First Bite: Luke’s Lobster


The Thursday that sign is referring to is today. And noon was already two hours ago. So if you’re not at Luke’s Lobster right now, stuffing your face full of lobster rolls, what’s your excuse?

Mine is that I dropped in last night on the soft open/preview and that I’m still kinda stuffed–mostly because, at a certain point, I just gave up on the dining room and started hanging out by the pass rail of the open kitchen, grabbing half-rolls off the trays as fast as the cooks could lay them down. Waiting my proper turn? That’s for suckers. Especially when I’ve already been waiting so long for a lobster roll done right and served for a price that doesn’t immediately put it in the realm of the only-if-someone-else-is-paying expense account lunch.


As you can see from the above picture, Luke’s knows how to do a lobster roll right. They use the right New England-style bun, buttered and crisped up on the flat grill. They then touch the inside of that bun with a wisp of mayo (just enough to keep stuff from falling out which, really, doesn’t work anyway) and load it up with big chunks of lobster knuckle and claw meat.

And that’s it. One of the two important things you need to know about Luke’s is that that is where they stop. There is no filler, no chunks of celery, no gobs of mayonnaise. A lobster roll is, at its most perfect, a roll filled with lobster and nothing more. And that’s what Luke’s serves, just as the Lobster God intended.

The second important thing? They let ’em go for $15 a roll. Which, yes, is still pricier than a cheesesteak, but comes in about ten bucks under what many other places in town charge for what is essentially a lobster salad sandwich all gunked up with things that aren’t lobster.

Do I need to tell you that it is delicious? Well I will. The Luke’s Lobster roll is delicious. It is close enough to the lobster rolls I remember from childhood family vacations to the Maine coast that any minor differences (do I remember them being more buttery? Touched, perhaps, with a bit of lemon?) can be chalked up to the haziness of youthful love and closely-held memories of sandwich perfection exaggerated (somewhat) by time. The roll at Luke’s is, I think, the closest thing I’m going to find to the sandwiches I so fondly recall without building a time machine in my basement. And not that I’m going to stop working on that time machine, but still…

Sure, sure, there are other things on the menu at Luke’s (though not much). There’s a $12 crab roll (which is so good that it doesn’t even need sriracha–something I rarely say) and an $8 shrimp roll (which does benefit some from a squirt of the hot stuff). But what matters here is that lobster roll, eaten at a wood-plank table in the small underground space that used to be a Bonte Wafflerie. With it, Luke’s has brought to Philadelphia just one more ideal thing that make’s us awesome.


Luke’s Lobster [Official]