Bibs and Tuxedoed Waiters at Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab
The D.C. outpost of Miami institution Joe's Stone Crab opens today, just blocks from the White House.
Given the original's 100-year history, there are definitely some old-school touches: white tablecloths in the dining room; tuxedoed waiters who will tie a bib around your neck when you order stone crabs; and revered maître d's.
"Knowing the maître d' is very important," says managing partner Michael Rotolo of the Miami location, which doesn't take reservations and where waits can potentially span hours for those who don't have an in with the host. In D.C., however, you will be able to book on OpenTable, which means you don't need to be a VIP or grease the palm of the maître d', as people do at the Miami location, to get a table.
Despite the flourishes—and the fact that the restaurant is located in the very grand-looking historic Union Trust building—Joe's claims to be somewhat of a casual spot. After all, you can still get a burger or fried chicken.
But stone crabs, as the restaurant's name suggests, are still the main attraction. Joe's sources its crabs exclusively from its own fisheries in the Florida Keys and Everglade City. Stone crabs are particularly sustainable because the fisherman remove the claws and throw the crabs back in the water, where they regenerate their limbs. Rotolo says the Miami location goes through anywhere from 600 to 1,000 pounds of stone crab per day. Joe's serves the shellfish with its signature mustard-mayo sauce and lemons on the side.
The D.C. location of Joe's is a partnership with Chicago-based Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, whose local establishments include Mon Ami Gabi and Wildfire. Lettuce Entertain You helped expand the Miami restaurant to Chicago and Las Vegas under the amended name of Joe's Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab (which is the full name of the D.C. location as well).
As the name expanded, so did the menu offerings, with more emphasis on steakhouse fare. A significant portion of the menu is dedicated to rib eye, filet mignon, and other cuts of red meat, as well as potatoes served eight different ways. Chef de cuisine Billy McCormick, formerly of Cafe Saint-Ex and Pulpo, brings some local leadership to the kitchen. He says the D.C. location will also be unique in its focus on local oysters, with 10 to 12 varieties in rotation. For dessert, try the key lime pie, for which Joe's is particularly well known.
Another big difference between the D.C. location and the Miami original? "We've got a bigger bar," says Rotolo. Indeed, the high-ceilinged bar area feel enormous, with marble columns, floor-to-ceiling windows, and a mahogany bar in the center of it all. The restaurant also has five private dining rooms, with names like The Gigi Room and The South Beach Room for cocktail receptions or "high-powered business meetings."
Check out photos of the space and some of the food below.
Joe's Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab, 750 15th St. NW; (202) 489-0140; joes.net
Photos by Jessica Sidman