Chefs are serious about their tailgating spreads. Which is why it’s telling that whenever Athens-born Brandon McGlamery watches the Georgia Bulldogs take the field, platters of stone crab claws and mustard sauce anchor his pregame picnic. The chef at Luma on Park and Prato restaurants in Winter Park, Florida, McGlamery also enjoys them roasted over an open fire when he’s camping in the Everglades, one of the most productive stone crab spots. “They are the perfect ready-to-eat seafood,” McGlamery says. The in-demand crustacean is available from mid-October through mid-May. Though most are caught in Florida waters, they are harvested all along the Gulf and South Atlantic coasts.
The species is tightly regulated—only the claws, which regenerate, can be harvested (restrictions and bag limits vary by state), and egg-bearing females must be tossed back. When buying the claws, McGlamery says, “make sure they smell of high tide and the sweetness of the sea, and not a muddy, buggy low tide.” Whether you serve them with a side of SEC football or at the Thanksgiving table, you’ll quickly realize they’re all they’re cracked up to be.