“For almost 90 years, long before today’s glitzy South Beach gained international acclaim, one emporium, Joe’s Stone Crab — attracted people to South Beach. From its simple beginning as a Mom-and-Pop fish house run by Joe and Jennie Weiss to its status as an international gathering spot of celebrities and foodies, Joe’s Stone Crab is more than a place to eat. It is a gastronomic and people watching experience covered in history. Chronicled in novels, movies and political memoirs, Joe’s has become an American icon.” — from the book cover of An American Icon: Eat at Joe’s, Its story…and its recipes (third edition), by Jo Ann Bass & Howard Kleinberg.
“It is the summer of 1921. Joe Weiss, the proprietor of Joe’s Restaurant on South Beach, is serving shore dinners to his guests when one of them, a visiting professor from Harvard, strikes up a conversation about a crustacean found in the neighboring waters.
“Properly prepared, it is quite tasty, he tells Joe. They are stone crabs, scientifically named Menippe mercenaria. Joe, like most people, is unfamiliar with them, but not for long.
“The professor is George Howard Parker and he is in Miami Beach for a few weeks, staying in a cottage at the new aquarium at the foot of the causeway that spills onto Firth Street.
“Hence, the visit to Joe’s Restaurant about six blocks away.
“Much of the early story of Joe Weiss is lost to the times…The one story that is consistent is that, in 1921, a Harvard professor introduced Joe Weiss to stone crabs and that was the genesis of what was to become one of the world’s leading and most famous restaurant…[Joe] and his wife Jennie were born in Hungary and came to New York at different times just before the turn of the nineteenth century. Needed relief from an asthmatic condition eventually brought them to South Florida.” — ibid
Eating It Like A Native: “The act of eating stone crab became a rite of passage and a way to make oneself a native. The stone crab as a cultural and culinary symbol has influenced the way people of the [Miami] region, nation ad globe have experienced the environment of South Florida.” — Nicolaas Mink, Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture, 2006.
A few facts about Joe’s Stone Crab Restaurant:
— An average of 1,400 meals are served daily, in season, reaching up to 2,000.
— More than a ton a day of stone crabs are served in season (this year it opened on October 15, 2015); 15,000 pounds a week.
— In a good year, over 750,000 pounds of stone crabs are bought in a season; in a bad year, less than 400,00 pounds. — Ibid
Recipe: Joe’s Mustard Sauce
This recipe is reprinted from Jo Ann Bass and Howard Kleinberg’s book An American Icon: Eat at Joe’s, Its story…and its recipes (third edition).
At Joe’s, the stone crabs are served cold, already cracked. They come with small metal cups of mustard or melted butter — or both. This is the mustard sauce for which Joe’s is famous.
(Makes about one cup)
1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon Colman’s Dry Mustard, or more to taste,
1 cup Mayonnaise
2 teaspoons Worcestershire
1 teaspoon A-1 sauce
2 tablespoons each Heavy Cream and Milk
Place the mustard in a mixing bowl or the bowl of an electric mixer. Add the mayonnaise and beat for 1 minute. Add the Worcestershire, A-1, cream [and milk], and a pinch of salt and beat until the mixture is well blended and creamy. If you’d like a little more mustardy bite, whisk in 1/2 teaspoon more dry mustard until well blended. Chill the sauce, covered, until serving.
[NOTE that the sauce is excellent with cold “shrimp a-peel”, especially fresh shrimp that are boiled for about 2 minutes in Old Bay Seasoning (or other shrimp or crab boil) and then drained (not rinsed!) and chilled. We’ve now had this several times since dining at Joe’s with fresh shrimp that we purchased at coastal markets — delicious!.]