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Joe's Stone Crab - An Institution

  • WineAG Dec 31, 2008 07:23 AM
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I never go to Miami without a stop at Joe's. My recent visit 2 days ago was confirmation as to why I do. Not that I expected anything less. Time stands still at this most amazing restaurant.

There are so many reasons why I like this place. First, and foremost, is the amazing chow. The stone crabs are fantastic (always get the largest ones they have available... jumbos were what we got). Then an order of hash browns and the unusual cole slaw. I love the slaw... it's a sweet type and served with a couple of large tomato slices and a dollop of mayo on top... sounds weird but its excellent (prob not to everyone's taste though).

Ordered crab cakes for my 6 year old son... he loved them. It's an entree sized portion... you get 2 huge crab cakes.. and they are fantastic. Also ordered onion rings for him... excellent as well.

Other reasons to marvel at this place it that it hasn't changed one bit since I've been going the last 25 years or so. I love that... a true institution. They have it down... it's a huge place and it runs like a top... amazing to see. Timing of your meal is perfect... the waiters are pros. Your food comes out perfectly cooked (of course the crab is served cold). Enough good wines to keep anyone happy. Then when you leave you see hundreds of people milling about waiting for a table.

Especially since we had a 6 year old in tow, we went soon after they opened... a bit after 5pm... and there was no problem getting seated immediately. When we left there was at least a 2 hour wait.... people everywhere. So, when you go, just plan your day to eat early and you'll be able to enjoy this fantastic place with a minimum of hassles.

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  1. What no mention of the key lime? Shame on you :).

    1 Reply
    1. re: tpigeon

      Exactly....

      We were running late so we had to skip the key lime pie... no question it is the definitive happy ending at Joe's.

      Thanks for pointing that out....

    2. Joe's is an institution (and a very fine one at that) though I have to note a couple minor points of disagreement ->

      - with stone crabs, not everyone agrees that bigger is better. Easier, for sure, but I find that the crabmeat is usually sweeter and has better texture when you go smaller, even if it means more work. My preference is the selects (between medium and large) which usually come 7 to an order.

      - re "hasn't changed one bit" - the restaurant actually underwent a major expansion and renovation about 10+ years ago which added a lot more restaurant space, a much larger bar, and the Joe's Take-Away next door (one of the all-time great quick take-home meals). The menu has also had some additions and updates over the past few years, with some more contemporary fish and seafood preps, though all the old standards are still there, and the waitstaff is still as old-school as ever.

      - Speaking of old standards, one of the truly great buried treasures on the Joe's menu is the 1/2 fried chicken for a whopping $5.95 - now THAT probably hasn't changed in 25 years.

      7 Replies
      1. re: Frodnesor

        Yes, I agree with your points about the changes... yes, they have made improvements and it's bigger, but the basic core atmosphere, service, etc. is the same. The same feel as it did when I first went. But you're right.

        Of course, as you state, everyone has their preference on size... same discussion as with lobsters. I prefer the jumbos or larger (though rarely available)... and certainly recognize that others prefer smaller ones.

        The $5.95 chicken is still there. I've ordered it in the past with larger groups so we could try it... very good. Speaking of lobsters, I generally just order crab but one time a few years ago I went with a bunch of people and we decided to have a lobster course... I have to say they were fantastic... about 2 pounders. Just don't have the room to consider more than the crab when I typically go.

        I always have the crab but there is a huge menu. I always like to see what other tables order as the menu IS so varied and I wondered why they have so many options. I asked the waiter and he said about 70% of the tables order crab. While the crab is understandably pricey, the other items seem very reasonable in price.

        The price of the jumbos these days... $68.95 -- 4 pieces per order

        1. re: WineAG

          You should try the hot king crab claws once with butter - expensive but amazing - much better than lobster.

          1. re: tpigeon

            I just left sunny and beautiful Miami for chlly Chicago. What should be a great New Years Eve bash tonight at Charlie Trotters should take some of the chill off.. One day Im gonna have to check out the Joe's here (can't be the same... but prob still good).

            Good king crab is indeed phenomenal. I've never considered that at Joe's but its now on my radar... thanks. I love ordering live king crab when I can get it... some Chinese rests get it on occasion... it's amazing. Live makes a big diff. I suspect the king crab at Joe's is frozen, but that's ok too.

