CONFESSIONS OF A                                                                  
A San Francisco Girl's Down and Dirty Adventures in the Culinary Playground

Monday, April 10, 2006

Love Shack (Old Port Lobster Shack -- Redwood City, CA)

Not long after I started this blog, I lamented the fact that while we have the best food in the country here in the Bay Area, there are some things we are sorely lacking. Now I'm not one of those east coasters that is yearning to get back to a "real" city, or who thinks that if I can get into a restaurant then it's not worth going to. But I do think there are some things they do better on the east coast. Pizza. Bagels. Lobster.

Now I've found some solace with the pizza and the bagels. Arinell and Miller's both do reasonable approximations of my beloved eastern carb based staples. But the lobster is something I've been missing.

I've said it before: yes, we can get lobster. Poached in butter. Or wok fried. Which are both great and all, but sometimes I just want my lobster steamed with some drawn butter and lemon. Or in a lobster roll. But all I could seem to find was lobster that may have been good, but was also expensive and dressed up like a whore during the the Republican National Convention.

Lobster has been my favorite food since I first tried it at the age of twelve. I spent most summers at sleep-away camp in Maine, and my first lobster experience was when we stopped for dinner on the drive home one year. Upon my first taste of the sweet, buttery, firm flesh, I was hooked. To this day, when I visit my hometown of Boston, my primary goal is to get myself some of that delicious overgrown cockroach presented without all the fuss.

I first got wind of Old Port Lobster Shack when my friends, P&D, asked us if we'd been. They claimed they'd heard it was real New England style seafood. I was nothing if not skeptical.

Then it was mentioned to me again, by Culinary Dad Guy when he snuck in on the conversation that Cat and I were having at Bittersweet. He mentioned it was getting a lot of buzz on Chowhound (which I never read because, well, the site is crazy shitty).

I brought up the idea of going. Jon, too, was skeptical. We'd been burned too many times by false claims of authenticity. Still, we figured we didn't have much to lose. So on a shopping expedition to the South Bay, we decided to hit up OPLS.

It's not an easy place to find. It's tucked back in a strip mall on Veteran's Blvd. next to a Baker's Square (side note: back in college when Jon lived here for a summer, he took me to breakfast at a Baker's Square on the first morning of my visit. Ahh, how times have changed). Once you enter, you are in a sort of Disney version of a New England pier. It's cute because they are damn good at what they do, otherwise it would border on annoyingly kitschy.

We ordered as follows: Lobster dinner for Jon, naked lobster roll for me. Beer for Jon, lemonade for me until I learned it wasn't fresh lemonade but rather, Minute-Maid lemon drink from the fountain. I went with a Coke instead. If I could offer one piece of advice to the OPLS folks, start making yourselves some real lemonade.

Jon's lobster dinner came with the appropriate drawn butter and lemon, as well as roasted potatoes and asparagus. My naked roll was naked because it had no mayo, or "dressing", as their Maine lobster roll does. The naked roll comes piled with gorgeous lobster meat and also comes with drawn butter and lemon as well as homemade potato chips and cole slaw. My roll was on bread baked just for OPLS in special pans. Lesson: Lobster rolls are traditionally on bread that resembles a hot dog bun, except there is crust only on the top (as opposed to all around). OPLS kept it real.

And as for taste? Holy fuck. Jon took one bite of his lobster and rolled his eyes with delight. I think he even teared up a bit as he said "Finally! This is what lobster should taste like." He tried to force feed me some, but I was too busy molesting my lobster roll that I had doused with butter and lemon. The meat was everything it should be and we ate everything on our plates, way past the point of fullness. We couldn't have been happier. On top of that, my potato chips were super excellent.

The owner was there, waiting on people and smiling as he watched the enjoyment his customers were taking in the simple, yet incredible food. Rock on, dude, rock on.

Jon and I were in ecstasy. This was the food of our childhoods, food that plays into thousands of our memories. We can't wait to go back so we can plow through the rest of the menu, which includes all manner of fried seafoods and fish pleasures. For this Boston girl and Jersey boy, OPLS has brought us home.


"To eat is a necessity. To eat intelligently is an art."
-- La Rochefoucauld


Blogger Sam said...

pretty please will you take me with you?

4/10/2006 9:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

oh my god! I'm going this weekend!

I completely completely agree with you about the lobster problem in the bay... WTF! aren't we supposed to be a seafood haven?

there used to be a pretty good place in north beach (forgot the name) but it closed. and so for the last 5 or 6 years, my husband and I suffer through all the food magazines every summer with those damned pictures of scrumptious looking lobster rolls... and then when we go back east (maybe once a year) we have to stuff ourselves into a cholesterol coma every visit. it's sickening! no seriously, human beings' intestines aren't supposed to consume a pure diet of put it nicely: it malfunctions.

anyway, sorry for yammering so long... if this place is as good as you say, I'll cry with happiness and put up a restaurant whore alter in our home.

4/10/2006 3:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

p.s. have you been to FISH in sausalito? they also have great seafood -- super fresh and really really prepared well. check it out. it's across the street from the heath ceramics factory.

4/10/2006 3:56 PM  
Blogger Sal said...

Marina Market @ the corner of Stevens Creek Blvd and Saratoga-Sunnyvale Rd in Cupertino.

Buy your live Maine lobster, take it home, and cook it yourself. Serve with melted butter. Sourdough. That's what we do.

I'm sure there's some place closer than Cupertino these days -- 99 Ranch in Daly City is rumored to have live Maine lobster and we haven't poked our noses into each and every fish place in Chinatown -- but we started going to Marina back when we lived in the South Bay. Their prices are =real= decent.

