Steamers, Stuffed Lobster, Big Lobstah Louie
Location: San Francisco
Favorite Restaurant: Old Port Lobster Shack
Reviewed Old Port Lobster Shack: Sunday, June 3, 2007
Located in a non-descript strip mall in Redwood City, the Old Port Lobster Shack seems like an unlikely place to for the freshest East Coast seafood this side of Maine, but right next door to the local Super Cuts, that’s exactly what you’ll find. While its fishing buoys, nets, and lobster cages strive to pull you off of Veterans Blvd. and back to Maine, it’s the food that completes the journey.
This is not a place for sophisticates: order at the front, grab one of the interesting and rare craft beers and wait for your plastic basket to food to be brought to your table.
I’ve now eaten at the Old Port Lobster Shack many times, and my advice is to keep it simple and let the freshly-delivered seafood speak for itself. While the menu is as varied as most seafood houses, the kitchen excels with simply prepared sandwiches and salads.
On my last visit we started with the Shacktail Trio, a simple unadorned glass of lobster meat, crab, and perfectly cooked shrimp. Rather than simply glopping sauce on top of the meat, the cocktail sauce comes in a small tub on the side, letting the perfect shellfish shine though. We also split the daily special of shrimp and lobster gazpacho. A simple gazpacho with shrimp and lobster meat dropped in the soup. On this hot day, the gazpacho was refreshing, but again, it was the fresh perfectly steamed shrimp and lobster that makes this a special dish.
For our entrees, we shared a half order of Lobster Mac ‘n’ Cheese and the delicious Maine Lobster Roll. First, the mac ‘n’ cheese is creamy, rich, and decadent, and studded with a generous portion of lobster claw meat. However, the lobster roll — my standby order — remains the true star of this restaurant. The lobster roll is simple and delicious with fresh lobster meat tossed in mayo and served on a New England-style split-top hot dog roll with homemade chips and coleslaw. The roll itself is grilled on two sides and is crunchy on the edge but soft and pillowy on the inside. Yet, it is just dense enough to hold the overflowing lobster. The roll is also available “naked” without mayo and just a bit of melted butter on the side.
The Lobster Louis salad and both the New England and the red clam “chowdahs” are likewise delicious and feature more of the same fresh, perfectly cooked seafood.
At the Old Port Lobster Shack, they keep it simple, they keep it fresh, and they keep it good. So, pull up a seat at the picnic table, grab a beer and a lobster roll, and smell that cool ocean air.
Occupation: Mystery Shopper and Homemaker
Location: San Bruno
Favorite Restaurant: Cleo’s Brazilian Steakhouse
Reviewed Old Port Lobster Shack: Saturday June 2, 2007
Old Port Lobster Shack is a cute, well-decorated, casual restaurant for fresh New England-style seafood. It has all the ambiance of being near the sea, including nice picnic tables. It was rather busy on this Saturday night, often with a line to order food at the register. It was a bit confusing since there is no posted menu, so everybody had to get up to the register to grab the paper menu before they could decide.
There was a large variety of menu items, so it took a while to look through the menu and decide what to get, and I felt rushed since I was standing around near the register. I placed my order and got a number stand to put on the table, just like at some other fast food restaurants. First came our bowl of New England Clam “Chowdah.” It was a large bowl that our family could share. The chowder was creamy with plenty of chunky ingredients, although it was salty for our taste. Next came a huge bowl of steamers. I have always loved clams, and had never tried these steamers before. These are a step up from regular clams since they are big and hearty. There was a bit of sand at times, but it was bearable to use the broth to wash them out and dip them in butter. It was a huge portion, and they were fresh, so these were worth trying. We couldn’t go to the Lobster Shack without having something with lobster, so we had a half order of lobster ravioli. I was most disappointed in this dish, since it was very bland. The ravioli filling was some chopped-up lobster, but it was dry with no taste and the sauce on the plate had absolutely no flavor. The only saving grace to this dish was the large chunks of fresh lobster on top even though, unfortunately, these were ice cold. Last came a Nor’easter Salad and Beer Battered Salmon and Chips. The salad was good, just as described on the menu. The large pieces of salmon were tasty and crispy on the outside and we enjoyed the well-seasoned, thick fries. I have been to this restaurant once before and enjoyed my Naked Lobster Roll on that visit. The roll and chips were especially good, so I would order that again. I saw many people ordering the steamed lobster dinners, which are pulled live from a neat-looking circular tank. I would have loved that also but didn’t get it because of the $32.75 out of my pocket, plus there were plenty of other menu items that I wanted.