            I think on my next Miami trip Im gonna go to Joe's twice... once for the stone crab (gotta do it) and come back later in the week to explore some of the other things on the menu... like the king crab...

            .... or just compose a little tasting menu of a few things and not eat so much stone crab. Actually, that makes more sense. Done.

            1. re: WineAG

              I believe they fly it from alaska. It probably is but it is still amazing. I know many in chicago who have eaten at joes there and they find it inferior to the one here.

              Joes here only lent the name - they are not run by the same people...My friends from chicago always want to eat at joes when they come down here btw - which should speak volumes about the difference.

              1. re: tpigeon

                Love to read about Joe's....I too think of it as the "Mother Church" of Miami Beach eateries....I hit the place at least twice per year and usually 3 to 5 times....But for sure on my birthday in December and always on the last day of the season that they're open.....Love the crabs....the spinach....the hashbrowns....the chopped salad....the bread (yes, the bread)....and even the snooty waiters......I will occasionally duck in for lunch at the "Take Away" side.....

                Joe's is also one of the main distributors of stone crabs for the area.....and you can't eat stone crabs in a dozen good places and be happy....but for whatever reason...they NEVER taste the same as they do at Joe's and we're not sure why as all stone crabs are cooked on the boat (by law).....We think it's because of the exacting temperatures they serve the crabs at....but we have no definitive evidence or proof of that.....But I've been there at least 50 times and have never had an a bad experience....ever.....We usually go on Sunday at 3...put our name on the list....have a drink or 3 at the bar.....they open the doors at 4 and we go right in.....

                EMac

                1. re: LargeLife

                  Lets not forget about the Grilled Tomatoes (topped with creamed spinach and cheese) and the French Fried sweets (I usually go with the skinnies).

                  I second the Fried Chicken which is not only a great buy but delicious as well.

                  Also second the breadbasket in particular the salt stick type piece.

                  Been contemplating the King Crab legs the last few visits but have been talked out of it every time...

          2. re: WineAG

            you should have gone to Catfish Deweys in Ft Lauderdale, AYCE JUMBO stone claws... for $59 yesterday.

        2. I wish I had know this before about arriving early. The first time I went I was a vistor on a business trip so our host planned teh evening we went straight from the office and had a wonderful night. My second time around I was 9 months pregnant went in the middle of dinner hour and waited... I kid you not 4 hours. After that there was no way any stone crab could make me and my husbnd happy. Now that I know to arrive before they actually open maybe we'll try it again. By the way you cn actually get stone crabs else where and it's just as good.

          6 Replies
          1. re: 2455Bklyn

            You could also introduce yourself to Ed and see about 'arranging' some more timely seating.

            1. re: dmo305

              Introduce yourself to Ed on the way in, but do the "arranging" on the way out. That's the way it works at Joe's. I've worked my Sunday plan well and have never paid an extra dime to get a table. Then again, I stay away from the place during rush hour or just hit the Take Away....scope out a table....then go in for the kill......It's "Bowl Week" with the Orange Bowl and the BCS championship games being played locally and this is a good time to avoid Joe's.........

              I'll cordially disagree with 2454Bklyn....Nearly everyone I've talked to agrees that the stone crabs at Joe's taste better than at other places....but nobody is exactly sure why....Some speculate on temperature....Some speculate that they move through so many that they're never frozen.....And some places do freeze them from one day to the next.....or as business dictates......Maybe it's the terrrazo flooring....who knows?

              EMac

              1. re: LargeLife

                I had an open mind when friends said that you can get stone crab "as good or better" than at Joe's. One swore by Monte's.... I went. Not nearly as good. Here's the point. At Joe's they are always fantastic... always.

                From time to time I run across a place that has very good ones but I generally don't even try them at places cause typically they're so disappointing compared to Joe's.

                So, in my mind, there's none better than Joe's... and I save my stone crab experiences for when I'm in Miami... for me it's actually part of the fun of heading to Miami.

                1. re: WineAG

                  Yeah you hear it all the time montys, publix, etc. You are right. Joes is the best.

