At 10:30 a.m., Coconut Grove figurehead Monty Trainer will swoop down in a helicopter on Peacock Park to deliver the very first batch of stone crabs of the 2015-16 season. Trainor is set to deliver the claws alongside a security detail, to Coconut Grove Seafood Festival organizer Tony Albelo to signify the start of Miami's most favored season.
Albelo, who also runs Grovetoberfest and several fishing tournaments, says this is a time for seafood lovers to rejoice. “This scarcity of stone crabs during the off-season is finally coming to an end, which means we can go back to boosting our local economy and enjoying every bite."
What makes stone crabs so prized? Red the Steakhouse's Peter Vauthy thinks the desire goes beyond the sweet taste. "People love stone crabs because they have to work so hard to get them out of the shell for that delicious meat inside. It’s a primal thing, manipulating the shell to get to the prize. I also think that stone crab has become synonymous with South Florida. It's our version of a cheesesteak from Philly, the Maryland crab cake, or a New York pizza."
If you're hankering for some of those sweet, sweet claws, here are the best places for you to crack open some goodness.
My Ceviche's Sam Gorenstein says that, since season officially starts today, October 15, boats really won't start pulling traps until late afternoon, so the first batch from the Florida Keys will start arriving the early morning hours of October 16. Pricing is also determined by the catch, so it's best to call ahead to make sure fresh crabs will be available.
Joe's Stone Crab
This restaurant is the stuff that legends are made of. Founded in 1913, Joe's is actually older than Miami Beach itself (which was incorporated two years later), Joe's returns from summer hiatus to open its doors tonight, October 15 at 4 p.m. for a 5 p.m. first-seating. Still a family-run operation, Joe's great-grandson and current chief operating officer Stephen Sawitz says the first day of season is always the most exciting. “From the fisherman to the restaurant staff to our customers, there’s a buzz of excitement in anticipation for pulling those traps on Thursday.”
Joe's is also introducing some new menu items like freshly caught Florida snapper served en papillote and a 22-ounce bone-in rib-eye, dry-aged in house. There's also an expanded cocktail menu, but we know it's all about the stone crabs.
Coconut Grove Seafood Festival
On Sunday, October 18, the Coconut Grove Seafood Festival at Peacock Park in Coconut Grove celebrates not only stone crabs but all fruits of the sea. From 11 a.m. - sundown, Miami's best seafood vendors and restaurants will bring in an array of shrimp, oysters, crawfish, lobster, fish, clams, and stone crab claws for your enjoyment. After you're done feasting, pick up some fresh seafood at the Casablanca Fish Market, set up on premises. You can also check out the Shipwrecked Oyster Lounge, where Lure Fishbar's chef John Iatrellis will shuck oysters and The Rum Line's Robert Ferrara will shake up cocktails. Admission for the festival is $20 for adults, kids 12 and under are free. Purchase tickets at coconutgroveseafoodfestival.com.
Starting October 15, Monty's Sunset in South Beach will offer Florida stone crabs. Get there at happy hour (Monday through Friday from 4 to 8 p.m.) and they're half priced. You can order by the claw or served as a dinner entree portion.
Captain Jim Hanson's Seafood Market and Restaurant
With a motto like "from our boats to your table," it's a safe bet that your claws will be sweet and delicious. Captain Jim will start serving stone crabs as of Friday, October 16. On Friday, Captain Jim expects to have medium, large and jumbo claws. Eat them there or take them home — at prices generally lower than most of the fancy surf and turf establishments.
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George Stone Crab and My Ceviche
George Stone Crab's Roger Duarte just happens to also be a partner at My Ceviche, which means fresh from the boat claws delivered to your door or available for pick up or dine-in. Both George and My Ceviche won't have claws until Friday or Saturday, with My Ceviche carrying medium, large, and jumbo sizes. George Stone Crab will offer all sizes and, although the claws won't be available until Friday at the earliest, you can pre-order in advance.
My Ceviche's Sam Gorenstein is planning a stone crab happy hour at My Ceviche Coral Gables on Friday, though details are still being worked out.
Izzy's Fish & Oyster
Maybe Jamie DeRosa should rename his new seafood restaurant Izzy's Stone Crab for the season. The seafood shack will serve stone crab dinners with large and jumbo claws served by the pound (MP). Stone crabs will also be available at Izzy's Saturday and Sunday brunch, which starts this weekend and features bottomless still and sparkling rose for $25.
Red the Steakhouse
Chet Peter Vauthy knows seafood as well as he knows his steak at this Miami Beach pleasure palace for your taste buds. The chef is serving stone crabs, as well as its giant cousin from up north — Alaskan king crab, flown in from the northernmost state.