Throughout the year, Restaurant Editor Bill Addison will travel the country to chronicle what's happening in America's dining scene and to formulate his list of the essential 38 restaurants in America. Follow his progress in this travelogue/review series, The Road to the 38, and check back at the end of the year to find out which restaurants made the cut.
The menu listed dish after dish of classic American luxuries: shrimp cocktail, chopped salad, jumbo lump crab cakes, dry-aged bone-in ribeye, New York strip, filet mignon, sides of hash browns, onion rings, creamed spinach, and loaded baked potato. I looked up at my tuxedoed waiter. "So this is basically a steakhouse that serves stone crab claws?" I asked.
"No, sir," he replied, politely but firmly. "This is a stone crab house that also serves steaks."
I've been to Miami Beach at least a dozen times but, always chasing after the latest shiny restaurants, I'd never before dined at the city's granddaddy of all pleasure palaces, Joe's Stone Crab. The old-timer is nearing the end of its one-hundredth stone crab season, which runs annually from October 15 to May 15. Joe's does not accept reservations, and during the prime time of the year it moves 1,200 to 1,300 customers a night through its rooms built to resemble a Spanish villa. Two of us avoided the dinner commotion by sliding in for a late lunch with no wait.