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Dec 31, 2008 07:23 AM

Joe's Stone Crab - An Institution

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


      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.....


                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?


              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?

                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.