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