26 South William Street, Financial District, (212) 747-1700
Getting There: 2,3,4,5 to Wall Street; J,M,Z to Broad Street
Restaurant Review: Luke's Lobster
From recent local food tasting events to staples like the Hester Street Fair, it seems that Luke’s Lobster stands are popping up everywhere. With the opening of their fifth outpost earlier this summer (including their mobile food truck) in the Financial District, Luke’s Lobster is aiming for supremacy of New York’s lobster roll market. And with the ease of locating one, created impeccably and exploding with fresh flavor, it appears they may be onto something.
There’s nothing revolutionary about the lobster roll- fresh chunks of meat, stuffed into a toasted, buttery bun, and lathered in creamy, but not overwhelming mayo. In fact, its appeal lies in the fact that it is truly an upscale comfort food- one that can be prepared quickly and taken to go. Its size and even its shape lends itself to be perhaps the easiest food to eat while walking. Capitalizing on that very niche, Luke’s four standing restaurants are not much larger than you would expect to find at a summery crab shack on some upstate northeastern shore. The minimal seats simply serve as a platform for those without some place to rush off to, and the surroundings inside make you feel as if you could step out of the restaurant and onto a beach. Luke’s eschews table service for a casual order-at-the-counter and wait for your number to be called style, which works just fine for them, pairing well with the vibe of the place.
Unfortunately for non-seafood eaters, the already limited menu doesn’t have much to offer you, outside of some delicious Maine root sodas and bags of chips. But if you stray from seafood, it’s very likely you haven’t tasted a sandwich this outstanding and we urge you to at least give one of Luke’s a taste for yourself. The sandwiches are served in three varieties, each of which are four ounces of hearty meat- lobster ($15), crab ($10- which gives the lobster a run for its money), and shrimp ($8)- and are served a la carte or as a “Schooner Combo” with a soda, chips, and a pickle (add $2 to each). Feeling that a single roll might not be completely fulfilling, our appetites demanded more. The “Taste of Maine” ($21) became the object of our desire, which is a true sampling of everything Luke’s has to offer- a half lobster roll, half crab roll, and a half shrimp roll, paired with a soda and chips, and a pair of Empress crab claws. $21 for lunch does seem exorbitant but the tray of food that we were handed was of tremendous value. Luke’s prepares their rolls “Maine-style,” meaning that the seafood is served chilled, piled inside the toasted bun before being doused in their secret spices and a lemon butter finish. Each savory bite seemed better than the next. The shrimp, while very good simply was no match for the crab and lobster rolls which were equally outstanding. The butter and the fresh chunks of meat pair incredibly well with the light dabs of mayo and hints of lemon, with the only downside being the food being eaten too quickly. The empress crab claws were a nice touch as a side, served with ample cocktail sauce for dipping, but they too, it seemed, were polished off just as they had arrived.
It should be noted that Luke’s Lobster also serves up some terrific soups, made with the same delicious seafood- a “Maine lobster bisque” ($9), a “New England clam chowder” ($7), and a “spicy crab and sweet potato bisque” ($7), and for an additional $3 each, they can be prepared in an actual bread bowl. But Luke’s Lobster is a place known for their rolls, and as such they have become one of the most sought after sandwich purveyors in Manhattan. Whereas the ambiance inside might not be much, the service is both friendly and fast, the menu is completely affordable, and better yet, the first bite is unforgettable. And with locations on the upper east and west sides, the east village, the financial district, and a mobile truck to track you down, Luke’s Lobster isn’t a hard place to find either.