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The best lobster rolls west of Maine
September 13, 2007, 12:00 AM By Michael Erler

Carlo Acenas/Daily Journal Mick and Sharon Brugos enjoy lobster rolls, a favorite of half the visitors to Old Port Lobster Shack in Redwood City.

Living in the Bay Area, we are seldom in the position to be envious of other parts of the country. We have spectacular weather year round, a progressive and diverse society and more than our fair share of spectacular dining options. Sure, it’s a little harder to make ends meet here, and our professional baseball teams are pretty awful these days, but overall we’re as close as it gets to Camelot.

And now that native Bostonian Russell Deutsch has opened the Old Port Lobster Shack in Redwood City, we really have no reason whatsoever to be jealous of folks living in New England. Not unless you’re one of those obsessive foliage junkies anyway.

What makes the Lobster Shack, located at 851 Veterans Blvd. next to The Baker’s Square, a can’t miss destination for any seafood lover are the amazing lobster rolls. The odds are you’ve never tasted anything like them, and if you have, then you probably pronounce chowder as chowdah and think that Barry Bonds can’t hit a lick compared to David "Big Papi” Ortiz. Deutsch estimates that the rolls account for "40 to 50 percent of our business” and are by far the most popular item on the menu. He also boasted all of his lobster comes from the shores of Maine and he has a network of sources to ensure that he’s got plenty of fresh crustaceans year round.

"Lobster places in New England are pretty much just a spring and summertime venture, because the fishermen over there don’t like to work in freezing weather, but Canadian fishermen don’t care about that,” explained Deutsch.

The rolls are basically lobster sandwiches, and they come in two styles, the "Maine” which has the lobster pre-mixed with a dollop of mayonnaise and scallions, and the "Naked” which is just huge chunks of cooked lobster meat, with the mayo and the melted butter served on the side for the customer to add as much or as little as they see fit. Deutsch guessed that the former was slightly preferred to the latter, because of its authenticity to the rolls served throughout New England. Customers Christie McCarthy and Cathy Vieara confirmed his hypothesis, informing me that they are both from Maine and the mix is the only way they would ever order this treat. Personally, while I was pleasantly surprised that the sweetness and flavor of the lobster wasn’t overwhelmed by the mayo, as one usually finds when ordering a crab sandwich around town for example, I still found the naked superior, if only because it lets the diner choose their own level of consistency to the roll.

However you order it, the key to the lobster roll, surprisingly enough, is the bun. The official name for them is "top-loading” hot dog buns, and Deutsch chuckled when I told him that I’d never seen anything like them before. Apparently they’re exclusive to New England, or at least they used to be. Deutsch brought the molding press for them over from Boston and has a local baker prepare him a fresh batch daily. I can’t quite figure out why the toasted buns were so delicious, I just know that without them the rolls wouldn’t be nearly the same experience.

The main ingredient still is the lobster though, so the rolls aren’t cheap at $17.75 apiece. They’re worth every penny and more and one can save a little by ordering the "Double Play” which is two rolls for $33. Try one of each and compare for yourself. The rolls also come with crisp coleslaw and a generous helping of potato chips, so it’s easily enough food for two. It’s all the taste of a fancy New England lobster house, but without those annoying accents.

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