Joe’s Stone Crab was opened as a lunch counter in 1913, before Miami Beach was a city, by Joe Weiss. He moved south from New York due to his asthma and found he could breathe easier in Miami Beach. It started as a lunch stand and by 1918 he and his wife bought a small house and set up tables on the porch, calling it Joe’s Restaurant. For a number of years, they were the only restaurant on the beach and Al Capone was a regular customer (using a different name). Around 1921 a researcher discovered stone crabs, but they were not known to be eaten. Joe gave them a try and they were an instant hit. His son Jesse evolved into running the place and had the personality to attract many celebrities and the well-to-do crowd. The place served food to Will Rogers, Amelia Earhart, The Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Joe Kennedy and J. Edgar Hoover to name a few. The third and fourth-generation family members now run the place with some employees having worked there up to 50 years. It is an institution, to say the least. A huge place, there are several dining rooms, a large bar and a patio all appointed with formally dressed staff and double white clothed tables. Service is fabulous as is the food. An experience not to be missed.
They started us off with a bread basket with several kinds of bread. There was one in the back that was a raisin bread that was cut thin and toasted with cinnamon sugar. It was the best but they were all fine.
We went for the stone crabs which are interesting as once the fisherman cuts off the claw you can toss them back in the water and it will re-grow. The claws are cooked, chilled and cracked just before they are brought to the table with a mustard dipping sauce. They come in medium, select, large and jumbo sizes and the day we were there they had a few orders of colossal size. You get about the same amount of meat in each order just more work with the smaller sizes. Also the shells of the medium and select are thinner so there will be more bits of pick out. The waiter brought plastic-lined bibs to protect your clothing and bowls to throw shells into. He must have changed out our napkins 3 or 4 times along with bringing a finger bowl after we finished. We had to try the colossal size that comes 2 to an order and were just $10 more than jumbo. They were huge and easily yielded large chunks of sweet firm meat. They do get more of the white coating under the shell so I think I preferred the large that comes 4-5 per order. They were cooked perfectly and the I had the server bring some drawn butter to use instead of their sauce. Both it and their mustard sauce were good to dip into.
We also tried the hashed brown potatoes, a small order. They were amazing. Served at the table, before I could get a whole photo, they were browned to a perfect crisp around all the exterior with soft potato goodness on the inside. They tasted and looked like they were cooked in butter, so also fairly rich. Don’t miss these.
Spinach was creamed with garlic and another delicious side. I think it was made with frozen spinach but the flavor and texture were just fine. It was also rich, but a vegetable, so that’s okay, right? We thought about adding slaw but the server wisely suggested we had enough.
For dessert we tried their signature Key Lime Pie. It had a texture almost like cheesecake with a terrific sweet and cuttable graham cracker crust. Topped with just a decorative flower made of whipped cream it was a smaller piece but still plenty for 2. It was a perfect finish for a really fine meal.