Stone Crab Smackdown

Last Friday, ELV was feeling shellfish.

It is autumn after all, meaning: the thickly-shelled crustaceans known as Florida stone crabs are in season.

And two restaurants are gilled to the bream with them.

So we had a whale of a time chowdering down on an all-stone crab-eating-binge at Joe’s Steaks Seafood and Stone Crab. Then we had salmon enchanted evening downtown at the El Cortez Hotel (at The Flame), where the little limbs are cheaper…and better (although only available on weekends).

For the uninitiated, stone crabs are warm water denizens of the shallow waters of the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean. They are harvested during the cooler months, the arms are broken off, and the critters are returned to their watery homes to grow a new arm in the coming year.

It all sounds pretty gruesome. Imagine someone yanking you out of your house and home once a year, throwing you underwater for a few minutes, tearing one of your arms off, and then tossing you back to where you could breathe again. And then doing the same thing to you every year until you’re too old and stringy to grow anything worth eating.

To salve any feelings of horror you might have, ELV reminds you that many lizards and invertebrates, such as octopus, starfish, and even spiders, often self-amputate their limbs (and regenerate same) to avoid predators. With the exception of a few, artificially-enhanced, wallet-depleting females we have known, this capacity for continual replenishment has never been found to occur in humans.

But we digress.

Our crab binge started with lunch at Joe’s:

…where $30 bought us three medium sized claws, a mountain of home fries, and sickening sweet cole slaw that could’ve doubled as a candy bar. The mustard sauce at Joe’s ain’t no great shakes neither…being as it’s completely tasteless, and mustard-free as far as we could tell.

But the crabs were fine, although the next time we’re craving these crustaceans we’re not returning here.

Why? You ask.

Because downtown at The Flame (formerly Roberta’s) in the El Cortez Hotel, on weekends, they serve ’em bigger and cheaper:

…with a terrific, tangy coleslaw, great bread, and a mustard sauce with some real kick to it.

They also get nice kumamoto oysters here, and do a mighty mignonette sauce that compliments these deeply flavored beauties beautifully.

And it’s served in a groovy setting that is the best of downtown — right down to owner Kenny Epstein and his staff wandering the floor and taking care of customers the old-fashioned way.

Which means it’s a family affair, and they make you feel like family. Which is exactly the way they made Norm! and Cara (his lovely consort) and ELV feel the other night while feeding us.

Right down to not making us pay.

Regardless of whether you’re known to the management or not (and we’ve eaten here many times unknown to the powers that be), at the El Cortez you’re treated like a guest — not like a wallet with a pulse ready to be fed into the meat grinder of a Strip food factory.

The crabs cost $28 bucks a pound, and are probably the perfect antidote to the over-stuffing you’re going to get on turkey day from all those carbs.


In the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace

3500 Las Vegas, Blvd. South

Las Vegas, NV 89109


In the El Cortez Hotel and Casino

600 Fremont Street

Las Vegas, NV 89101-5614

7 thoughts on “Stone Crab Smackdown

  1. My dad’s a big seafood person, so I guess I’ll have to take him to one of our famous seafood temples some time soon. Since he actually enjoys going Downtown, I wouldn’t have to work hard convincing him to try out El Cortez’s steakhouse. Thanks for the tip and Happy Tofurky Day! :-)

  2. Hi John…normally I love your reviews. I try not to comment on posts in general, but being a huge fan of Joe’s Stone Crab, I must include my two cents. I’ve been frequenting Joe’s since moving to the area in 2007. I have never had an experience there that’s been less than outstanding. I love bringing out of town guests to Joe’s, they always rave about how incredible it is.

    I’ve been to The Flame twice, and both times I left feeling like I had just wasted my money. I could have had more satisfying meals at Red Lobster.

    The mustard sauce at Joe’s is one of my favorite things about getting stone crab from there. And maybe they are bigger and cheaper at The flame, but you’re paying for something extra from Joe’s that you can’t get from The Flame. Better ambiance, better service…and dare I mention…clean floors??

    You mentioned kumamato oysters at the Flame…which they also serve at Joe’s. They’re rich, sweet, and buttery. Maybe you should have tried those at Joe’s as well to give a fair review? Plus Joe’s has Kushi oysters…which are even better.

    Seems to me like your preference is for the downtown family atmosphere (not to mention free food), but when you’re jonesing for something more upscale, give Joe’s another try.

    Keep up the reviews :)

  3. I have friends who work at Joe’s. I got hooked up pretty well the one time I went and probably would be well taken care of on any future visits. I’ll never go back. That’s all I’m saying.

  4. I am surprised you did not like the cole slaw at Joe’s – I LOVE IT! Yes, it is a little sweet but it has a lot of flavor. I don’t usually like to go downtown but I might check out the other stone crab place you recommend.

  5. I just wanna kno what “bwdining” was trying to say??? I don’t mean to seem dumb here but the whole comment doesn’t make since to me… jus sayin’ Thnx to any1 who can answer.

  6. ELV responds: I think he’s saying: “I ate for free, and could eat for free here again, but the food was so mediocre (or worse?) I’ll never go back.”

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