Luke’s Lobster – East Village, NYC
One visit to Luke’s Lobster, in the East Village, NYC and you’ll see why this new casual seafood shack has become such a big hit in New York. The restaurant opened in October 2009, by Maine native Luke Holden, and all of their seafood is imported from Luke’s father’s business in Maine, Portland Shellfish. Luke’s aim is to keep prices reasonable compared to its competitors which has enticed New Yorkers to splurge for their famous Lobster Rolls.
An A-frame menu stands outside the doorway with menu specials for the day sprawled in chalk handwriting and inside this small seafood shack is one center table, seating six, surrounded by an L-shaped stool bar along the walls and windows seating approximately 10-15 more. Not very large inside, but Luke’s Lobster fits the New England seafood shack image, with a trendy East Village location on 1st Ave. and 7th Street.
The most popular menu item is their signature Lobster Roll, followed by their Crab Roll and Shrimp Roll, which are all offered a la carte for $7-14, or as a “Schooner Combo” including chips and a pickle for $9-16 (Lobster is the most expensive, Shrimp the least). Besides their famous Rolls, the menu also offers two homemade rich and creamy soups in bread bowls: Maine Lobster Bisque and New England Clam Chowder. The Empress Crab Claws can be ordered solo (4 for $5) or in a combination basket such as “Taste of Maine” including a trio sampler of each Seafood roll (1/2 portion), two crab claws, chips and a drink for $20. Order “Noah’s Ark” for two and you get the same sampling for $38. They feature Maine Root Soda in a variety of flavors, and Miss Vickie’s Chips, a Maine-based potato chip company, to keep the New England heritage and theme consistent in this trendy seafood shack.
Upon visiting last weekend, Luke’s seemed to be fairly empty around 10 pm on a Saturday night, which seemed a bit surprising, if not concerning, considering this was my first visit to the shack (a bit late in the season which could be the reason for its empty stools). But no complaints to the bare establishment, as we ordered and were served in less than 10 minutes. My friend and I ordered the “Noah’s Ark” which looked authentically “shack-like”, served in a plastic basket lined by a sheet of wax paper, including 3 decent sized half rolls of Shrimp, Crab and Lobster. The two mini crab claws were served in a plastic sauce container along with another filled with cocktail sauce on the side for dipping. I dove in to the Lobster Roll first, and on first bite, tasted succulent and sweet Lobster meat, lightly seasoned with savory spices, on a perfectly toasted, buttery roll. The meat was fresh and light, with only a dab of mayo and a special secret seasoning which was refreshing and delicious. The Shrimp and Crab rolls had nice, medium-sized shrimp and chunks of crabmeat, and the portions were just right. The Sea Salt & Vinegar chips that came with it had a nice, tangy, salty flavor to accompany the rolls, and the Maine Root Soda (blueberry) added a refreshing, homespun flavor to the meal, as if we were sitting near the ocean on a summer day.
All in all, the service was quick – the baskets were delivered to our stools, by a friendly server with a smile, but the atmosphere seemed a bit mediocre (the fluorescent lighting a bit annoying and the bare stools next to us begged for some more patrons to liven the place up a bit) and the menu is a bit limited. I would recommend a visit to this tasty gem, but in the summer time when seafood is a bit more tempting as menu fare and earlier in the evening when the East Village is humming on a steamy summer night, to make the experience a bit more authentic and exciting. But who isn’t in the mood for a juicy lobster roll anytime of the year right?
Overall atmosphere rating = 7 out of 10
Overall food rating = 8 out of 10
Overall service rating = 7 out of 10
Locations: Upper East Side (7th St and 1st) and East Village (E. 81st and 2nd)
Delivery: UES only