Lobster Guy’s on a roll
It’s a good sign when a new restaurant has a loyal following
Lobsters in their native environment don’t look appetizing, unless you get hungry when looking at aliens in 1950s science fiction movies. It’s a beady-eyed horror, with more legs (10) than a spider, and natural armor like a tank. As if that isn’t enough, it has claws that look vicious even in repose. There’s an old saying about the bravery of the first person to eat an oyster, and it goes double for the first person to think that this nightmarish denizen of the deep might make a good dinner.
That protective shell is needed because inside is some of the sweetest meat in nature, delicious even before you add garlic butter, mornay sauce, or Chinese black bean paste. That being the case, it surprises some people that lobster was once regarded as cheap food for servants and prisoners. Boarding Houses that served it too often had trouble keeping tenants. While French chefs started making fancy recipes for lobster in the 1880s, the iconic lobster roll wasn’t invented until the 1920s, when a restaurant in Connecticut started selling them as a portable food for travelers.
This remained a New England specialty for decades, and they weren’t a big draw in the South Bay until recently. They’re popular at Quality Seafood, Captain Kidd’s, and L&B Coastal, and they’re front and center at a new seafood shack called Lobster Guy’s Rolls & Fries on Artesia. They’ve been open for just over two months in the space that used to be Calimex, but have won a local following for serving steamed or fried crustaceans in a homey atmosphere.
Indeed, almost everything on their menu used to live in a shell underwater. Besides lobster they offer shrimp, crab, and clams, though there are a pair of chicken and beef items for those who prefer land proteins. In two trips there I didn’t see anyone ordering them. I didn’t either, on the theory that when you go to a specialist, you should order the specialty.
Like any self-respecting seafood shack, they offer clam chowder and lobster bisque. Both are beyond reproach. The chowder was unusually herbal, but not enough to obscure the natural flavors, and there were plenty of chunks of clam and potato in the thick broth. As good as that was, I preferred the bisque, which had a velvety texture and a slight flavor of sherry wine. A cup of either is sufficient for a starter because both are rich, but they sell it by the bowl if you want to make a meal of it.
Another item that would be a good starter for two or a light meal for one is the lobster quesadilla, made with “Mexican blend” cheese and served with lemon-dill aioli instead of salsa. It’s a novel take on the California/Mex favorite, and nice but not essential.
What is essential is an item I expected to dislike: flaming hot lobster fries. This is regular fries topped with buttered lobster, cheese sauce, sliced jalapeno, green onion, and ground-up flaming hot Cheetos. I asked for the Cheetos on the side because I have always detested them, and only tried a sprinkle of them for scientific reasons. This was the only time I’ve ever liked them, because the cheese sauce, green onion, and jalapenos are a complete flavor that works with the lobster and fries. Have some water ready, or a beer or a glass of wine, but if you like spicy stuff, order this. I recommend the mix of tots, and fries rather than plain fries, but I’m sure it’s good either way.
On each visit I’ve tried a lobster roll, once the crab and lobster mix and once the straight lobster, one hot (Connecticut style) and one cold (Maine style). I liked the Maine style slightly better, because the cold seafood in the toasted roll was a nice contrast. They’re served with a sprinkling of green onion and a very light drizzle of garlic mayo, which is just how I like them – some places are so exuberant with the mayo that an already rich ingredient is swamped in more richness. They were generous with the portion of lobster too, and it was very good.
We happened to be in a wine mood, rather a beer mood, and they offered an Italian Pinot Grigio, and Josh Sauvignon Blanc, both of which went nicely with the rolls. The beer selection is a little more extensive than the wines, sufficient for the style but not going for snob appeal.
Housemade blueberry cheesecake, and chocolate chip cookies are both on the menu, but on the night we were there they were out of cookies. That was just fine, because the cheesecake was excellent, rich and creamy with cheese flavor. It’s a small portion, but it’s also modestly priced at five bucks.
Service here is good but casual – you order at the counter and food is served at the table. On both visits the staff were friendly and enthusiastic. They know their food and beer, and banter in a friendly way with regulars. It’s a good sign that a place that has been open for such a short time does have regulars. I could envision becoming one myself, because it’s such a pleasant place and there are still things on the menu I haven’t tried. Lobster Guy’s Rolls and Fries is a big upgrade to the Artesia corridor, and a reason to visit North Redondo for New England expats and others who enjoy eating nightmares from the deep.
Lobster Guy’s Rolls & Fries is at 2217 Artesia in Redondo. Opens daily at 11:30 a.m. Closes 9 p.m. Sun -Thur. 10 p.m. Fri.-Sat. Parking in rear. Beer and wine. Wheelchair access okay. Sound level moderate. (310) 921-8427. Lobsterguys.com. ER