First Look: Joe's Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab

By Rina Rapuano  |  January 30, 2014

Joe's Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab has a long and storied past, as we chronicled here last week. And while you may have already dined at the one in Las Vegas or Chicago - or even the 100-year-old original Joe's Stone Crab in Miami - we bet there isn't another location as pretty as our downtown version set to open tomorrow. 

Located in the former Union Trust Building at 15th and H streets NW, the stunning space with floor-to-ceiling windows and colossal columns is the perfect place for the expansive bar and curved banquettes that evoke a supper club. 

Plus, you can try stone crab - or reacquaint yourself with it - and enjoy the cooking of chef de cuisine Billy Klein, who gained a following at Café Saint-Ex and Pulpo before joining the team at Joe's.

We admit that this slideshow is a bit longer than normal, but this space is a feast for the eyes - and if you make it to the end, there will be pie. 

Hours: 4 PM-midnight Monday through Saturday; 5-10 PM Sunday. Lunch and brunch will be introduced soon. 

750 15th St. NW; 202-489-0140

  • When you walk into the restaurant, you're not only greeted by a maitre d’; you're also welcomed by some signs of the past, like a wall full of photos of the original Joe's Stone Crab family members and maitre d’s from other Joe's locations. This vintage postcard of the original Joe's decorates another wall. 

  • The building has been beautifully transformed into a grand bar area, an elegant dining room and several handsome meeting spaces, but to really appreciate the massive former bank building - look up. 

  • Each table in the dining room is set with silver bowls to catch the flurry of crab shells. 

  • The second floor features a few private meeting spaces - and one definite advantage of being up there is getting to see the beautiful decorative details up close. 

  • The South Beach room features leopard-print carpet and an option to keep the louvered doors open to view the bar below or close them for privacy.

  • The conference room seats 20 and great care was taken to keep the architectural details intact and able to be enjoyed in the space.  

  • The bread basket features several new breads being tested in this market for other Joe's Seafood locations. (The bialy was our favorite.) Most of the menu will mirror the other Joe's locations, with local ingredients - like a rockfish broiled with tarragon butter - to be found in dishes on the specials menu.

  • To keep up with demand and make sure diners get the freshest stone crab, the restaurant owns a couple of fisheries in the Everglades. The claws are harvested, cooked right away, chilled and air freighted to the restaurants. "They're caught in the wild, and there are times when the crab gets scarce," says operating partner Michael Rotolo. "That's probably the thing that keeps us up at night." To prepare for those times - and for when the crab is out of season - the restaurant developed a special way of freezing and thawing the claws that doesn't compromise its flavor or texture.

  • Another way the company has insured itself against a stone-crab shortage was to diversify its menu. This 16-ounce bone-in prime filet cut is a signature for the restaurant - and rightly so, since it has all the tenderness of a filet but all the richness of a bone-in cut. 

  • Seafood, obviously, is another specialty - as proved by this wonderfully prepared salmon au poivre. 

  • We promised pie, and here it is. This outstanding peanut butter mousse pie has an Oreo crust, a puddle of fudge sauce and a smattering of crushed peanuts on the crown of whipped cream. It's amazing, and it somehow makes you eat more of it than you ever thought possible. Also wonderful are the Key lime pie and the Havana dream pie, a sort of cross between a tres leches cake and a Boston creme pie. They have about 10 flavors of pie on the menu at any given time, many of them seasonal - and all available to be purchased as whole pies.