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Clawing its way to the top

When Billy's Stone Crabs opened in 1997, it closed every year when stone crab season ended in October. In May, when stone crabs returned, Billy's started all over again. This year, Billy's will stay open year-round.

Being a seasonal restaurant isn't what it used to be. And ever since Billy's got a pair of face-lifts — the exterior in the summer of 2011 and the interior this past summer — downtime is no longer required. The fish market on the first floor not only belies the modern, elegant dining room upstairs, but also tells you that owner Billy Hershey and wife Elena serve some of the freshest fish around.

You get to the dining room via a glass elevator and land in a 100-seat, two-level dining room with two-story windows overlooking the Intracoastal and the drawbridge across the water. I'm told they got rid of the Old Florida fish-house look in the dining room with its heavy drapes and red-and-green color scheme. These days, it's modern yet comfortable, done in shades of brown with perfect lighting and lots of mirrors. The view is a showstopper.

The maitre d' wears a suit. Waiters are in tuxedos, and the almost-formal service will remind you that you are in a restaurant — not like most restaurants these days, where informality rules. There are some wonderfully old-fashioned touches that I'm glad to see have survived. Echoes of the more-famous Joe's Stone Crab in Miami Beach are everywhere.

I only wish the menu weren't quite so old-fashioned. Yes, this year Billy's added a sushi bar, where you'll find the Billy Roll ($14.95), in which stone crabs are an essential ingredient. But for the most part, the kitchen seems to have never met a stick of butter it didn't like to melt and serve with seafood.

I order Key West-style grouper ($38.95), which is sauteed in butter and white wine and then topped with shrimp, crabmeat and sliced avocado. The fish was cooked perfectly. The sauce was, well, buttery.

Salmon with fine herb sauce ($27.95) is sauteed with garlic butter, shallots, tarragon and white wine. Again, the kitchen nailed the salmon, but overdid the sauce.

These two dishes are included in the specialty seafood entrees portion of the menu. Next time I'm at Billy's, I'll know to order my fish simply broiled or sauteed.

The menu also includes several pasta and seafood entrees: shrimp Creole ($27.95), shrimp scampi ($27.95) and Everglades frog legs ($23.95).

We started our meal with a great rendition of oysters Rockefeller ($14.95). Clams, oysters, crabmeat cocktail and shrimp cocktail are also available.

And do not forget the stone crabs, which start at $27.95 for medium claws with seven to an order and go up to $73.95 for four-to-an-order colossals. All-you-can-eat stone crab claws cost $77.95. You get medium claws served with rolls and butter

We ordered a combination of large claws and Alaskan king crab ($97.95). It's one of those once a crab-season splurges. Both were good, but we were put off when warm king crabs came sitting on top of cold stone-crab claws.

There's plenty here for meat eaters, including half-fried chicken ($9.95) and a New York strip steak ($47.95).

Listen to your server when you're told the side dishes are large. We barely put a dent in them. Lyonnaise potatoes ($9.95) were steakhouse perfect, but I like my grilled tomatoes ($8.75) simply grilled, and not topped with creamed spinach and then way too much cheese before running on the broiler.

Billy Hershey has been at the stone crab business for nearly four decades, first in Miami Springs and Miami. His Hollywood restaurant runs like a well-oiled machine.

While dinner can be expensive, the restaurant recently introduced a $16.95 three-course early bird, which includes a choice of stone crab. It's available 3 to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 3 to 5 p.m. on other days. Early-birders end with incredible Key lime pie, which we had a la carte ($6). or 954-356-4632. Read his blog at

400 N. Ocean Drive, Hollywood


Cuisine: Seafood

Cost: Expensive

Hours: Lunch and dinner daily

Reservations: Courtesy call-ahead guarantees a table within 15 minutes of arrival

Credit cards: All major

Bar: Full service

Sound level: Conversational

Outside smoking: Yes

For kids: Highchairs, boosters, menu

Wheelchair accessible: Yes

Parking: Free lot or city lot across the street

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