Why you should still eat at Joe’s

At 102, Joe’s is still about stone crabs. But it’s also about so much more.

Sun Sentinel Broward Edition - Showtime - South Broward - - DINING - By John Tanasy­chuk

Alocal TVs­ta­tion once asked me to com­ment on the restau­rants its view­ers had voted the best in South Florida. Joe’s Stone Crab, now in its 102nd sea­son, was an easy one. It hap­pens to be one of my all-time fa­vorite restau­rants.

“We don’t even have mu­se­ums that old in South Florida,” I told the re­porter. “‘Institution’ doesn’t be­gin to de­scribe the tenac­ity of Joe’s.”

I love Joe’s be­cause it re­minds meof the first restau­rants I went to as a child, with its uni­formed cap­tains, maitre d’s, wait­ers, wait­resses and bus­boys. Joe’s runs with a kind of mil­i­tary pre­ci­sion, each staff mem­ber all too aware of his or her po­si­tion in keep­ing the wheels turn­ing.

I love Joe’s be­cause my dad worked for more than 40 years in this kind of restau­rant. To this day, he de­cries restau­rants that don’t sup­ply trays and fold­ing stands. Restau­rants, he says, just aren’t the pro­fes­sional places they used to be.

Then there’s Joe’s, which is the only restau­rant self-re­spect­ing fans of stone crab claws and Key lime pie ever need to visit.

I’d had stone crabs at an­other restau­rant just a few days be­fore my most re­cent trip to Joe’s, and they were fine. But they weren’t great. What is it about Joe’s spec­i­mens (mar­ket price; $59.95 for five large claws the night I dined) that makes them so much bet­ter? Is it the care with which they’re cooked? The meat never sticks to the shells. They’re ar­ranged like flow­ers on the old­fash­ioned heavy china that Joe’s still uses. They’re ice-cold. The mus­tard sauce can’t be beat. If you’re new to South Florida and don’t know a stone crab claw from a blue crag leg, go to Joe’s.

Joe’s Stone Crab

11 Wash­ing­ton Ave., Miami Beach 305-673-0365, JoesS­toneCrab.com Cui­sine: Seafood and steaks Cost: Ex­pen­sive Hours: Din­ner daily, lunch Tues­day-Satur­day Reser­va­tions: Not ac­cepted Credit cards: All ma­jor Bar: Full ser­vice Sound level: Bois­ter­ous Out­side smok­ing: No Wheel­chair ac­ces­si­ble: Yes Park­ing: $7 valet at din­ner, $5 lunch

But there’s much more on the menu, in­clud­ing some very fine steaks. They’re hand-cut and aged in-house and then cooked in cast iron and fin­ished with beef but­ter. There’s a 1-pound smoked beef rib ($20.95) and baby back ribs ($27.95, full rack). The menu lists where each meat item was pro­cured: filet mignon from Kansas, lamb chops from Michi­gan, ribeyes and strips from Ne­braska.

I can’t go to Joe’s with­out shar­ing an or­der of fried chicken ($6.95). For any­one who says Joe’s is too ex­pen­sive, come and eat half a fried free-range chicken for less than $10. You won’t be dis­ap­pointed. At lunch time, a chopped (ten­der­loin) steak is on the menu for $6.95. I like to start with fried oys­ters ($12.95), lightly breaded and fried, served with tar­tar sauce and a nicely spicy cock­tail sauce.

At din­ner, Ly­on­naise pota­toes ($9.95) are the way to go, with crispy shred­ded pota­toes served from a warm bak­ing dish. Fried as­para­gus ($11.95) is breaded in what must be bread crumbs and Ro­mano and served with gar­lic lemon aioli. You’ll be eat­ing this aioli on bread.

Did I men­tion that Joe’s has one of the best bread bas­kets around? Onion rolls, salt sticks and sliced rye bread are just a few of the carbs.

I love Joe’s creamed spinach ($6.95), with its big dose of nut­meg. I like the grilled toma­toes with spinach stuff­ing and melted cheese ($5.95). I’m not a fan of the sweet-and-sour coleslaw ($7.50), but my table­ful of co-din­ers fin­ished off the en­tire serv­ing.

And then, there’s Key lime pie ($7.95), icy cold but never frozen, with the right amount of sour­ness and sweet­ness. It gets a big dol­lop of whipped cream. I have been known to visit Joe’s take­out counter, where you can buy an en­tire pie. The brownie sun­dae ($9.95), how­ever, is best eaten in the din­ing room.

I understand why Joe’s can frus­trate some din­ers. If you’re not a reg­u­lar, you’ll wait, some­times for two hours. Thank­fully, the bar is a com­fort­able place with big cock­tails and friendly bar­tenders.

Stay calm. Have a drink and watch how a cen­tury-old restau­rant con­tin­ues to de­light.


Sure there are the leg­endary stone crab claws. But the huge menu holds other de­lights too.

The neon Joe’s sign at the restau­rant in Miami Beach.

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