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Florida stone crabs: Seasonal treat in historic Everglades City

Last updated on May 7th, 2021 at 12:24 pm

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 stone crabs are the same delicacy, often from the same boats, as is served in fancy restaurants like Joe’s Stone Crab in Miami Beach.

To get your Florida stone crabs fresh, you need to come during stone crab season — Oct. 15 to May 15.

Everglades City is a small fishing town about 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.

In 2017, Hurricane Irma brought a 6 to 8 foot storm surge through the town destroying homes and businesses, just weeks before stone crab season. The community is still rebuilding and recovering. In 2018, the threat to the fisheries was toxic red tide. In 2019, the stone crab season ended early because of the pandemic.

Florida stone crabs.
Florida stone crabs at Triad Seafood. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

Everglades City folks, however, aren’t giving up.

“These are some of the most resilient people I’ve ever seen in my life,”  Mayor Howie Grimm told a Naples Daily News reporter after the storm.

If you get your Florida stone crabs at Joe’s Stone Crabs on Miami Beach, you might spot a visiting celebrity. 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.  In 2021, the season ends May 1 in an effort to replenish the diminishing stock.  (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. )

City Seafood in Everglades City: A favorite places for Florida stone crabs.
City Seafood in Everglades City: A favorite places for Florida stone crabs.

Best spots for Florida stone crabs in Everglades City

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

When we want a stone crab experience, we stop 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 $25 and as much as $60 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.

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.

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 Florida stone crabs.

Florida stone crab traps in Everglades City.
Florida stone crab traps in Everglades City. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

The Florida stone crab story 

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.

Florida stone 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.

Florida stone 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.

Florida 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, where Florida stone crab is one the menu in season. 

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

Florida stone crab isn’t the only reason to visit Everglades City. We love it for its proximity to so many outdoors adventures.


Florida 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 were cancelled in 2020, but might be back in 2021.

Coconut Grove Seafood Festival, Miami

Naples Stone Crab Festival — Naples

South Beach Seafood Festival, Miami Beach

Stone Crab Jam – Crystal River

A note from the editor:

The information in this article was accurate when published but can change without notice. Please confirm details when planning your trip by following the links in this article.

This article is the property of FloridaRambler.com and is protected by U.S. Copyright Law. Re-publication without written permission is against the law.


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Dale Hamblin

Wednesday 30th of October 2019

Which restaurant to eat at as will only be there for lunch! Thank You Dale L Hamblin

Bonnie Gross

Saturday 2nd of November 2019

My favorite is Triad, and they are only open for lunch.

Bonnie Gross

Tuesday 11th of December 2018

Yikes. Thank you. (Funny. Thousands of people have read this and never commented. Glad to get a chance to correct it.)

John

Wednesday 3rd of January 2018

R.V. friendly lots of nearby overnite for a fee. The food and people always a welcome stop. Load up the rv and save some freezer space for 20 lb. bags of take home stone crab. The Egans

Bob Rountree

Friday 5th of January 2018

I highly recommend Collier-Seminole State Park for camping. The sites are quite nice, the park is quiet, and it's close to both Everglades City and Marco Island. There are often campsites availables, especially for tents and pop-ups.

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