Yesterday was the official launch of stone crab season, which means that the tasty crustaceans will be popping up on menus across South Florida. Hopefully, this year’s crop will be more plentiful than last season’s, when yields were crippled by weather and octopus! This led to scarce stone crabs, and, as a result, pricier claws.
In the good news category, however, legendary restaurant Joe’s Stone Crab is celebrating its 100th year in business. In 1913, the eatery debuted on Miami Beach as a fish shack. Joe’s didn’t start serving stone crabs until 1921. Since then, every celebrity, politician and notorious figure has eaten at Joe’s, including Will Rogers, Amelia Earhart, Gloria Swanson, Joseph Kennedy, J. Edgar Hoover, Walter Winchell, Muhammad Ali, George Bush, Bill Clinton, Frank Sinatra, Jennifer Lopez, Burt Reynolds, Dan Marino, Alonzo Mourning, Billy Joel, Martha Stewart, Al Pacino, Michael Douglas, Tom Cruise, John Travolta, Sean Connery and Madonna.
Joes has evolved into a 500-seat restaurant (including the Take Away next door) with 400 employees. Last year, they served over 350,000 guests with reported revenue of $33 million (including shipping). They have even franchised their brand with locations in Las Vegas and Chicago. More than a Miami tradition, Joe’s has become a national treasure.
Last night, I had to be there for the 100th anniversary. However, there was no fanfare, celebrities or celebratory tone. It was business as usual, which is fitting given the restaurant’s unpretentious manner.
While I didn’t order stone crabs (they were still serving frozen ones; wait a few more days for fresh crabs), the chopped salad, garlic creamed spinach, hashed brown potatoes and blackened shrimp were all up to snuff and familiar as home. Even the bread basket made me smile, although I eschewed those carbs in favor of the crispy hashed browns.
While other businesses have started in Miami with cheaper crab claws, most notably George Stone Crab and its restaurant counterpart My Ceviche, there is something so comforting about being seated in the main dining room of Joe’s, surrounded by satisfied (often bibbed) customers and tuxedo-clad servers. It’s traditional, which is something we don’t see too often in today’s social media, fast food obsessed age.
So, here’s to Joe’s Stone crab and their 100 years in business. And here’s to 100 more!