Stone crab season officially opened on October 15, and as such, it’s time to belly up to some of Miami’s top seafood spots for some of the most exquisite — and expensive — of local delicacies.
The sweet, succulent crabs are fetching somewhere between $35 and $75 per pound this year, about par for the course. And given their seasonality, expense and rich flavor all their own, it’s no wonder most purveyors don’t mess with the flavor too much. Rather than add unnecessary culinary bells and whistles, restaurateurs generally choose to deliver the goods simply: chilled on a bed of ice with a classic mustard sauce.
“Stone crab is known for its tender and succulent meat,” explains Viktor Dedvukaj, executive sous chef at Le Zoo. “The mustard sauce complements its natural sweetness while adding a bit of spice to the palate at the end.” Others go even simpler.
“My absolute favorite way to enjoy stone crabs is sitting on the back of a boat in Biscayne Bay watching the sun go down,” says Janine Booth, executive chef at Stiltsville Fish Bar. “All of the shells can go straight back into the ocean and there is little to no mess to clean up.”
That said, some chefs do dial up the delicacy with additional flavor. At Makoto, executive chef Daniel Garner likes to put a Korean spin on things with a savory marinade, while at Rusty Pelican in Key Biscayne, executive chef Fiorella Cornejo opts to serve them with a creamy leche de tigre sauce. At home, she’s even been known to simmer stone crab into a savory stew to enjoy with fresh bread.
Whether spiced up or simply chilled over ice, stone crab is only improved with a refreshing beverage. Booth loves a chilled, crisp lager or a vinho verde, with its slight effervescence.
“It pairs beautifully with the sweet meat of the stone crabs without all the bubbles of a Champagne or prosecco,” she says.
Though Cornejo wouldn’t knock the latter, she prefers her stone crab cold with bubbles or warm with Drouhin Reserve de Vaudon Chablis from Burgundy. Dedvukaj, meanwhile, may work in a French restaurant, but his drink pairing recommendation hails from a bit closer to home.
“You should pair it with something that enhances the natural sweetness while adding a bit of acidity to bring liveliness to the succulent meat and delicious taste of the stone crab,” he says. “Chef’s drink of choice is the classic mojito.”
However you enjoy your stone crab, here are the top Miami spots to get your fix this season.
At Stiltsville, stone crab claws are served simply on a bed of ice with a side of house sauce (a combo of roasted garlic and mayo spiked with both whole grain and smooth Dijon mustard), champagne vinegar and a touch of lemon zest for freshness. Order by the claw or with an assortment of other seafood like oysters, royal red shrimp and local tuna ceviche in the aptly named Tacklebox. On Thursdays, take advantage of stone crab happy hour, with $7 medium claws from 3 to 7 p.m., and be sure to sample some of the other fare, like lightly spiced crab cakes, the Buffalo fish “wings” or crispy whole fish with Key lime aioli.
1787 Purdy Avenue (map)
A local stalwart since 1913, Joe’s Stone Crab has evolved from a small lunch counter that predates Miami Beach itself to a full restaurant known for its seafood — and in particular, the eponymous chilled, cracked stone crab served with mustard sauce. Even if you veer away from the namesake item, you’re sure to be pleased by the other offerings including coconut shrimp, crab cakes and of course the famous Key lime pie.
1 Washington Avenue (map)
This bar and grill in Dinner Key is known for its waterfront views — the perfect place to dig into fresh stone crabs on ice with classic mustard sauce. If you want an even more imposing platter, you can also add jumbo Florida stone crab claws to the house Crab and Shrimp Cocktail Cooler, a mountain of seafood including a dozen chilled oysters, cucumber mojito salad, red Argentine shrimp, tuna tartare and a sauce combo of Bloody Mary cocktail sauce and champagne mignonette. Each added stone claw is $15 a pop.
3391 Pan American Drive (map)
Makoto takes a page out of Korean cookbooks, marinating the stone crab in a gejang-influenced sauce and then pairing with not one but two different sauces. A ponzu aioli lends sweetness and zing, while a wasabi cocktail sauce brings the heat. The resulting fire-and-ice combo, according to Garner, is pitch-perfect with a Nama Genshu Junmai sake.
9700 Collins Avenue (map)
The French-accented menu of fruits de mer at this brasserie nevertheless makes space for local bounty. In addition to seafood staples from across the pond like shrimp with lemon beurre blanc or a Provençal “grand aïoli” with chilled shrimp, poached salmon, mussels and veggies alongside garlic-scented mayonnaise, this stone crab season, Le Zoo is serving the claws the way Dedvukaj likes them best: chilled with classic mustard sauce.
9700 Collins Avenue (map)
The iconic Rusty Pelican is putting stone crab center stage with two seasonal specials. The Stone Crab Spider Roll marries crab with tobiko, truffled eel sauce and lotus root, while the Stone Crab Special sees three large crabs served with confit vegetables and a creamy leche de tigre made with hot rocoto pepper to lend a citrusy edge.
3201, Rickenbacker Causeway (map)
The Garcia brothers have been at the helm of this half-century-old Miami institution ever since they emigrated from Cuba. A favorite of Anthony Bourdain, this spot offers stone crabs in multiple sizes from medium to large to jumbo to colossal, paired with the house mustard sauce, both to eat on-site or to take away.
398 NW N River Drive (Map)
This family-owned spot is famous for its stone crabs, which are served alongside house-made mustard sauce with a side of creamy coleslaw. Golden Rules also doubles as a market, so you can eat your crabs on-site or take them away to enjoy at home.
17505 S. Dixie Highway (map)
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