MIAMI (CBSMiami) — South Florida is about to get cracking as stone crab season officially opens on Tuesday, October 15.
“Hi Lisa, welcome to our 106th season. We’re not open, but I’d still like to give you a sneak peek for the new season,” says Stephen Sawitz, owner of Joe’s Stone Crab to CBS4’s Lisa Petrillo.
It was a rare opportunity for Lisa to walk inside an empty Joe’s Stone Crab, the iconic, world-renowned restaurant, just days before the season opening with owner Stephen Sawitz. Steve is 4th generation of the family that started it all.
“I feel very blessed that we are open for that long. It’s great to have everybody coming back. Ninety-percent of the staff is coming back. I look forward to seeing our guests come back and the start of the new crab season. You don’t take it for granted,” he said.
As Lisa and Steve walk around the storied restaurant where Al Capone used to frequent, the history is evident and so is the growth.
Joe’s Stone Crab opened in 1913, two years before Miami Beach was incorporated.
On this day, Joe’s Take Away is bustling with loyal locals and tourists alike. Many customers have been coming into Joe’s for decades.
On the menu for Steve and Lisa, fresh frozen stone crabs from last season.
This season’s crabs are not served fresh until October 16, the day after they are allowed to be caught.
“Last year was a huge challenge because it was a difficult year catching stone crabs,” explained Steve. “We had a red tide and we believe this one red tide from the year before that did not leave the area, depleted the oxygen. What I’m hearing now is they are seeing more stone crabs in the traps, but how long that will last, we don’t know,” he explained.
Not everyone comes to Joe’s for the claws.
“So Joe’s friend chicken is still the best deal in town?” asked Petrillo taking a bite of a leg.
“I think it’s the best deal ever, but it’s also our number two bestselling item just behind stone crabs. It is $6.95 for half a chicken.
Over the years, many celebrities have enjoyed Joe’s.
“The late Senator Kennedy sat over here in the garden, Cindy Crawford was here, so was Michael Caine and our current president, President Trump was here in the 1990’s. Ann Margaret sat here too,” he said.
Another constant is the loyal staff. Many have been here for more than 50 years.
General Manager Brian Johnson started out as a waiter back in 1980.
Now he manages a staff well into the hundreds and handles the daily crowds of hungry people.
Joe’s does not take reservations.
“My advice? Come early. I would say try to come earlier in the week. It’s typically easier to get into Joe’s before the weekend,” he said.
Joe’ Stone Crab opens for stone crab season October 15.