October 15 marks the start of Florida stone crab season, a special time for the southeastern United States. Perhaps the most sustainable crustacean, Florida stone crabs are unique because once they are wild-caught, only one claw is removed, the crabs are returned to the water, and the claw regenerates. The stone crab’s ability to easily lose its limbs is an evolutionary mechanism to escape from predators. Full regeneration takes about three years.
Stone crab meat resembles lobster and tastes sweet, mild, and firm. Some claws are called “floaters,” from crabs that have recently molted and are not completely filled with meat. When cooked, the claws float to the top of the pot. Floaters are lighter and the shell is often thinner, so they are generally sold for a reduced price.
Two species of stone crab exist in the southeast: Menippe mercenaria (Florida stone crab) in the Florida peninsula, and Menippe adina (gulf stone crab) in the northern and western Gulf of Mexico. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission believes that these two species were once a single species that diverged to genetically distinct breeds. Interestingly, the two species interbreed so commonly that a third hybrid species has emerged.
Fun fact: Stone crabs have ten legs, eight for swimming and walking, and two for pinching prey or predators. The two pincher claws include a crusher claw and a pincer claw with small teeth for cutting. Stone crabs are usually “right-handed,” meaning that the crusher claw is usually on the right.
So where can you get your own claws on these delectable dishes?
Get to Monty’s in South Beach where the happy hour price on stone crab claws is only $4 each.
Captain Jim Hanson is a family fisherman who sells fresh-caught food, including stone crabs. The restaurant’s all-you-can-eat special costs $49.99.
This year will mark Joe’s 100th stone crab season. Besides its long history, Joe’s is famous for its signature mustard sauce. If you’re not in Miami, the restaurant delivers within the continental US!
Truluck’s owns its own fisheries and promises its stone crab goes from trap to table in under 24 hours.
An annual event since 1997, the St. Mark’s Stone Crab Festival celebrates the season with food, music, and crafts. St. Mark’s is a small city located 20 miles south of Tallahassee, and all proceeds benefit local charities.
Did we miss any notable spots? Share your favorites!
Kim Kohatsu judges the quality of her relationships on the ability to share food. If she can't split an appetizer with you, in her eyes, you are pretty much worthless. Kim's current food adventures revolve around ramen, sushi, Indian curries, Sichuan food, and fried chicken. Oh, and cheeseburgers. Kim loves a good cheeseburger.