Monday, September 13, 2010

Red Hook Lobster Pound Truck

While a wave of new food trucks has spread across DC in the last year, none has been more talked about than the Red Hook Lobster Pound truck. On opening day a few weeks ago, the line stretched around the block. I kept an eye on their Twitter feed, just waiting for the opportunity to get my lobster roll fix without waiting an hour to do it. The lucky opportunity arrived when the truck made its way to the Grand Opening celebration for The Yards Park near Nationals Park. B and I Metro'd to Navy Yard and walked a couple of blocks to the newly-beautified Anacostia riverfront. When we walked up, there were only a few people in line waiting to get their lobster roll on.

If you're wondering about the quirky name, the owners first started serving lobster in the Red Hook neighborhood of Brooklyn. A lobster "pound" is apparently Maine-speak for a lobster shack. I couldn't wait to see if the lobster rolls would be the best thing to come out of Brooklyn since the Dodgers and my grandparents.

The ordering process is simple, just the way food truck ordering should be. Choose between a lobster roll and a shrimp roll, and decide whether you want to pay $3 extra to make it a combo with Cape Cod potato chips and a Maine Root soda (from the fancy dispenser on the truck). If you don't specify, you'll get your roll served Maine-style with the lobster chilled and tossed in a tiny bit of homemade lemony-mayo. You can also order it Connecticut-style served warm with drawn butter on top. Red Hook also scores major points for accepting credit cards.

I ordered the lobster roll combo - Maine-style - and was immediately impressed with the giant chunks of lobster meat in the roll. This is no processed, unrecognizable pink mush. There were clearly discernible chunks of claw meat galore. Because they use such fresh lobster, I appreciated that they did not drown it in toppings. Toasty roll + fresh lobster = perfect end of Summer treat.

B isn't as big of a lobster fan as I am, so he test drove the shrimp roll. While packed with plump shrimp, the roll didn't make him jump up and down. He thought it was tasty and pretty amazing for food served from a truck, but it didn't elicit random high fives or fist pumps.

For dessert, we sampled one of the whoopie pies. While huge enough for two to share, it loses points for being served cold. The temperature caused the chocolate cake to taste dry. It needed more cream filling to offset the cake. As B said, too much pie and not enough whoopie.

I couldn't write about lobster rolls without comparing them to my first and favorite: the Tackle Box lobster rolls. The Tackle Box roll is more expensive ($19) than its truck-driving cousin ($15), but it is also larger. The quality of lobster meat in both is outstanding but I'll give a slight nod to TackleBox because they don't use celery in their rolls. I realize that most people probably love the crunch that celery adds, but I'm of the opinion that celery is better left to be eaten by first graders who don't know any better.

While I don't think the rolls are worth waiting in line for an hour, if fate smiles upon you and you happen to find the truck without a line, go for it!

Second Thoughts from B

Whether you choose lobster or shrimp, I think the Red Hook philosophy is clear: Deliver the freshest and meatiest seafood that a food truck can provide, and get out of the way. No fancy bread or sauce, just great (and great big) pieces of lobster.

It is not really fair to compare the Red Hook Lobster truck to Tackle Box, but in a way it is the highest of compliments. While Tackle Box wins hands down, the folks at Red Hook have managed to compete out of a food truck. Just being worthy of a comparison is a win for them.

When I was young, my parents bought some land and built their dream home. They were heavily involved in the design and construction, which meant a gorgeous house that didn't exactly appear overnight. Personally, this meant that a significant part of my young life was spent on a construction site. Consequently, I'm decently handy with a hammer and rather familiar with the sight of a "roach coach" parked in our driveway. For those of you unfamiliar with this less-evolved species of food truck, let's just say its culinary sophistication is equivalent to plumber's crack (another unfortunate aspect of construction that I was exposed to early in life). Fast forward 20 years and the roach coach has evolved into something serving fresh seafood and comparing favorably to some of the best seafood restaurants in town!
Red Hook Lobster Pound on Urbanspoon


Alix said...

That lobster roll looks delicious, but I have to correct you on what a lobster ("lobstah") pound is, since we visit the same lobster pound on the coast of Maine every summer.

A lobster pound is like a depot for freshly caught lobster before they go on to their next destination - the grocery store, restaurants, my belly. The lobstermen bring their lobster "pots" (traps) to the lobster pound, which is basically a dock with a holding building for all the lobster - buckets and tanks full of lobster ("bugs"). The lobstermen literally boat right in to the lobster pound to drop off their catch.

Then, you can go to the pound and select which lobsters you want, by weight, sex, hardness of shell, and the people who work at there just go pick em up out of the buckets. When my sister was little, she asked a lobsterwoman why there were blue lobsters, to which she replied, "They're just-a freak-a natah." They donate the blue ones to the university.

You really can't get fresher lobster than if you catch them yourself.

I <3 Machias lobster pound!!

J said...

Thanks Alix! I must confess to about 90 seconds of Googling this morning to figure out what a lobster pound was. It makes much more sense now.

This is the kind of thing you just don't learn about growing up in CA. I also had no idea what a Maine Root soda was but I liked it!

Victoria said...

One of my colleagues waited in line one day (maybe the first day they were out?) at McPherson Square for two hours to get her fix. She's from CT, so in the know on lobster rolls and she liked it. Personally I don't think I could wait two hours but I guess the lobster has power!

Alix said...

That's ok J, I'll let it slide. Just tell me you didn't get your info from wikipedia.

A lot of my friends when I was growing up vacationed in Maine too, so I'm always a little surprised to meet people who have never been there. I think it's an East Coast thing, and maybe a Quaker thing too? I don't know.

Anyway, you think two hours is bad? Try Red's Eats ...

Trent said...

went to the so-called "lobster truck" today at 7th and D SE. i was told quite distinctly that the truck is SHAPED like an actual lobster. it is not. so if you are expecting a "LOBSTER TRUCK" you will be disappointed. it is a REGULAR truck which SELLS lobster.

that being said, the food is fine.