This review of a New York restaurant is a break from The Picky Glutton’s usual London-based coverage.
Lobster may be perceived as a luxury food item, but that hasn’t stopped Luke’s Lobster from serving up bargain-priced dishes featuring the loveable crustacean. The New York-based mini-chain has only a handful of branches, but I wouldn’t be surprised if all of them have the same chintzy fisherman/maritime-themed decor as the East Village branch. Businessweek has some nice background on the eponymous Luke.
The East Village premises is very small with an order counter and bar seating for only a handful of patrons, so it barely qualifies as a restaurant. It’s worth bearing with though since you can have a lobster lunch/dinner for around $20.
Although there is a varied selection of other seafood dishes that changes daily, the focus at Luke’s Lobster is squarely on lobster rolls. It’s as simple as it sounds – buttered, toasted rolls filled with lobster. Such a simple preparation might seem a little underwhelming, but it’s apparently a New England classic. To get a taste of the entire menu I opted for the Taste of Maine – half of a lobster roll, half of a crab roll, half of a shrimp roll and two crab claws all for just $21.
Half a crab roll and half a lobster roll
Each roll is generously buttered and perfectly toasted – crisp so they don’t become too soggy underneath all the seafood, but not too crunchy either. The boiled lobster is plump, firm and tastes fresh, while the crab roll consists mostly of head meat but it too tastes fresh. The shrimp roll was a little disappointing, tasting flat and rather lifeless as if they’d just seen the inside of a Tesco Value pack of shrimp. Although Americans tend to refer to both prawns and shrimp as shrimp, the shrimp here really are the tiny little buggers and not their bigger prawn cousins.
Half of a lobster roll (the same one as in the pic above) and half of a shrimp roll
The crab claws are a bit on the small side and the flesh was firm with a slightly fibrous texture. They were chilled through though so they were lacking somewhat in taste.
All the rolls are simply prepared with no embellishments besides a slice of lemon and a small pot of tart-tasting tomato ketchup for dunking. Although the rolls look rather diminutive, they’re surprisingly filling. If you do feel like dessert though, you’ll have to go elsewhere as the closest thing Luke’s Lobster offers is a packet of crisps.
The cramped space makes Luke’s Lobster a quick eat and go place rather than somewhere to linger, but it’s well worth putting up with if you want fresh, simply prepared lobster at a low price. Or you could just grab your meal as a takeaway and head back to your hotel or down to a park. The shrimp rolls are a disappointment, but the other superior rolls are also available a la carte or as meals with crisps and drink. Either way, a bargain.
Name: Luke’s Lobster (East Village branch)
Address: 93 East 7th Street, New York City, NY 10009-5730
Phone: 212 387 8487
Opening Hours: Sunday – Thursday: 11.00 to 22.00; Friday – Saturday: 11.00 to 23.00
Reservations: not taken.
Total cost for one person including soft drink, but excluding New York sales tax: $23 (approx. £14 at time of writing)
Updated 11/5/2011 with link to Businessweek background article