Today, May 15, marks the end of another stone crab season. The harvest concludes today, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Joe's Stone Crab's Stephen Sawitz says this year has been challenging for the industry. "It was one of the worst I have seen in the past 40 years that I’ve been doing this. Our fishermen and fisheries truly felt the pinch due to low volume, so we had to find new sources of stone crabs."
The co-owner of Miami Beach's most iconic restaurant cites red tide and late spring currents as partly to blame. "Normally, when the [red] tide arrives in or around February, the upwelling currents will sweep it away from our fishing grounds. Last year was not the case. Many crabs fled from the tide, but others didn’t survive the red tide’s oxygen-depleting process."
With the season closing out, Sawitz, who has seen decades of stone crab seasons come and go, is optimistic about the coming year. "We are hopeful that next season brings us a better catch."
You still have a few days left to snag fresh stone crabs at Joe's. The restaurant will offer the succulent claws until supplies run out.
Though fresh stone crabs will soon be off the menu until October, Sawitz has a regal recommendation for those who need a fix of sweet crabmeat: Joe's Royal Crab.
The crab comes from the North Sea and is flown in from London exclusively for Joe's Stone Crab. Sawitz describes it as having the flavor of a stone crab and the texture of a king crab. "It's a fresh alternative to the postseason stone crab," the restaurateur says. Most of the royal claws are comparable to jumbo stone crabs and will sell for slightly less (MP).
Sawitz says his restaurant partners at the Joe's Stone Crab locations in Chicago, Las Vegas, and D.C. are looking forward to offering the crabs, and he hopes they're given the same warm reception by Miami customers. "Joe's Miami Beach is more heavily vested in the Florida stone crab, but we are confident [the Royal Crab] will be well received by our locals and tourists once the off-season begins."
Of course, Joe's key lime pie and fried chicken are always on the menu. Says Sawitz: "Our fried chicken is becoming an iconic menu item. It creates a buzz and is worth every bite — especially at $6.95. It’s our beloved loss leader."
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This year, Joe's and Joe's Take Away will be closed for a shorter period of time.
Beginning today, Joe's Stone Crab will be open for dinner only, and August 4 will be the last day the restaurant will offer service before the restaurant closes for the season. Joe's Take Away is open now through May 25 and will reopen August 6. That means there will be only two days when patrons can't "eat at Joe's" this year.
Joe's Stone Crab. 11 Washington Ave., Miami Beach; 305-673-0365; joesstonecrab.com. Summer season from May 14 through August 4 for dinner only. Tuesday, Wednesday, and Sunday 5 to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday 5 to 11 p.m. The bar opens at 5 p.m., and first seating is at 6 p.m. Closed Monday. Joe's will be closed Saturday, May 25, and Sunday, May 26, in observance of Memorial Day. No reservations.
Joe's Take Away. 11 Washington Ave., Miami Beach; 305-673-4611. 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday to Thursday; 7:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. closed Monday. Take Away closes for the season May 19 and will reopen August 6. When it reopens for pre-season on August 6, the hours will be Tuesday to Sunday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.