.95/59.95/79.95 for medium/large/jumbo) respectively. You can start out with one pound or two pounds and always upgrade if you want more. This includes hushpuppies, coleslaw or salad and potato choice. We did the two pounds of large (8 very large claws -- and wound up taking two home each) that come with mustard sauce. The cost that night was $45 for the two pounds. (Think one pound large that night was $29.95)As the kitchen was backed up a bit, we were given two full baskets for the table -- one with lightly battered shrimp and one with fried oysters -- just to "tide us over"!
So if you in jeans, live in lauderdale, and don't feel like waiting in outrageous lines....