First encounter of lobster was at a family seashore feed at Nubble's Light at Cape Neddick when I was very young. My parents tried to convince me that I'd like the hotdogs much more. Hah!

Most lobster sold in restaurants hereabouts are (1) not Maine lobster or (2) gussied up. We'll try Old Port Lobster Shack.

4/11/2006 7:49 AM  
Blogger Joy said...

Sam --of course.

Sallyman -- yes, I've been to Fish. Jon used to work in Sausalito right around the corner, and in fact, he worked there when it opened. It's great, but there is no unadulterated Maine lobster there. Most of their stuff is dressed up a bit (save for the fish and chips). During his tenure at that company, I ended up with a lot of random Heath "seconds" as well!

Sal -- most of the Maine lobster I've seen in markets here usually looks half dead. The ones a OPLS were all crawling around their tanks like Olympic athletes. Cupertino is a bit of a haul, but I'm willing to try it if their lobster is fresh!

4/11/2006 8:18 AM  
Blogger Sal said...

Most of the Maine lobster I've seen in markets here usually looks half dead.

The ones at Marina are pretty lively with bands around their claws to keep them from nipping.

His nibs is down in the south bay today. I'll ask if he has time to stop by and bring a few home so we can (in the spirit of sacrifice for the common knowledge pool) check on their liveliness and current price.

4/11/2006 11:59 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

wow, I'm gonna have to check this out.

4/11/2006 12:30 PM  
Blogger Sal said...

His nibs just phoned in his field report.

He picked up three lobsters for dinner tonight and soze we could have "leftovers" to put in 'rolls tomorrow.

Avg wgt ~ 2 lbs. We usually get the 1.25 -1.5 lb ones if they have them, but the ones they had in stock were bigger than usual.

He says the lobsters were kicking, "and not real happy to be taken out of the tank. And, being as it was Marina, the guy held up each one for me to approve -- in case he'd chosen one that was lethargic, or missing a claw, or whatever -- before he added it to the lot."

Price: $11.99/lb

4/11/2006 5:44 PM  
Blogger Joy said...

Sal -- I will definitely be checking that out. Mmmm...

4/11/2006 5:51 PM  
Blogger shuna fish lydon said...

ps did you notice that pearl Oyster Bar was briefly mentioned on the Sopranos two weeks ago?

4/12/2006 12:40 AM  
Blogger Joy said...

Shuna -- I did!

4/12/2006 9:29 AM  
Blogger Restaurant Girl said...

yeah, do we have to go to Maine to eat lobster or what?
GREAT blog, BTW. As a tandem restaurant whore, I thoroughly enjoy your posts.

4/18/2006 5:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I totally agree with Joy. I'm from Connecticut and everytime I go back there I have to get all the Lobster Rolls and I can eat because there was nothing like that here. Then I read about this place and I was skeptical too because I've lived here for 25 years and have had nothing similiar to the Lobster Rolls you get on the East Coast. But, I had to try it and am so glad I did because I feel like I'm there. These are very authentic and the rolls are better here than there. I highly recommend OPLS!

5/10/2006 6:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For years I've been saying some east coast transplant (I'm one of them) should open a restaurant in the Bay area that serves clams with the FULL BELLYS on them. My hunny just found this site & OPLS today. Guess where I am going to (& actually making the drive from Santa Cruz)this weekend & guess what I'm going to order? YUM !
I'll report back on how it was .

6/21/2006 11:18 PM  
Blogger Fraud Buster said...

Now open in SF.

The Norht Neach Lobster Shack sister restaurant to The Old Port Lobster Shack.

Located at 532 Green St. between Columbus and Grant.

2/23/2007 9:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now open in SF
North Beach Lobster Shack at 532 Green St., between Columbus and Grant.

Same great food as the original in Redwood City.

2/23/2007 9:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

They now opened in Napa as well. Check out the review in the Napa Valley Register for the Napa Valley Lobster Shack. These places ROCK! Just google Napa Valley Lobster Shack and check this place out as well as the one in North Beach and Redwood City.

4/12/2007 6:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hear everyone talking about the lobster but not one word about the Haddock. I am from the Bevery,Ma area and I go back every year to have the Haddock, Now I just learned about the Lobster Shack in Napa and plan to go and try the Haddock.

7/04/2007 3:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been in Ca for nearly 10 years now, from the Northeast - and only recently found OPLS. What a treat! Had a bowl of Steamers for around $13 - they were superb. For those not in the know, these are steamed Ipswich clams, fairly large compared to the variety of clams available here. - And again, not all gussied up with wine and garlic, etc. Just steamed and served with some of the resulting clam broth and melted butter for dipping the clams. They were as good as the best I've had from Maine to Cape May (maybe better)! Also had some fried clams (aka belly clams) and fried scallops - Wonderful. Would love it if this place could find an affordable waterfront spot, nothing fancy for it's picnic table decor - but it would be an even more incredible experience with that atmosphere.

9/11/2007 4:03 PM  
Blogger Zoomie said...

My Beloved is going next week and I'm envious! Thanks for the tip!

10/24/2007 6:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just saw that Old Port Lobster Shack was reviewed on KQED's show Check Please! Bay Area. The place is really original and well liked. We went on Sunday and with a line out the door and everyone coming out happy we couldn't wait to try it. There is only one thing I can say after eating the lobster roll and chowdah....wicked good! I understand they are in North Beach and Napa as well, can't wait to try them all.

11/07/2007 6:21 PM  

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