If you're wondering why I choose Luke's Lobster, an East Coast lobster shack that only opened in Chicago in 2015 for my first restaurant to showcase for "A Bite of Chicago" read on...
For me, there is something about lobster on a roll that’s magical. That oddball combination of a simple split-top bun filled with luscious rich lobster—is perfection when it's done the right way.
Over the years, I have been trying to find that magic in Chicago.
It's a simple enough recipe--just bite-sized pieces of lobster meat served on the traditional New England bun, toasted on both sides in butter and lightly seasoned with more butter, lemon juice, salt and black pepper.
So why do so many restaurants do it wrong?
In Chicago alone, I've seen lobster rolls served with neon green relish, cucumbers, fried onions, pickled veggies, giardiniera and bacon.
NO no no. That's akin to putting ketchup on a Chicago Dog.
I have paid upwards of $35 for a lobster roll that was soggy (water from undrained lobster meat); greasy (too much mayonnaise) and served on a hamburger bun--enough said.
But there is one place in Chicago that gets it. That's Luke's Lobster.
Luke's Lobster roll is authentic and simple. Just 1/4 lb. of lobster meat, a New England style toasted bun, a swipe of mayo, melted lemon butter and a dash of their secret seasoning sprinkled on top.
The first Luke's Lobster started in a hole-in-the-wall, 200-square-foot lobster shack in New York City's East Village by the then 25-year old Luke Holden who gave up a lucrative career in finance to follow his dream.
Not unlike my quest to find the perfect lobster roll, Luke started searching for a high-quality, affordable, authentic Maine lobster roll when he was working in New York but came up empty.
"They were either too expensive (in the $30 range), poorly frozen, or had too much "mayo-celery," he explained.
Nine years later the business is booming having expanded across the country and even to Japan.
The first Chicago Luke's Lobster opened across the street from City Hall at 134 N. LaSalle in 2015. A second location opened last fall in theMART (222 Merchandise Mart Plaza, #201) with more in the works for our city.
What makes Luke's the real deal?
One, the lobster and the prep. Luke's lobster meat is a fresh mix of claw, knuckle and tail. According to Alex, the the GM a Luke's City Hall location, the lobster has a two-day turn around coming from their sister company Cape Seafood's Maine pier to the table at Luke's Chicago. The lobster is cooked according to size providing an evenness so that no piece is overcooked or undercooked. The lobster is cut, not shredded, into bite size pieces and not over-prepped with unnecessary garnishes.
Two, the bun. The bun must be a classic New England-style bun (crustless on the sides with a split top). I have been served lobster "rolls" on hot dog buns, kaiser rolls, croissants, hamburger buns, garlic bread, and even cold buns from a French bakery. Luke's uses a toasted, buttery outside and a soft inside, top-loading New England style hot dog bun.
Three, the ratio of meat to the bun
Luke's Lobster Roll is ¼ pound wild caught chilled lobster served on an authentic New England style bun that is crustless and not overly bready making for the perfect ratio of filling to bread as to not overpower the lobster.
And four, the price. Luke's charges $16.50 for their lobster roll, a price that has remained rather steady due to their partnership with Cape Seafood.
In the end, it all comes down to attention to detail. Perfect selection and treatment of ingredients, balance, and above all, the ability to restrain yourself from over thinking.
After all it's not brain surgery. It's just a lobster roll, right?
Special bites around town...
Today only (Thursday, October 18)
All of Chicagoland Al's Beef locations will be offering their famous regular sized Italian Beef Sandwiches for just 80 cents from 11am to 7pm--in celebration of 80 years in business. Just follow Al's on social media to redeem the offer.
Click here for more on Chicago's Italian Beef haunts.
On the Gold Coast
Walton Street Kitchen + Bar, the Gold Coast’s latest neighborhood spot from Ballyhoo Hospitality, has launched a three course prix fixe menu, offered daily from 4 - 5:45 p.m. for $38.
This one really bites
Furious Spoon is stirring up a limited-time Halloween ramen concoction that they promise "is so good it could raise the dead." For the entire month of October, guests can indulge in the hauntingly delicious Dread Bowl – if they dare. Equal parts fun, creepy and delicious, Chef Shin Thompson combines handmade chili-
Stop in Luke's Lobster any weekday from 4pm to 7pm for their Happy Hour where beer and wine prices start at $3.
Offal for Dinner
Table, Donkey and Stick (2728 W. Armitage Ave. 773.486.8525) is celebrating Halloween with the fifth edition of their six-course Offal dinner ($49) on October 31.This year’s menu includes pickled tongue and crispy pig’s foot with black truffle and butternut squash.
Locanda celebrates the changing seasons with the launch of its new Happy Hour, inviting locals and visitors alike to wind down with a $6 Martini and elevated Italian bites at the bar Monday through Friday from 4 to 6pm.
Filed under: Chicago restaurants