Lobster on a roll at Luke's Lobster in Chicago

Lobster on a roll at Luke's Lobster in Chicago

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.

Behind the counter at Luke's City Hall location. Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

Behind the counter at Luke's City Hall location. Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

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.

Lukeslobstercityhall

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.

Inside Luke's Lobster. Photo: Carole Kuhrt Brewer

Inside Luke's Lobster. Photo: Carole Kuhrt Brewer

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.

Simple pleasures a lobster roll with a pickle on the side and slaw. Photo: Carole Kuhrt Brewer

Simple pleasures a lobster roll with a pickle on the side and slaw. Photo: Carole Kuhrt Brewer

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...

Chris of Al's Beef, me and Mario of Mario's Italian Ice on Taylor St. Photo: Carole Kuhrt Brewer

Chris of Al's Beef, me and Mario of Mario's Italian Ice on Taylor St. Photo: Carole Kuhrt Brewer

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.

Dread food bowl.

Dread food bowl.

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-infused noodles, seaweed salad, kikurage mushrooms, calamari and a fried chicken foot from the grave in a black squid ink vegetable broth for this one-of-a-kind spooky slurp. The Dread Bowl is priced at $14.95 and is available at all locations except 

On-going.
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.

Brew-Ja Crawl
The third annual Brew-Ja Crawl, a Day of the Dead- inspired tour of Pilsen’s exciting beer, food and music scenes, is slated  for Saturday October 27th from noon to 6pm. Expect beer, cocktails, drink and food specials,  music, and jump on-jump-off trolleys to transport guests to the 14 participating bars and restaurants. 
Guests who come “dressed for the occasion” will have a chance to compete for prizes. Check- in is at Plaza Tenochtitlan ( 1811 S. Blue Island Ave. ). Tickets are $35 through BrownPaperTickets.com. Guests must be 21 or older to participate. The event is part of the year-long fundraising and awareness mission that culminates at Pilsen Fest in August.

Happy martini's
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

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    CAROLE KUHRT BREWER

    Carole is an arts, entertainment and food journalist. She writes "Show Me Chicago" and "Chicago Eats" for ChicagoNow and covers Chicago places and events for Choose Chicago (City of Chicago) as well as freelancing for a variety of publications.

    BARBARA REVSINE

    I started writing when I was in grade school. And when I wasn’t writing or thinking about writing, I was reading what someone else had written. So it wasn’t a stretch for me to think about writing as a career. Neither was it a stretch to think about writing about food, a subject I’d always found interesting, more in terms of history, cooking, restaurants and culture than eating and critiquing. Decades after selling my first story, my interest in writing about food continues, and “A Bite of Chicago” gives me another opportunity to pursue my passion with people who share it.

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