Stone crab claws are filled with such delicious meat that people, like me, pay large sums of money for even the smallest portion on the menu and then risk puncture wounds trying to separate said meat from said claw. But at least you can eat stone crab claws guilt free. Because, listen to this, they grow back, magically, just like lizard tails, which makes you think they wouldn’t be so pricey, but they are.
Those claws cost so much that I’ll probably be writing about saloons that serve 75-cent drafts and stale pretzels for the next month to fit this $39.99 stone crab dinner we just ordered at Moore’s Stone Crab Restaurant on my expense report. But I’m sure it will be worth every penny (and future dive-bar doldrums).
The Moore and Hicks families have operated the Longboat Key restaurant since 1967. Moore’s is one of the most famous places in the region for stone crabs, which, alas, are only legal for harvest during snowbird season. But we also enjoy Moore’s during the summer, and those autumn and winter days that feel like summer, for many other reasons.
Most importantly, we enjoy the enclosed, air-conditioned bar. From any of the 20 or so stools, you can look out across the Intracoastal from the Manatee County side of Longboat Key and see all the way south to the condo-crammed skyline of downtown Sarasota. You’ll spot all kinds of boats, birds and, on most days, dolphins: Pods of dolphins, dolphin families, dolphin couples, dolphin divorcees, you name it. A loving dolphin couple used to live near here, a story so touching you really should hear it, first-hand, from a staffer at Moore’s.
So, we’re sitting at the bar and while my amazing wife Kristin scans the waters for dolphins, I make eye contact with the bartender and get down to business.
“What pairs well with stone crab claws?” I ask.
“‘Stoned Crab,’” says Tina Rigel, our bartender.
Officially dubbed “Grandpa Jack’s Stoned Crab” ($9.99), it contains Captain Morgan Original Spiced Rum, Malibu Coconut Rum, cranberry and pineapple juices as well as a splash of Sprite. I like the drink but Kristin likes it better.
“I’ll keep this one,” she says with a smile.
So, yeah, if you’re keeping score at home, we’re at $50 bucks after just a single dinner and a beverage. But you can enjoy the cozy bar and its striking views for much less than what we’re about to drop, especially if you go during happy hour, which runs 4-6 p.m. every single day, and, well, if you don’t order the stone crab claws. Happy hour drink deals include $3 wells (including martinis), $3 house wines and 16-ounce drafts of Yuengling, Budweiser or Michelob Lite for only $2.
For ultimate bang for your buck, stick to the appetizer menu; this is where we usually do our shopping at Moore’s. Beer in hand, I get to dunking a crab roll ($2.49) into a bowl of clam chowder ($4.59), a practice that’s actually encouraged by the staff, regardless of the mess you, as in me, might make at the bar. Another fun item is Aunt Polly’s Crab Pizza ($6.99), which is a generous piece of flat bread covered in garlic cream cheese with chunks of blue crab and shaved parmesan.
Kristin deftly separates the stone crab claws from its precious and, yes, delicious, pieces of meat. Meanwhile, I consume our buffet of appetizers as if I just washed up after being adrift on a raft for three or four weeks.
Moore’s Stone Crab Restaurant, 800 Broadway St., Longboat Key; 383-1748; stonecrab.cc