Get your crab claw crackers out. The start to the 2016 stone-crab season — at least one of the top five reasons to live in South Florida — officially begins tomorrow, Saturday, October 15. Crabbers can drop their traps on October 5 but must wait 10 days to start retrieving them, meaning these meaty crab claws will be available at area restaurants and seafood markets starting this weekend through May 15.
According to Mike Leffler, general manager of Billy's Stone Crabs in Hollywood, the restaurant's lunch and dinner crowd swells this time of year, averaging 500 covers a day early in stone-crab season.
"Everyone waits until October for the season to start," said Leffler. "We always open with a bang. We are a very busy restaurant this time of year."
If you're a fan of the meaty, jewel-like claws, you can find them at any of these top local seafood markets. You also know they're often as expensive as they are delicious, which is a problem if you're into pounding them down the way fat kids eat cake. (Stone crabs are classified according to the size of their claw, with medium ringing in at five to eight claws per pound, large at four to five, jumbo at three and colossal being one to two.)
But no fear, claw fans: Dozens of restaurants throughout Broward and Palm Beach Counties — most of them seafood spots like Billy's — are offering the fresh catch along with a few deals.
607 Ridge Rd., Lantana; 561-586-3000; rigginscrabhouse.com.
For over 20 years, Riggin's has been known as Palm Beach County's most authentic Maryland-style crab house. While blue crabs reign supreme here, steamed in massive pots in a traditional mixture of beer, vinegar, and spicy seasoning, they're also famous for their stone-crab claws come season. Starting this weekend, the Florida catch will be available for sale by the pound in the onsite market as well as in the restaurant for lunch and dinner service.
251 Sunrise Ave., Palm Beach; 561-655-5558; pbcatch.com.
Clearly, we aren't the only ones fantasizing about stone crab claws the size of baseball mitts. As soon as Florida’s stone-crab season begins, PB Catch Seafood & Raw Bar in Palm Beach is ready to offer guests the county’s freshest claws in all sizes: large, extra-large, jumbo, and, yes, even colossal. Eat them at the restaurant's recently reimagined bungalow-chic raw bar and lounge, which opens daily at 4:30 p.m., along with the chef's housemade mustard sauce and lemon or Bearnaise aioli.
Billy's Stone Crab Restaurant & Market
400 N. Ocean Dr., Hollywood; 954-923-2300; crabs.com.
The staff at Billy's will tell you it's all about tradition when it comes to eating stone crabs: served cold, with a side of the restaurant's signature mustard. You can order stone crab claws to take home from the in-house market, available for $12.99 to $30.99 per pound, but the restaurant also offers all-you-can-eat stone-crab dinners with claws sized medium, large, jumbo, and colossal.
Joe's Stone Crab
11 Washington Ave., Miami Beach; 305-673-0365; joesstonecrab.com.
The start of the season also means the haven for all things crabby, Joe's Stone Crab, which reopened this past weekend for the 103rd stone-crab season. The restaurant has been operated by the same family since 1913, when founder Joe Weiss opened the doors to his little seafood shack on Collins Avenue. Since then, Joe's has grown into the place to go for stone crabs. Head for the Take Away, a casual 80-seat market minus the formal seating that serves all of the restaurant's signature items, including stone crabs. You can also order them online, a to-go stone-crab party that includes a few bibs and mustard sauce. Currently, a stone-crab dinner for two is priced anywhere for $128.95 to $272.95.
Papa's Raw Bar
4610 N. Federal Hwy., Lighthouse Point; 754-307-5034; papasrawbar.com.
Papa's Raw Bar in Lighthouse Point is known for its "Stonies," the restaurant's own name for stone-crab claws delivered daily during season, which can also be ordered and shipped nationwide through beststonecrabs.com. However, now that stone-crab season is about to be in full swing, simply head to Papa's Raw Bar during happy hour, where you can find stone-crab claws for $6 apiece (large size only). Next door, the Papa Hughie's Seafood World market sells stone-crab claws for $27.95 per pound, or five- and ten-pound stone-crab gift boxes for $160 and $260 each.
4003 N. Andrews Ave., Fort Lauderdale; 954-566-5333; catfishdeweys.com.
Since 1984, this family-friendly Fort Lauderdale restaurant is best known for its daily all-you-can-eat catfish specials (what, the name didn't give it away?). Come stone-crab season, the crab claws are also offered up in unlimited portions, although availability depends on the market and prices vary according to size.
305 SE 17th St., Fort Lauderdale; 954-760-7009; kellyslanding.com.
This establishment is one of Fort Lauderdale's go-to spots for New England seafood staples and beer in a laid-back setting, complete with an outdoor patio. Specialities include daily specials, like on Monday when you can get two Florida lobster tails for $20 or King Crab Wednesday when you can order a full pound for $20. Come October, however, Monday also becomes a seasonal stone-crab special through May, when you can order up a pound of medium claws and one side for $20.
Nicole Danna is a food writer covering Broward and Palm Beach counties. To get the latest in food and drink news in South Florida, follow her @SoFloNicole or find her latest food pics on the BPB New Times Food & Drink Instagram.