Diners still have options for breaking the claws this season, despite the closing of Moore's Stone Crab Restaurant.
As the snowbirds return to Longboat, so does one of Florida’s most well-known foods: stone crabs.
Now that Longboat is without the historic Moore’s Stone Crab Restaurant, locals and visitors alike are looking for a replacement, and there are several options on the Key.
“We go through thousands of pounds every year,” said George Quattromani, chef at Mar Vista Dockside Restaurant and Pub. “They’re here for a certain part of the year, and then they’re done. Any other seafood, you can get year-round.”
Stone crabs are known for their sweet taste.
“They’re a very unique flavor,” said Karen Bell, of A P Bell Fish Co. in Cortez. “I like mine with lemon, and many like it with butter, but you can eat a stone crab just plain with nothing on it.”
Most restaurants base stone crab prices off the market prices. If supply is low, the crabs can be priced up to $30 a pound. If crabbers have a strong season, there will be a lower price.
“We’re always hoping for better because last year wasn’t very good,” Bell said. “The crabs didn’t want to vacation here like everyone else.”
Fifteen crabbers catch for A P Bell, some of who worked for Moore’s.
Because of the expected increase in supply, Quattromani plans to sell 50% more stone crabs than he did last year.
Like Mar Vista, Dry Dock Waterfront Grill names stone crab as one of its most popular winter dishes.
“People wait for stone crab season every year,” said Dry Dock Dining Manager Stacey Karis. “Snowbirds love it. It’s not a crab you can get up north.”
Dry Dock doesn’t freeze its stone crabs, so it orders a limited supply.
“We do not keep a long shelf life on ours,” Karis said. “We order small, so they’ll sell out. It’s always a good idea if you’re coming just for stone crabs to call ahead and see if we still have them.”
On the Gulf side, Maison Blanche will also serve a limited number of the Florida delicacy.
“People want them,” Maison Blanche owner Jose Martinez said. “They’re very fresh, and we cannot keep them for a long time, so we don’t buy a lot. When we are out, we are out. They’re one of our best items.”
Additionally, Harry’s Continental Kitchens will begin selling stone crabs this year.
“There’s a real void on the island with Moore’s being gone,” owner Harry Christensen said. “We’ve always had a good relationship with them, so we stayed out of the stone crab business, but we’re going to test it. I hope I can give a service for the people on the island who are looking for a place that has stone crabs now that Moore’s is gone.”
Stone crabs season runs from Oct. 15 to May 15.
“They’re right from the water you see from the restaurant,” Quattromani said. “They’re right there. You can’t get any fresher or more Florida than stone crab.”