The Lobster Joint
1073 Manhattan Ave, Greenpoint
Rating: 3 out of 5 L's
I remember when the only place you could get a decent lobster roll in New York was at a handful of upscale seafood restaurants in the West Village, all of which charged at least $30 for a gloppy, mayo-filled mess. Then came Luke's Lobster with its superb $15 lobster roll, followed by the Red Hook Lobster Pound and the infamous Dr. Klaw.
The Lobster Joint, housed in the former Lamb & Jaffy space in Greenpoint, is the latest entry into the lobster roll wars. While it may not have the best lobster roll in New York City, it's still damn good, and very reasonably priced at $17 (and that includes a pickle and a giant heap of crispy French fries). The kitchen takes the newly popular less-is-more approach, making sure each thick chunk of lobster is only lightly coated in fresh herb mayo. Sure, the lobster meat isn't as succulent or sweet as you'd get in Maine (or even at Luke's), but it's hard to complain when it's on a roll as soft and buttery as this one.
Even better is the crab roll, which piles shredded blue and peekytoe crab on the same griddled bun, this time coated in a pleasantly tangy tartar sauce. At $14, it's definitely one of the best deals on the menu. The clam chowder comes out a bit thin and flat; still, it's hard not to slurp it down eagerly because chowder, like mac and cheese, is addictive even when it's not at its best.
What this little lobster joint has that most seafood shacks don't is a well-considered cocktail menu. The drinks here are serious enough to use artisanal liquors but fun enough to come in pitchers, available in such boozy varieties as lemonade made with Tito's Handmade Vodka, dark and stormies, and whiskey-spiked sweet tea.
There is beer too, four summery craft brews on tap from American breweries such as Smuttynose and Allagash, plus cans of Naragansett Lager and Harpoon IPA. Cheap bottles of rose and cava make for a great accompaniment to a pair of lobster rolls, best eaten leisurely near the wide-open windows looking out onto Manhattan Avenue.
The whole restaurant does its best to replicate the feel of a seaside shack. Order at the counter, take a number, and then pick a seat at one of the large communal tables. The blue-and-white paint job and a few well-placed nautical tchotchkes complete the look. Casual, unpretentious seafood joints: New York could use a few more of these.