Q: I am looking for restaurants in South Florida that serve authentic soft-shell crabs, either fried or sauteed. All these crab boil places say they have them, but when you check the menu they don’t or don’t know what they are. — George Sentell, Hollywood
A: George, I can see why you’re having trouble finding South Florida restaurants that serve soft-shell crabs, because there aren’t a lot of them. Although we are currently in the high season, the creation of soft-shell crabs is a labor-intensive process. Anglers and seafood farmers have to harvest the crab at precisely the right moment, during a window of just a few hours, when the animal sheds its hard exterior (they call it “molting”) and the meat becomes not too soft or too hard but just right: tender and buttery.
The season on Florida’s east coast began in March and lasts into November. There’s also a similar Gulf Coast season, from spring through fall.
The crab’s soft shell is edible, as is most of its body, and is usually served fried.
“It’s definitely an acquired taste. It’s a little squishy,” said Kim Kelly, owner and head chef of Hurricane Alley Raw Bar & Restaurant in Boynton Beach, which serves the crabs freshly battered in a sandwich. She said her staff breads the crabs with flour and eggs and deep-fries them.
Here are some eateries I found in Broward and Palm Beach counties that have soft-shell crabs as regular menu items. You may want to call ahead to one of your favorite seafood joints this summer to see if they are serving soft shells as a daily special, a sign that a fresh catch has come in.
MR. Q CRAB HOUSE
2321 N. State Road 7, Hollywood; 954-391-8879; mrqcrabhousehollywood.com
Mr. Q serves New Orleans- and Louisiana-style cuisine, including a soft-shell crab Po’s Boy sandwich, for $20.
2471 E. Commercial Blvd., Fort Lauderdale; 954-771-5151; hottleggz.com
Hott Leggz offers a plate of two crabs, fried or sauteed in wine and garlic sauce, for $15.
SHUCK-N-DIVE CAJUN CAFÉ
650 N. Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale; 954-462-0088; shuck-n-dive.com
It’s not on the menu, but I called the restaurant and they make a soft-shell crab sandwich with fries for $16.50. They also prepare the crab as an appetizer ($14.50) or on a plate (they call it the “Meat N 2”) with two sides ($18.50).
RUNYON’S OF CORAL SPRINGS
9810 W. Sample Road, Coral Springs; 954-752-2333; runyonscoralsprings.com
Runyon’s sautees the crabs in garlic butter ($46) and serves them with vegetables and a potato of your choice. There’s also a soft-shell appetizer for $19.
SHIBUYA GRILL AND SUSHI BAR
2600 Glades Circle, No. 700, Weston, 954-756-8225; 11346 Wiles Road, Coral Springs, 954-757-7888; shibuya.us
Both locations create soft-shell crabs as an appetizer with ceviche, “Crab vuelve a la vida” (Spanish for “Crab returns to life”), for $19.
ZABB THAI AND SUSHI
8880 W. State Road 84, Davie; 954-451-3949; zabbthaisushi.com
Zabb cooks a garlic soft-shell crab, deep-fried with ginger, basil and tamarind or curry sauce, for $25.95.
Palm Beach County
HURRICANE ALLEY RAW BAR & RESTAURANT
529 E. Ocean Ave., Boynton Beach; 561-364-4008; myhurricanealley.com
This restaurant, in a historic downtown Boynton Beach building, has devised a sandwich of jumbo whale crab deep-fried with a spicy remoulade sauce on a kaiser bun ($13.95 for a queen size, $17.95 for king size).
607 Ridge Road, Lantana; 561-586-3000; rigginscrabhouse.com
Open since 1982, Riggins, which also has a seafood market, serves a soft-shell crab platter for $35.95, including coleslaw and choice of side dish. There’s also a soft-shell appetizer for $16.95 and a sandwich for $18.95.
Know of other restaurants that serve soft-shell crabs? Send them over and I’ll add them to the list. And send over any other questions you have about life in South Florida; I’m at AskLois@sunsentinel.com.