                2. re: LargeLife

                  Well freezing is definitely out of the question. I think the swearing to best any where has a lot to do with the whole evening that may alter how the crabs taste. I would think an equally good place that know what they are doing with stone crabs can replicate that exact temperature that they must be served. Unless of course Joe's is adding to flavor ehance the crabs but let me not start up any nasty business. This is coming from the daughter of Hong Kong trained chef who knows all the tricks whispered from chef to apprentice ...without msg... that you will never find in any cook books. Ancient Chinese secrets that will never be revealed.

                  1. re: LargeLife

                    Back in the mid 90's a good friend played for the Dolphins. There was nothing better than walking into a packed Joe's(the old set-up) and being seated before we could get a drink.
                    The grilled tomatoes, hash browns and some hot tea with the key lime pie make this one of the most consistant meals i have experienced (along w/ an order or three of stone crabs).

              2. Thought all you fans would like to know, Joe's is the third highest grossing independent restaurant in the nation, in 2007, according to Restaurants and Institutions. Here are their stats. By the way, check out the average check, it's below the cost of the four jumbo claws (or they had a price increase perhaps, but I'm finding stone crabs same as 2007 in my area, Tampa Bay):

                3 Joe’s Stone Crab, Miami Beach
                ’07 sales: $29,680,810
                Avg. dinner check: $65.00
                Meals served: 347,423
                Seats: 450 dining; 30 bar
                Square footage: N/A

                2 Replies
                1. re: joan

                  Interesting info. The reason the check avg is lower than the cost of an order of jumbos is that not everyone orders them... thank goodness for that or they'd run out. Imagine 347k orders a year!

                  Some tables order an order or 2 for the table, and some people don't order the stone crab at all. This brings down the check avg... esp if they order that $5.95 chicken!

                  (p.s. - as a wine guy, can't think of Tampa w/o thinking of the great wines Ive enjoyed at Berns)

                  1. re: WineAG

                    What happened to my post regarding the gross income and the average check?
                    Sheesh!

                2. Just curious: what are the prices on stone crab claws at joes? I got five large-medium claws for $15 last time I was in Everglades City and they were truly scrumptious.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: zenana

                    The price of the jumbos... $68.95 -- 4 pieces per order.

                    1. re: zenana

                      Pricing varies from day to day, but on average I'd guess that an order of mediums (typically 8 to an order) is about $30, up to about $70 an order for jumbos or colossals.

                    2. Hey there, Fla chowhounders. My wife and I will be visiting your fair city to escape the Chicago winter chill and plan on eating at Joe's. Would appreciate any insider tips (best time to go, best thing to order - besides stone crabs and key lime pie, of course) and any other things to do around the resto.

                      Thanks,
                      Veeral

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: veeral

                        You will enjoy Joe's....You can eat Stone Crabs at a million different places....but for whatever godforsaken reason...they don't taste the same as they do there....We wish they would because maybe we could go somewhere else that's cheaper....But that's not the case!....The best time to go is on a Sunday afternoon...Get there at 3....put your name on the list.....go to the bar for an hour....and they open the doors to the dining area at 4....From there they seat you right away.....Love the shrimp and lobster cocktails.....A traditional meal there would include the chopped salad....the hashbrowns....and the creamy garlic spinach......all a la carte....So those are must have side dishes!!....Have heard that the fried chicken there is great.....but I don't go there for friend chicken!

                        I promised my sales team of 10 an outing to Joe's if they met their January objectives...and they did!.....So we'll be headed for a big blowout at Joe's in about two weeks or so!......Can't wait

                        Emac

                        1. re: veeral

                          My insider tip for getting in quickly is to always go with someone who has already made "friends" with the maitre'd. As for the food, as noted above I prefer the flavor of the selects to the larger claws, even though they're more work. Everyone has their own personal favorites as to the apps and sides. The cole slaw starter is odd but a Joe's tradition, a pile of vinegared slaw topped with a big dollop of mayo, another dollop of relish, and some tomatoes (DIY); I like the "stuffies" (baked stuffed clams); my usual sides are the lyonnaise potatoes (hash browns with onions), not exceptional and in fact rather greasy, but traditional and satisfying nonetheless; the garlic creamed spinach; the grilled tomatoes are also not exactly haute cuisine (fat slice of beefsteak tomato topped w/ creamed spinach and a slice of American cheese), but also hit a certain spot. Some also like the cottage fried sweet potatoes or the skinny fried sweets.

