Everglades / Southwest Florida / Unique Eats

Stone crabs in Everglades City: Fresh from the source in historic fishing town

Stone crabs in Everglades City

Stone crabs at Triad Seafood in Everglades City

If you want your Florida stone crabs right off the dock as fresh as you can find them, then you need to go to a funky small town where the highway ends and the wilderness begins — Everglades City.

Everglades City is a small fishing town about 35 miles south of Naples and 80 miles east of Miami. Dozens of stone-crab fishermen are based on its Barron River, and so are several informal, unpretentious seafood restaurants.

Everglades City is where Joe’s Stone Crabs on Miami Beach gets its stone crabs. Joe’s doesn’t take reservations and is famous for its long wait. True, you might spot a visiting celebity at Joe’s. At the Everglades City restaurants, on the other hand, you might spot a visiting manatee in the river your table overlooks.

Stone crab season is Oct. 15 to May 15.  (If you’re cutting it close to season opening or closing, don’t expect crabs on Oct. 15 because you can’t harvest them fast enough to serve on opening day. That also means that you CAN get fresh stone crabs on May 16, because they were harvested the day before.)

City Seafood in Everglades City

City Seafood in Everglades City

In Everglades City, several restaurants specialize in stone crabs in casual water-front restaurants.

When we wanted a stone crab experience, we stopped at the well-regarded Triad Seafood, 401 School Drive West.

Triad serves a great variety of fresh seafood, and we can also recommend the fried-conch sandwich.  It comes with fresh herb-seasoned fries and coleslaw. The sweet potato fries were great, too.

Stone crab prices vary during the season and a low harvest meant high prices. You can count on your least expensive stone crab dinner being at least $27 and as much as $45 for jumbo at Triad, where these dinners come with two side dishes. Triad also offers an all-you-can-eat option at market prices, which can vary week to week.

At City Seafood, 702 Begonia St., diners buy their stone crabs by the pound and separately order any side dishes they wish. In January 2017, prices were $17 a pound for medium; $25 a pound for large.

The picnic-table decor at these places fits the outdoorsy style of Everglades City. Dining areas at Triad and City Seafood are inside screened porches overlooking the river. From the street, you might not even guess Triad was a restaurant. Down the block, City Seafood puts on a bit more curb appeal, though the style is decidedly rustic.

Both Everglades City restaurants sell cooked stone crabs for take-out also.

Crab traps in Everglades City

Crab traps in Everglades City

The stone crab story in Florida

Stone crab season runs Oct. 15 to May 15 so that the crabs can grow back their missing claws — well,  that’s semi- true and makes a good story.

The crabs aren’t killed when they’re harvested. Claws that meet state requirements are wrenched off the crabs and the animals are tossed back, fully able to survive and thrive. It actually takes about 18 months for the claws to grow back, but the off-season helps protect the crabs from over-fishing.

Crabs are caught in baited traps (frozen pig feet or mullet is often used. ) In Everglades City, piles of crabs traps along the river are proof this really is a stone crab city.

The crabs are cooked in boiling water immediately after harvest, on the boat or at dockside, to prevent the meat from sticking to the inside of the shell, according to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

Stone crabs are served in the shell, usually cold with a mustard dipping sauce. They’re sweet and firm, and many compare them to lobster. Plenty of Floridians say they’re better than lobster.

If you visit Everglades City, there are other great dining options in addition to Triad Seafood and City Seafood.

The view of the Barron River from Camelia Street Grill

The view of the Barron River from Camelia Street Grill

Camellia Street Grill, 202 Camellia Street,  is another open-air spot on the Barron River where we’ve had excellent food. Locals recommend it too.  The tin-roofed restaurant has live bluegrass music on Saturday nights. You’ll know you’re there when you see the painted VW beetle at the curb.  Our vegetarians raved about the veggie burgers, and it offers plenty of fresh fish options, including stone crabs.

Diners on Yelp also have some good things to say about Oyster House Restaurant, located on Highway 29 South on the way to the Chokoloskee Islandwhich also serves stone crabs.

If you love seafood, you also might want to head to Everglades City on the first weekend of February for its very popular annual Everglades Seafood festival. 

Links for Everglades City restaurants:

Find a room in Everglades City:

Everglades City Hotels

Things to do in Everglades City area

We love visiting Everglades City for its proximity to so many outdoors adventures.


Stone crabs at seafood festivals:

Between the start of stone crab season and the arrival of the Thanksgiving holidays, there are a series of seafood festivals where stone crabs are the star. These include:

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  1. Sounds awesome!

  2. Makes me hungry just looking at those claws! Nice article, we’ll have to make the trip down from Tampa.
    Do you know off hand if there are any pet friendly motels in the area?

  3. Everglades City is so awesome. City Seafood is a must stop when I’m in town – it’s hard to pick a favorite meal there! Looking forward to stone crab season and hitting up a few festivals.

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