The Shell Game

Lobster for you, lobster for me—LEV Group’s latest dish is already clawing its way to the top

We’re a popular test market for restaurant chains, but it isn’t often that a chain is born here and later franchised.

Lobster ME, a new place in the Miracle Mile Shops for classic New England lobster concoctions, aims to break that mold. The boys from LEV Restaurant Group already have their eyes on franchising, and after a few short weeks have received a flood of national press. They may really be on to something this time.

LEV owns I ♥ Burgers in the Shoppes at the Palazzo and Balboa Pizza in the District at Green Valley Ranch, both successful startups. But this concept is more original. It’s not a sit-down restaurant, per se, but a glorified kiosk with a back kitchen designed to deliver your food in three minutes. You order at a counter from a blackboard menu. Then, you grab a table on the makeshift “patio,” cordoned off by black ribbons.

The star dish here is the lobster roll, which draws tourists to Maine as much as its vaunted coast. If you’re not familiar, the lobster roll is commonly served on a grilled, buttered, split hot dog bun for added crunch, the meat inside, mixed with mayo, celery and spice.

Lobster ME (as in Maine’s postal code) does the classic roll one better by using a delicious brioche bun sourced locally from a Vietnamese-owned bakery called L’elysée. Inside, they put the claws on top, with the lesser bits underneath.

The meat is seasoned with celery salt, perhaps too much of it, but otherwise this is a terrific sandwich. I compare all lobster rolls with one at Red’s Eats in Wiscasset, the most famous place in Maine to eat this delicacy. There, the meat from a one-pound lobster is stuffed into a roll. All of it.

If lobster rolls aren’t your thing, though, no worries. Those large iron kettles contain clam chowder and lobster bisque, the former the pasty version you might find at Red Lobster, the latter a coral-color potage that could use more intensity. I was quite impressed with the Lobsicle, a tempura battered hunk of meat on a stick. You can troll the mall and eat this thing—a sort of rich man’s corn dog.

I also quite like the shrimp salad, a generous bowlful of spinach, arugula and romaine, lots of shrimp, and citrus vinaigrette dressing, the same one you get at I ♥ Burgers. (You can have this salad with lobster meat as well, of course.)

And I’m totally mad for the lobster grilled cheese, served between slices of brioche bread from that same L’elysée Bakery. The sandwich combines three types of cheese—Gruyère, Brie and cream cheese—plus a creamy lobster spread. It’s served inside a sealed foil bag, and it could go viral someday, it’s that good.

Grown-ups will want the lobster shooter with Ketel One vodka. It has a lusty kick, and it tastes good, too. Instead of fries or tater tots, both on the menu here, why not order a bag of Cape Cod Potato Chips? They’re one of the best American brands, and hard to find in these parts.

You can even have lobster ice cream for dessert, a confection also made by Ben and Bill’s, of Bar Harbor. To me, it just tastes like vanilla, but I did fish out a few chunks of frozen lobster meat.

Lobster ice cream. If that goes viral, I’m Santa Claus.

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For beer geeks—loosely defined as those of us who eschew light American pilsners and plan our shopping trips around which store has the best selection of pretty much anything else—two trends are clear: seasonal brews and barrel aging. Both have as much to do with exclusivity as they do tasty beer.



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