With its proximity to the Chesapeake Bay, Washington is a city that sees plenty of crab on its menus. But those are mostly blue crabs. Joe's Stone Crab, opening Jan. 31 at 750 15th St. NW, will soon find out if its namesake crustaceans are as popular here as those found smothered in Old Bay.
Some back story: The original Joe's Stone Crab is a 100-year-old Miami Beach establishment. Through a partnership with Lettuce Entertain You, the restaurant group that includes Mon Ami Gabi and Wildfire, Joe's expanded to Chicago and Las Vegas before the group set its sights on remodeling and occupying the historic Union Trust building near McPherson Square. The result is a space with soaring ceilings, marble columns, a vast bar area, a grand staircase and handsome dining rooms suitable for large groups and private entertaining.
And stone crabs. The claws are sweet, meaty and served pre-cracked and cold, with a mustard sauce for dipping, at a market price of about $30-$40 per pound. For environmentally conscious eaters, stone crab has a "best choice" sustainability rating. The fisheries that harvest the crabs remove only one claw and throw the crab back into the ocean, where it regenerates. And since Joe's owns several stone crab fisheries, they can ensure that the claws are on your plate only 24 or so hours after they're pulled from the water.
You'll also find Alaskan king crab, which is broken down table-side. Those looking to splurge can order "The Whale," a decadent platter of king crab, stone crab, jumbo shrimp cocktail and shrimp and scallop ceviche. And because not everyone wants to order cold seafood year-round, there's plenty of steak.
"In Florida, most people have [stone crab] as an entree," Lettuce Entertain You founder Rich Melman said. "I said, 'How are we going to be able to serve cold entrees in the middle of the winter?' It made me nervous enough to say, 'We'd better have the best fish we can do, and we'd better have steaks.'"
K Streeters on expense accounts will be pleased with the 16-ounce bone-in filet mignon ($52.95), especially when it's served in one of Joe's five private dining areas, complete with meeting-ready flat screens for PowerPoint presentations. Those who come to the bar for a casual drink or lunch can nosh on less formal fare, like crispy fried chicken and seafood salad.
For dessert, there's pie, and lots of it, from key lime to a towering peanut butter pie and the tres-leches inspired Havana Dream. Pies can be sold whole, by the slice or even the half-slice for those minding their New Year's resolutions.
The restaurant is cavernously large, with a 220-seat dining room and 120-seat bar. Service is formal, but a diner's attire doesn't have to be. And the restaurant's walls are outfitted with many of the fixtures and original crown molding from the old bank, as well as photos from Joe's in South Beach. As Melman inspected the construction progress, he passed an artist hand-painting the numbers "1913" -- the year the original Joe's opened -- on a wall, to look as if it were stone.
"If I carved into it, it wouldn't look that good," he said to the artist. "Hey, can you draw a crab?"
More photos below, and a dinner menu here.
Joe's Stone Crab, 750 15th Street NW. 202-489-0140.