Food & Drink

Get Crackin’ on Stone Crabs

Miami institution Joe’s Stone Crab reopens for the season in October. Here’s a primer on its signature item

Photo: Tim Bower

Why stone crabs?

For their claws, which are filled with lobster-like meat. Fishermen harvest the crabs, named for their rock-hard carapace, by snapping off one claw and throwing the still-living crab back into the water, where it will grow a replacement claw. Most of the country’s harvest comes from South Florida (the season is October 15–May 15).


Why go to Joe’s?

Because Joe’s Stone Crab is an institution—and the restaurant is the single largest buyer of stone crabs in Florida. Hungarian immigrant Joe Weiss moved from New York to Miami Beach in the early 1900s, hoping the warmer climate would help his asthma. When he opened a lunch counter in 1913, he didn’t know that local stone crabs were edible. As the legend goes, it was not until a few years later that a Harvard fish scientist brought him a sack full of the plentiful crabs. He boiled a batch and quickly converted, then reopened his spot as Joe’s Stone Crab. Since then, Muhammad Ali, Bill Clinton, and Coretta Scott King have all cracked claws there.


How do you eat them?

Current owner and Weiss’s great-grandson Stephen Sawitz breaks it down: Give the shell a good whack with a mallet or the back of a knife. Twist off the bottom part of the claw, revealing the inner meat. For the knuckles, use a cocktail fork. Dip the succulent meat in mustard sauce. Repeat.