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Joe's Stone Crab Opens for Its 106th Season

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Stone crab season, South Florida's favorite time of the year, begins October 15, which means you'll soon see those sweet claws showing up on menus and at your favorite seafood market.

Though many Miami restaurants — from steakhouses to seafood shacks — offer the claws, there's one place most famous for the delicacy: Joe's Stone Crab.

The Miami Beach icon will open for its 106th season October 15 at precisely 5 p.m. Wrap your head around the fact that Joe's is one of the few things in South Florida that's hit the century mark.

The restaurant actually predates Miami Beach. The original owner, Joe Weiss, opened a small seafood shack on Collins Avenue in 1913, two years before Miami Beach was incorporated as a city in 1915.

The restaurant has grown into a major celebrity hangout and huge operation, but it remains family-owned and -operated since the days when Joe Weiss served seafood to beachgoers. Joe's chief operating officer, Stephen Sawitz, is a direct descendant of the Weiss family and is the restaurant's heart.

His goal is to keep the restaurant's standards up to those that have made it a favorite among the famous and infamous. Consistency is key, according to the restaurant executive, as evidenced by the staff at Joe's — many who've worked there for decades.

Sawitz believes in small changes — such as the time he tweaked the menu cover a few years ago. In fact, the only thing that really changes are the stone crabs. From one year to the next, the annual stone crab crop differs, and Sawitz doesn't know what the season will bring until the first traps are pulled up Tuesday, October 15.

According to the restaurant executive, the word from crabbers is that it's looking good out there. Though Joe's opens the first day of stone crab season, fresh claws won't be delivered to the restaurant until Wednesday, October 16. Nevertheless, being one of the first people to eat at Joe's is an annual ritual for many Miamians, who celebrate everything from birthdays to engagements at the famed restaurant.

As always, Joe's doesn't accept reservations, and a wait for a table on a Saturday night could be hours. There's no trick to skipping the line, but there is a strategy: If you want a seat, get there early. Generally, diners who show up before 6 p.m. have a good chance of being seated quickly. And there's always Joe's Take Away next door, where the same claws are sold in a more casual atmosphere.

If patience isn't your virtue and you can't wait for a taste of stone crabs, Claws for a Cause, a fundraising dinner for Children’s Home Society of Florida, will take place this Sunday, October 13, at 6:30 p.m. Online ticket sales are closed, but there might be last-minute seats available. Contact Jamie Bertolis at jamie.bertolis@chsfl.org or call 561-402-0823 for more information.

Joe's Stone Crab. 11 Washington Ave., Miami Beach; 305-673-0365; joesstonecrab.com. Opens October 15 for dinner and October 18 for lunch.

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