When you’re of Indian descent (like I am), and the only crab you know comes in the form of a crab curry, it is really hard to comprehend a meal consisting of crab served cold. So, on our first night in Miami, in December last year, that is exactly what we set out to experience.
I am definitely what you would call a “planner”. I am not one of those people who can arrive in a new city having no idea where I will be dining for the rest of the trip. Imagine wanting to eat at a trendy new spot only to arrive & realise they are fully booked? #fomo to the max!
So, before our trip to Miami I compiled a list of the meals I just had to savour. The list was compiled using Google search results & trip advisor reviews & it was obvious from the results that Joe’s Stone Crab was a firm favourite. Upon trying to make a reservation I was informed that the restaurant does not take bookings. The restaurant operates on a first come first serve basis. I decided that I still wanted to try it out – look at me going against the norm (although I didn’t have much of a choice.)
On the evening of the 28th of December, we set off to Joe’s Stone Crab & arrived at 6:30pm (the restaurant opens for dinner at 5pm). I assumed that this meant we would get a table around 7:30pm which seemed reasonable, am I right? Wrong. There is only one word to describe what greeted us as we entered the restaurant doors – C.H.A.O.S.
There was no signage telling us where to go or what the process was to get served. We had to join a queue which we thought was the queue to get in, when in fact it was only the queue to put your name down on the waiting list. We were told by the host, dressed in a black suit with his very own hand-held mic, that the wait would be two hours long so we decided to get some drinks at the bar.
We wandered over to what looked like a quieter side of the bar & got some drinks without any hassle. Mind you there were easily a hundred people just waiting around the bar and surrounding areas. Getting some seats on the other hand proved to be far more difficult. At this point we noticed a few people seated at casual tables in a room adjacent to the bar. After asking around we found out that this room was ‘free-to-all’ and that you could order starters off the menu while you waited for your actual table. All the tables were full. Obviously. So, there we stood in the doorway watching for people that looked like they were about to get called to their table, like a couple of vultures waiting to pounce on its prey.
Finally, after an hour & a half of standing around, we were seated. We ordered a few more drinks and some oysters and tried to get comfortable for the thirty-minute wait that we still had to endure. Only it wasn’t thirty minutes. It turned out to be an additional hour & a half wait. During this time, we ventured back and forth to see how far down the list we still were. Side bar: every time we were certain there were people that weren’t on the list that knew the host and were allowed to walk straight in.
When our names were eventually called we still had to wait in another line until a table became available for two people. By this point I had honestly lost my appetite but I had gone there to try stone crab so there was no turning back.
We ordered the king crab dish in addition to the stone crab just in case the cold stone crab wasn’t to our liking. Overall the portion sizes were decent and the stone crab was very meaty, unlike any other crab I have tasted. It was a strange feeling to be eating cold crab however it is served fully cooked which is not what I had assumed. I would say it’s definitely something worth trying but my top tip is to be in line as soon as the restaurant doors open if you don’t feel like having your dinner at 10pm.
It is also worth noting that it is an extremely busy time of the year in Miami and this could also impact how busy good restaurants are, especially in the Miami Beach area.
- Fun fact – the claws of the Florida stone crab are considered a delicacy. The claws are removed from a live crab body and the body is then thrown back into the water where it is able to regrow its lost limbs. Joe’s Stone Crab in Miami is the largest buyer of stone crab claws