When I first visited Florida, I fell in love with Miami and Joe's Stone Crabs. So when I moved to Pinellas County, I dived into stone crab season with trident in hand. Perplexed about whether to eat them cold or warm, dipped in butter or seafood mustard sauce, I literally drool for the opening of this year's stone crab season Oct. 15-May 15. Sure you can pick up some for home from local grocers, or Wards Seafood and other specialty markets. But why wash dishes, says my Mom. Who's joining me for a seafood fest at these local stone crab hang-outs from Clearwater to St. Petersburg? (Check ahead for stone crab prices and availability.)
Billy's Crab Shack: Tierra Verde is a lovely place to go for a beachwalk, then dine on the multi-leveled iconic seafood restaurant with glorious views of wild birds and marine life. With music at the bar aerie, and exceptional lobster and yes, stone crab, this is one of the best fish and dish spots in town and exceptional happy hour.
Crabby Bill's: The original Indian Rocks location is my personal favorite for kibitzing at the bar, enjoying oysters at happy hour and especially the Rockefellers. The cocktails are generous, the microbrews rotate and they offer a decent wine list to accompany stone crab noshing with an authentic old Florida feel. Outdoors, there's a rocking band and singles scene everyday from 1 on next door. During season, best to head over on weekdays.
Frenchy's: The king of the seafood festivals is Frenchy's 35th Annual Stone Crab Festival Weekend, October 25-27. Clearwater Beach closes Baymont Street for the event. Stone Crab Weekend began over 30 years ago as a way for Frenchy to give back to his loyal customers by offering world famous Florida Stone Crab at cost. In addition to the fresh-off-the-boat claws supplied by Frenchy’s Stone Crab Company at deeply discounted prices, the two-day block party will feature live music on stage, food and drink specials, raffles to win valuable prize packages with proceeds benefiting charity and much more! On Friday, enjoy Kingpin (noon-2:30, Smooth D and The Boyz (3-5 pm), Sweet Spot (5:30-7:30 pm) and Pirate Flag Band - A Tribute to Kenny Chesney (8 -10 pm). On Saturday, the musical mélange features Cutty Jones (noon-2:30 pm), Jeriko Turnpike (3 - 5 pm), Hurricane Shane Band (5:30-7:30 pm) and Never Stop Believin' Journey Tribute Band (8-10 pm). Discounted stone crab prices will continue through Sunday, October 27th, 2019, to round out the weekend in each of the four Frenchy’s Clearwater Beach restaurants and Dunedin's Saltwater Fish Camp.
Salt Rock Grill: Fine dining at its best, from the outdoor patio and bar to the elegant three-tiered dining room, this Indian Shores legend features an award-winning wine list and exceptional service. The 4-5:30 early bird menu serves up filet mignon sliders and other delights, so bring your favorite carnivore here when you are in the mood for exquisite stone crab done just right.
Seaweed: Exquisite oysters, sushi, sashimi and eclectic entrees inspired by Asian dishes (bao rolls and noodle dishes get a new twist here), this newest Frank Chivas restaurant serves up some of the best steak and seafood in town. The social hour daily from 4-6, the artisan cocktails (elderﬂower white cosmo wodka vodka/st. germaine/sour/white cranberry juice/ brut champagne) and handcrafted sauces (chimichurri) wow the taste buds. The stone crab claws are sure to be first-rate here.
Trophy Fish: Fresh fish, boat drinks and marina/fishing lodge chic decor on DTSP's Central Avenue, this adorable spot is the real deal. From the hush puppies to the fresh smoked mullet fish spread, you can have your catch of the day grilled, blackened or citrus rubbed. Sip a Passerelle like a yacht captain made with Bobby's Gin, lemongrass, honeydew and lemon sparkling wine while you wait for your ship (dish) to arrive.
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Photo courtesy of Frenchy's Restaurants