If you have a craving for seafood but don’t want to go to a pricey, fancy place, then I would recommend this restaurant. This is probably one of the few places to get fresh seafood on the Peninsula where you can take kids of any ages along — the bucket of oyster crackers on the table alone kept mine occupied. If I went back, I would just stick to the basic seafood items and not get any pasta or other items which might require extra cooking skills to be tasty.
Location: San Francisco
Favorite Restaurant: Postrio
Reviewed Old Port Lobster Shack: Friday, June 1, 2007
When I first saw that my Check, Please! Bay Area assignment included a lobster restaurant I thought I had died and gone to heaven, but when I saw on their website that it was located in a strip mall in Redwood City, my East Coast snobbery kicked in. Then I read that they flew in fresh Maine lobsters daily. I am snobby about three things: NY pizza, NY bagels, and Maine, rather than Pacific Coast, lobster. Hm, maybe this strip mall joint was gonna be the real thing. I then consulted Yelp.com, and people, even New England natives were raving about this place. I have one friend in Redwood City, so I called her to be my date. I was recovering from knee surgery and had just gotten off crutches, was now using a cane, and I couldn’t drive. And getting to the CalTrain station to go to Redwood City would be a pain, literally. A friend in San Francisco offered to join and drive down, so the two of us along with her three-year-old set out on the Lobster Shack adventure. I thought having three-year-old Ben along would allow me to comment on their inexpensive Children’s Menu, but wouldn’t you know it, this three-year-old has discerning taste and asked for calamari not PB&J. We had to tell him that the fried shrimp was calamari because his request just wasn’t on the menu.
But, let’s start from the beginning. We picked up my other friend who lives in Redwood City and, though the lobster joint was two miles from her house, she wasn’t familiar with it. We missed the restaurant and had to turn around and look for it because the street address was not visible from Veterans Blvd. We found the shopping center through its back entrance. We arrived on a Friday at 6:45 pm to find a not-too-long line out the door, which told us that the place was a find. But it wasn’t. The restaurant has a few outdoor tables, and the inside, where we would sit, was adorned with picnic tables and benches a la New England grotto — a laidback atmosphere and quiet. All that was missing was the scent of the ocean breeze.
It took us about 20 minutes to get to the counter to order. Five of those minutes were spent by a couple immediately in front of us, who was wine tasting in order to figure out what wine to order. One of my friends hypothesized that they were friends of the guy at the register and rightfully pointed out to me that the wine tasting should have taken place at a different spot, not THE ordering line on a busy Friday night. We got to the counter, and I was excited to order and get me some lobstah, but the guy at the register (the owner, according to his photo on the web site) discovered that there was no longer an available table, and he asked for To Go orders. I was annoyed and was dying to say, “uh, buddy, I’m reviewing this place,” but I was under strict orders to remain undercover. I put my shades and trench coat back on and stayed cool as the woman behind us got in front of us.
For weeks I knew what I was going to order: a steamed lobster with a nutcracker and bib and the works, until I found out that it would cost me $32.75 — too much, even though I love a good Maine lobster. I got frugal and found out from the woman behind us (who ended up in front of us) that the Naked Lobster Roll had the same amount of lobster and was $15 cheaper. By the time I got to the register, I opted for the Big Lobstah Louie at $18.75, so I’d have a healthy salad rather than bread.
Ordering felt frantic. The guy taking our order was impatient with us, since I dared to have a question. The Lobstah Louie was OK, but somewhat tasteless. I asked for melted butter, which added the much needed and necessary flavor to the lobster, but the butter was lukewarm not hot. The salad was romaine lettuce and some eggs, maybe a few other things, nothing really eventful. I tasted my friend’s clam chowder. It had a good amount of clams in it and tasted like it had a corn base. My three-year-old friend’s fried shrimp was lightly fried, not too greasy, and quite fresh. I could have feasted on that all night, had I not ordered expensive mediocre lobster, and if it weren’t a sin to steal breaded shrimp from a toddler. I’d go back if someone else was footing the bill.