The admirable Luke’s Lobster succeeds like many I’ve been visiting lately—by doing one thing well. Or slightly more than one: there’s an admirable assortment of seafood rolls (lobster, crab, shrimp), chowders and bisques, but the centerpiece is the lobster roll, $15.
The eponymous Luke Holden, a native of Cape Elizabeth, Maine, is the company president. Jeff Holden, his father and a co-owner, is a former lobster fisherman who now runs a lobster processing plant. In this restaurant’s version of farm-to-table sourcing, Luke says that the catch comes directly to him without a middleman, and he can tell you precisely which Maine harbor your lobster was harvested from.
The original Luke’s, which opened in the East Village in late 2009, is mainly a take-out business: it has just eight stools. Another, on the Upper West Side, is scarcely larger, with 13 stools. That makes the Upper East Side Luke’s, with 23 stools, downright spacious.The two uptown branches opened in 2010; a fourth, in the Financial District, awaits approval of a beer license, which it should win easily.
I visited the Upper East Side Luke’s at around 10:45 p.m. on a Saturday, shortly before closing time. Even there, a lot of the business is take-out and delivery. A man came in with a take-out order at 10:55, just in time. (Luke’s doesn’t “cheat,” as some restaurants do, and close the kitchen before the nominal closing hour.)
The so-called “Lobster Ale” ($6) is one of the world’s worst beers. But the lobster roll was packed full of tender lobster meat. I can’t imagine better.
If the company can keep doing the important things right, Luke could soon have more lobster shacks than Danny Meyer has Shake Shacks.
Luke’s Lobster (242 E. 81st Street, west of Second Avenue, Upper East Side)