Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Billy's Stone Crabs

This little known restaurant on Hollywood Beach seems to be in direct competition to the World Famous Joe's. Does it compare? Does it have good claws? These were the questions I sought out to answer on a fine Sunday evening.

Bill Hershey, founder of Billy's, was married to the daughter of Joe's, which is the Stone Crab connection here. They seem to be the only two stone crab specialists in Miami-Dade and Broward. Billy claims to get his claws from the same supplier as Joe's and states they are exactly the same. Lucky for you, your columnist has eaten annually at Joe's since birth and is in a unique position to compare and contrast the two. The restaurant itself is a two story building on the Intercoastal with the dining area on the second floor. After the elevator deposits you at the MaƮtre d' station, Michael Leffler greets you with a big smile and a New York feel. No reservations are accepted, arrive early if you don't like waiting, although it is nothing like the wait at Joe's.

I am pleased to report that Billy's has excellent claws, and even better they have an all you can eat option for those with a hearty appetite. They are available in Medium, Large, and Jumbo size claws. All of these sizes have an all you can eat option. What puzzled me was why anyone would bother with a large or jumbo all you can eat when the mediums were the lowest priced?

We ordered an appetizer of their Cole slaw and Crab Cakes to start. The Cole slaw was excellent, fresh, and mixed by our server table side. The crab cakes were more crab than cake and fantastic. I highly recommend them.

The moment of truth arrived and yours truly ordered the medium all you can eat claws. Also ordered were Shrimp Scampi, Blackened Grouper, and a side of hash browns. The claws were served properly chilled and cracked well, but the meat was not bruised. No cracker or mallet was needed to gain access to the succulent meat. The mustard sauce was also chilled and standard fare. I find the medium claws to be sweeter and tastier than the larger claws and always have. Stone Crabs are expensive enough, without jacking the price up for the larger versions. A standard order of medium Stone Crabs has 7 claws, large 5 claws, and jumbo 3 claws with price exponentially increasing as the size goes up and the number of claws goes down. I thought the claws were every bit as good as Joe's. The Shrimp Scampi and Grouper were also good, the grouper was a little on the small side. Personally, if I go to Joe's or Billy's, I am there for the Stone Crabs; however, at least they have decent alternatives for those who do not partake. The hash browns were good, and the service was exceptional. Our water glasses never went below half-full, and our server was very patient and doting to our table.

For desert, they tout a Key Lime Pie which we sampled and found it to be darned good. Unfortunately, their espresso machine was out of order, so we passed on the cappuccino. We liked everything we had and felt comfortable with the staff and ambiance. The second floor view was scintillating and calming.

This will bring us to the ever pending question. How does it compare to Joe's? Well, it really doesn't. Joe's is an institution that has been built for decades and deserves a review of it's own. The Stone Crabs, Cole Slaw, and service are on par with Joe's. The Hash browns and Key Lime pie are not. The rich excitement and anticipation of "going to Joe's" was not there, because it's not Joe's.

Billy's is a great alternative to Joe's for a Stone Crab night out. The claws are great, the service impeccable. I enjoyed my dinner at Billy's and I will definitely return. Those in West Palm and Broward may find this a closer alternative than Joe's to sample some first class Stone Crabs. Come on down to Billy's and enjoy your dinner. Just don't expect to meet Joe's. Billy's is located on A1A one block north of Hollywood Boulevard. A review on Joe's will be forthcoming in the next few weeks.

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