                          1. re: Frodnesor

                            I haven't been for a while, but my late husband and I used to enjoy sitting at the bar, having a bottle of wine and claws and watching the competition for the maitre'd's "attention". Some of it was hilarious and inept. It is difficult to try to tip your way in the first time at any restaurant.

                            Bartenders love watching the spectacle as well.

                            The well-groomed and dressed will be a little better attention, gracing the palm or no.

                            LMF

                            1. re: LilMsFoodie

                              went last Thurs...6:30, dressed business casual (more casual than business, actually) had no wait and enjoyed the best meal I've had in over 5 years...

                              we ordered way too much, ate every last bit, took dessert back to our hotel for breakfast

                              had the cold shrimp stuffed 1/2 lobster app, 2 orders of stones, the scallops, the cold seafood dinner, 2 bisques, spinach and the hashbrown...key lime and browie sundae (to go) and 3 rounds of drinks - total bill was $208

                              I would have been happy paying twice that for the meal...soooooo good

                        2. I apologize if this is a stupid question, but do stone crabs have a season? I'm assuming by reading this thread that they don't since it sounds like they're always served fresh at Joe's? Anyway, we'll be visiting Miami, mid-April and since I've never had the luxury of ever trying a stone crab, we will make a visit to Joe's!

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: ck1234

                            Yes, stone crab season runs Oct. 15 - May 15. Though they are often frozen, Joe's and most other places don't serve them out of season. Joe's used to close down completely out of season, they now do keep summer hours.

                            I'm sure Joe's keeps frozen claws "on reserve" to deal with supply fluctuations, and indeed if you're going for the first day of the season, you are surely getting some frozen claws because they can't possibly harvest enough in one day to service the entire restaurant. They freeze reasonably well - the claws are always cooked in advance and then chilled on ice anyway - though I'm pretty sure I can usually tell the difference.

                            www.foodforthoughtmiami.com

                            1. re: Frodnesor

                              Of course you can tell the difference! The meat sticks to the cartlidge when they're frozen.

                          2. GLACIAL service - unless you're a celebrity, apparently - but wonderful food and a positively essential cookbook.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: sophie fox

                              Surprised to hear the service described as "glacial." Yes it often takes a long time to get seated, unless you've appropriately curried favor with the maitre'd (which has nothing to do with being a celebrity), but once seated I've heard the service described as "brusque" more often than anything else. It's an old-school style of move-em-in-move-em-out service, not at all rude, just professionally and ruthlessly efficient. It's much the same as what I'd expect to find in a Chicago or NY steakhouse.

                              1. re: Frodnesor

                                Agree with Frod....Joe's service is anything BUT slow....It's fast...efficient....nad love that term 'ruthlessly efficient'.......Sophie you must have hit the rare pot hole in the road at Joe's....it's usually one of the fastest big ticket meals you can eat in South Florida - -once you get to the table....The maitre'd is a bit of a celebrity this is true....but you tip him at the appropriate time and you'll get taken care of....no matter your last name or recent acting credit.....

                                Emac

                            2. I swear to God, I ate there in the eighties and at least one and maybe more of the stone crabs we got were bad...as in spoiled. We couldn't believe it and I'm writing it off as just a mistake, so will have to go there again.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: observor

                                I also believe in giving a restaurant a second chance every 20 years or so.

                                1. re: Frodnesor

                                  Joe's has been offering a special - 4 large claws, cole slaw, indivdidual hash browns and creamed spinach, and key lime pie - $39.99. Very reasonable in my opinion, and what many folks order. We added sweets and lyonnaise potatoes. Only complaint was that pie was too cld, but by that time was too full to complain.

                              2. I'm glad to hear they keep up the standards....all too often when a place gets a reputation the price goes up and the food goes south.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: observor

                                  Joe's is Joe's....period. I've been eating there for over 35 years and the crabs, spinach, hash browns and chopped salad are the stars of the show.....They keep it simple there....it works.....and their record of longevity speaks for itself......I'll keep showing up there at first call on Sunday afternoon....avoiding the lines and pomp & circumstance....always leaving a very satisfied customer.......

                                  Emac

                                2. PhillyMike - waiter - excellent server and knowledgeable. If from Philadelphia area and going to Joe's, ask for him