The Lobster Shack
By “The Elusive Epicurean”
I have a friend, an otherwise strict vegetarian, who occasionally becomes so overcome with desire for a taste of lobster from her native New England that she’ll sacrifice a week’s grocery budget to have some overnighted to her in a discrete, unmarked box. So if you go to Napa’s new addition, the Lobster Shack, and spot a young lady in overgrown sunglasses, floppy hat and upturned collar, no, it’s not that teen movie queen. It’s just my incognito vegan trying to get her lobster fix.
Having grown up on the crab from this here coast, I’ve never understood this passion for its crustacean cousin. A visit to the Lobster Shack was clearly in order. As shacks go, this one’s not half bad. Brightly painted walls, one decorated with fishing buoys and the others only with the odd New England map or two, say you’re here to eat fish. More emphatically, get your eyes back on your plate, because you’re here to eat.
And eat, you must. When the Captain’s Platter (fried fish, shrimp and clams for $23.75) arrived at a neighboring table, we thought, “Yum!” Then the rest of their order arrived, and our stomachs knew fear. Three words for you: generous portion size. If your mother always made you clean your plate, then you’d best bring a Tums, or fast for a day in advance.
Before you get to fill your belly, though, you must navigate the menu—the very large menu. Everything looks good, so prepare yourself for some hard choices. Oh, and be forewarned: at the Lobster Shack, service is deli style. You order your food and pay up before you’re seated. The downside is no drinking while thinking. (The skinny is the owners might be prevailed upon to switch to table service. Let’s hope they do. Then I can drink more beer.)
After camping in the foyer for a good twenty minutes, we finally calculated which combination of foodstuffs would give us the clearest insight into the Lobster Shack’s culinary world. We started with the Nor’easter Salad, composed of mixed greens, candied pecans, apples, Gorgonzola and balsamic vinaigrette ($8.75 for a full order, $5.75 for half). Then there was the Shack Louie, a refreshing salad topped with lobster, crab, shrimp, sliced hardboiled egg, tomatoes and avocado ($17.75 for a full order, $13.75 for half). A half order is a very generous starter, or a complete meal for the faint of appetite. Next time I’ll order up a full salad, since I already crave it again and have anointed it my new favorite meal circa summer 2007.
Now, on to the main course. We had the Pan Seared Maple Glazed Scallops ($15.75), a dish which, combining two of my loves, scallops and maple, could only be good. After that, we decided to focus on lobster. We went for the Double Play, and chose two rolls: the Maine Lobster Roll and the Naked Lobster Roll ($17.75 for one roll, $32 for two). The result of this taste test was that we both preferred the Maine Lobster Roll, where the lobster is dressed with a light dash of mayo, green onions, salt and pepper. I’m told devotees of the Naked Lobster Roll, with drawn butter and mayo served on the side, would quarrel with me. If you wish to conduct your own taste test, bring a few more friends and order rolls with crab or fried clams, too.
Amazingly, on this visit we avoided all things fried. I have a clear agenda for my next visit: Beer Battered Fish and Chips ($10.75), or perhaps the Beer Battered Salmon and Chips ($12.75). I’ve never done fried salmon.
The final verdict? My dining companion returned the very next day. (I had to fly to Phoenix.)
The Lobster Shack is located in the former home of the old Depot Restaurant at 806 4th Street. The Lobster Shack is open Tue-Fri 11:30–2:30 for lunch and 5:30-8:30 for dinner, and all day from 11:30 AM on Saturday and 12 PM on Sunday. Closed Monday. For more information, call (707) 258-8200.