For food lovers, the holidays generally mean appetizers, cookies, and...crabs? Yes, crabs. Stone crabs, Florida's greatest delicacy (along the lines of Virginia ham or North Carolina barbecue), are back in season now. And while they'll be available through May, now's when their claws (the only part you eat) tend to be larger, meaning more sweet and succulent meat. Our favorite spot for this fall rite of passage is on the deck at the laid-back Star Fish Company in Cortez. Because it's right on the Sarasota Bay, you won't find fresher stone crabs anywhere–baskets of claws are hauled ashore at the seafood dock right next door. The warm breeze and the music of the water lapping at the pilings make your meal all the more delicious. Can't make it to the coast? Have a 10-pound just-caught feast shipped straight to your door for $225, shipping included (todaysseafoodcatch.com).
More fresh-from-the dock dining:
Rockfish: Basnight's Lone Cedar Cafe, Nags Head, NC
Pan-seared rockfish topped with green-tailed shrimp, sautèed spinach, and sun-dried tomatoes in a white wine-butter sauce.
Florida Lobster: Key Colony Inn Restaurant & Lounge, Key Colony Beach, FL
Florida lobster tails topped with crabmeat stuffing baked in butter.
Littleneck Clams: Big Sam's Inlet Cafe and Raw Bar, Rudee Inlet, Virginia Beach, VA
Served on the half shell steamed or raw with cocktail sauce.
Fresh Mullet: Angelo & Son's Seafood Restaurant, Panacea, FL
Fried mullet plate.
Cluster Oysters: Hudson's Seafood House on the Docks, Hilton Head Island, SC
Steamed oysters with pink peppercorn and Champagne mignonette.