Our adventures with Chef Joshua Marcus of Josh’s Deli and Chef Daniel Serfer of Blue Collar throughout the classic restaurants of Miami continued this week with what is easily “the mother of all classics”: Joe’s Stone Crab in South Beach.
Name: Joe’s Stone Crab
Location: 11 Washington Avenue, Miami Beach, FL 33139
Guest Reviewers: ERGagit, Chef Brandon Whitestone
One of the world’s oldest restaurants still going strong is Grand Vefour in Paris, and it goes back more than 200 years. The food and service are at the highest standards when it comes to fine dining, so there is little room for negativity critic-wise (unless you happen to be an Andy Hayler). Despite this, it’s impossible not to be subdued by the places’ historic ambiance; to be able to dine where once Napoleon, Colette and Man Ray once did is surreal and probably better than going into the Louvre down the road to see a few dead paintings on a wall.
Given the age gap between Europe and America, to have a food establishment that goes back 100 years is probably equal to Grand Vefour in terms of heritage merit. And given the fact that the vast majority of today’s great Miami restaurants aren’t even teenagers yet, Joe’s Stone Crab in South Beach can easily be called “the mother of all classics”.
Of course it’s a tourist trap. What else is there to see in Miami? Once you’ve gone to the beach and been to a mall, restaurants are your next best bet, and to visit Joe’s is equal to going to Rome and seeing the Pope.
This is the main reason behind its popularity. The fact that the place runs like clockwork also helps. There are no missed drinks. There are no main courses served before everyone is done with their starters. There are no temperature issues with the food, and the time from order to food arrival is probably exact at every table.
Word of warning: with popularity come crowds, so unless you want to have dinner at 5pm or eat from the take-away section, be prepared to wait. Alternatively, go with someone who is friendly with who is perhaps one of the most powerful guys in town, the Maitre’D at Joe’s. Gladly this was the case on our recent visit, since one of our guest reviewers happened to know him quite well (and his fondness for American ex-presidents, if you know what I mean).
Half our crew was hesitant , sounding the “overrated” horn. If you focus on the food itself, yes, this may be true. There are many other places in Miami where people should be waiting 3 hours for a table just to eat, but the thing is that Joe’s isn’t about the food. It’s about going to a timeless classic where you can be engulfed in an American culinary experience like there are few in town.
There is nothing bad you can say about the food though. As the service, it comes out flawless as it probably has for 100 years. The clam “stuffies” were generous and warm with the perfect balance between clam and breadcrumbs. The fried chicken was juicy inside with a soft dry crisp outside, not greasy or overpowering like others.
The lead characters in the movie, the stone crab claws, were, exactly what they are meant to be. Crab claws. There is nothing to hate about breaking into the meat inside these babies, and dipping them into the delicious mustardy sauce served table side. From mother nature right to your mouth, thank you very much. Also on the side, a chunky slice of tomato with an american cheese lid perfectly placed under a grill was surprisingly good, and their “deconstructed” coleslaw and hash browns helped complete the picture.
When it comes to desserts, I challenge someone to find a better key lime pie. The apple crisp reminded me of the best one I have ever had, at JG Melon in New York City. And the bread pudding was simply superb.
Joe’s is a timeless classic and it deserves everyone’s respect just for that. The food is great and so is the experience of being there. Make sure you go with a friend of the Maitre’d and enjoy,