[UPDATED with photos of the pop-up in action...]
Love Joe’s Stone Crab and Art Basel? You’ll find both under one roof when the annual art fair opens in Miami Beach next week. Joe’s, a local fixture since 1913, will be the featured pop-up in the Convention Center’s new grand ballroom and they’re bringing all your favorite things.
Owner Steve Sawitz said, while the menu will be limited, you can count on three items for sure – the famous stone crabs, hash browns, and key lime pie. Oh, and, maître d Ed Witte, too!
“We love Art Basel,” Sawitz said. “Everybody does. It’s a major world event that showcases Miami in such a beautiful way and we just felt that Art Basel was just so worth trying and doing and executing.”
Bringing Joe’s to Art Basel started with a phone call from Centerplate Executive Director Steven Haas. Centerplate handles food and beverage services for the Miami Beach Convention Center. Sawitz said Haas called him on his birthday in August and pitched the idea. “It really was Steven Haas who got the ball rolling and if it hadn’t been for him, I’m not sure we would have done it. He’s a great restaurant man. He’s a former employee, and he’s a really good friend.”
“The most iconic show in Miami and the most iconic restaurant in Florida have united for the first time,” Haas said. “They’re both thrilled to be in the show together.”
Sawitz said his team has “taken so seriously” the process with “hundreds of man hours and negotiations between us and Centerplate. They’re all great to work with. Centerplate has been amazing and so is Basel and some of it is just a lot of fun.
He has enjoyed the creative process of coming up with the look for the pop-up. The first design, he said, “was too nice for us.” Sawitz told the Basel team, “We’re not fancy like that. We’re mahogany wood. We’re not a hipster restaurant. We’re really a little more traditional and I think we need to be Joe’s.” At the same time, he said, the Basel design team stretched his team’s minds to look at things differently. “It’s been fun working with them… that’s art. Art’s supposed to be fun. It’s meant to be enjoyed, in Miami Beach especially.”
The approximately 100-seat pop-up will feature reproductions of the two large photo murals on the walls of the restaurant at 11 Washington Avenue, one of them featuring his great grandparents, Joe and Jenny Weiss who founded Joe’s and the other of Sawitz’s grandfather with the Georgia Moonshiners. Diners will sit on chairs brought over from the restaurant. The tables will feature Joe’s tablecloths and place settings.
“It’s going to feel like Joe’s,” Haas said.
It won’t be easy, though. “It’s a challenge for us to do it because we’re taking some of the best of Joe’s and moving it over there,” Sawitz said. “We are asking a lot of our staff to cover both locations. You don’t have your backup because your backup is over at Basel.”
Total staff on-site will number about 20. In addition to Witte, Joe’s chef and members of the kitchen staff will work from the Convention Center’s new kitchen. “It’s a beautiful kitchen!” Sawitz said.
Some of it leaves him in awe. “We’re going to be this little dot in this 60,000 sq ft ballroom surrounded by artwork in this 500,000 sq ft Convention Center,” he said. “We are excited!”
This week, Joe’s Stone Crab scored another major achievement with the announcement that it was named the highest-grossing independent restaurant in the country for 2018 by Restaurant Business Magazine. Joe’s reached $38.4 million in annual sales with an average check of $87 while serving 325,530 meals.
“We’re blessed and we have a hardworking crew and we’re keeping it going,” Sawitz said of the distinction. “We’re not shooting to be the highest volume but to do the best we can.”
Photos: Joe’s Stone Crab