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Joe’s Stone Crab Since 1913, The Amazing Story Behind one Of Miami’s Most Famous Restaurant


The crabs weren’t part of their early success. It didn’t occur to them that the local crustacean was even edible until 1921 when James Allison built an aquarium at the foot of the bay and Fifth Street. 

Joseph Weiss-the "Joe" of Joe's Stone Crab-came to Miami in 1913, when his doctors told him that the only help for his asthma would be a change of climate. Joe and his wife, Jennie, both Hungarian-born, were living in New York, where their son Jesse was born in 1907. He borrowed fifty dollars on his life insurance policy and traveled to Florida. 

His breathing difficulties didn’t improve after spending one night in Miami. In a fervent search for the right place to live, he boarded the ferry boat that used to go to Miami Beach. Surprisingly he could breathe there. He stayed and started running a lunch stand at Smith's bathing casino. 

Joe opened up a small lunch counter on Miami Beach. This was before Miami Beach was even a city. We’re talking about 1913 when Collins Avenue wasn’t a street yet, but a sort of trail with ruts in it. When women used to wear long bathing suits with stockings. 

Folks stopped in to chat and for a top-notch fish sandwich and fries. This, of course, was only the beginning, and what happened next is a story worth telling.

In 1918, Joe and his wife Jennie purchased a bungalow near the casino, on Biscayne Street. They moved into the back, set up seven or eight tables on the front porch, cooked in the kitchen, and called it Joe's Restaurant."

Jennie waited on tables, Joe cooked, and everything started to grow from there. They served snapper, pompano, mackerel, and some meat dishes. Being the only restaurant on the beach then, they opened for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And for eight years there was no competition. 

The place grew, and people poured in to have a taste of Joe’s delicious fish sandwiches. However, the stone crabs were yet to come. It never occurred to them that the local crustacean was edible until 1921 when James Allison built an aquarium at the foot of the bay and Fifth Street. 

One day a Harvard ichthyologist who was invited to do research said to Joe during breakfast, "Have you ever used these stone crabs, these crabs from the water?"

This was when Joe’s was serving crawfish, and various kinds of fish but not stone crabs. "Nobody will eat them," Joe replied. Joe had no idea what was coming until the day when the Harvard ichthyologist came down for lunch with a burlap sack, full of live stone crabs. He and Joe went around and around about how to cook them. 

The stone crabs were an instant success when they started serving them chilled and cracked with hash brown potatoes, cole slaw, and mayonnaise. They charged seventy-five cents for four or five crabs, twenty-five cents for potatoes, and twenty-five cents for an order of coleslaw. “And this is the way we have been serving them since. We hit the jackpot with that one!" Said Jesse Weiss. 

His parents started Joe's, but it was Jesse Weiss who consolidated the prominence the restaurant still enjoys. He knew everyone- movie stars, journalists, politicians, sports people, gangsters. He would come by your table and it was a big deal. Everyone that came to the restaurant wanted to see him. “It was his disposition that brought Joe so many VIPs," said his wife, Grace. "Because he had that personality. And he never burdened them with anything but a gift of love."

Famous people who came to Miami Beach, from anywhere in the world, would stop in at Joe's. A list of Jesse's acquaintances, several of whom became lifelong close friends, forms a veritable Who's Who of the twentieth century. He was close to Will Rogers, J. Edgar Hoover, Joseph Kennedy, Amelia Earhart, and more. 

When Jesse Weiss was seventy-five, Miami anchorperson Ann Bishop spent many hours recording his memories. Here are some of the things he said

“I'm proud of what others have done keeping Joe's going, which I consider a monument to myself. The family all do a hell of a job. I've had a good life. Now I want to say one more thing. I'm the most fortunate man in the world, for one reason! My daughter Jo Ann. She has my hot Hungarian temper, but like me, she forgets what she got angry about five minutes after she got angry and I love her dearly.”

It's the family touch that's made Joe's as successful as it is. And for more than 100 years, no visit to Miami has been complete without stopping in at Joe's Stone Crab. From the beginning, it has always been the love of food, family, and friends that has brought in customers and kept them coming. Again and again, Joe's owners and employees credit the restaurant's success to its family solidarity.

Joe’s Stone Crab is located at 11 Washington Avenue Miami Beach FL 33139. 

Author’s Note: This article is solely for information purposes. The embedded links and information shared in the article are attributed to

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