Everglades / Southwest Florida / Unique Eats

Stone crabs in Everglades City: Historic fishing town is recovering from hurricane

Stone crabs in Everglades City

Stone crabs at Triad Seafood in Everglades City

Everglades City is a small and isolated fishing village, where stone crabs are a critical part of the economy.

But this year, that’s more true than ever.

As stone crab season opens Oct. 15, Everglades City is still digging out from a 10-foot storm surge that flooded the town during Hurricane Irma Sept. 10.

City Seafood in Everglades City

City Seafood in Everglades City

The town has a population of 411 – and more than 100 houses were completely destroyed.

Everglades City is 35 miles south of Naples and 80 miles west of Miami.

Dozens of stone-crab fishermen are based on its Barron River, and so are several informal, unpretentious seafood restaurants that traditionally draw visitors who love the sweet lobster-like crabs. Stone crab season is Oct. 15 to May 15.

Visitors to Everglades City this fall are likely to find hurricane debris and FEMA trailers in this historic town. But they’ll also find tough and determined local residents who will appreciate their business.

Resident Rick Magers, who lives on nearby Chokoloskee Island, described the post-storm scene like this: “This place looked like pictures of a South Pacific islands after it got hit by tsunami.” Magers is helping out at the historic Smallwoods Store trading post/museum, which was built on stilts and was not damaged.

Across the region, progress is slowly being made, and that includes at my go-to stone crab restaurant: Triad, 401 School Drive West. There, workers are repairing damages with a goal of opening for business for the first time in a month for stone crab season on Monday, Oct. 16.

Another favorite stone-crab spot, City Seafood, 702 Begonia St., has re-opened too.

Island Café, 305 Collier Ave., is open and Havana Café of the Everglades, 191 Smallwood Dr, Chokoloskee, is opening for stone crab season.

If you want to buy stone crabs to take home or to ship overnight, you can stop at Grimm’s Stone Crab, 919 Dupont St., which is re-opening for stone crab season. (Most restaurants also offer stone crabs for take out.)

Some popular restaurants remain closed, including Camelia Street Grill and Oyster House.

Dining on stone crabs in Everglades City

Stone crab prices vary by supply and demand; some expect the prices to be higher this year because of the storm. Prices also vary by size.

A seafood dinner in Everglades City in 2016-17 started at about $27 to $30 for mediums and $45 to $50 for large.

At Triad Seafood, 401 School Drive West, we also recommend the other fresh seafood, including the fried-conch sandwich.  It comes with fresh herb-seasoned fries and coleslaw. The sweet potato fries were great, too.

At City Seafood, 702 Begonia St., diners buy their stone crabs by the pound and separately order any side dishes they wish.

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.

The view of the Barron River from Camelia Street Grill

The view of the Barron River from Camelia Street Grill

 

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:

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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5 Comments

  1. Pingback: Everglades City Ivey House: B&B for outdoors folks | Florida Rambler

  2. Sounds awesome!

  3. 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?
    tks.

  4. 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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