These days, minor indulgences that don’t break the bank are important. It doesn’t get any better than a dinner of fresh lobster – but even with its amazing, expansive coastline, finding the best lobster in California can be tricky. The Golden State is chock full of outstanding restaurants and fish markets, but where can a seafood lover find the best lobster at the most reasonable price? We investigated, and what we learned is that not all lobster joints are created equal. Here’s a summary of what we learned.
King’s Fish House has 11 locations scattered throughout the whole of California. The common positive points of all of the restaurants are spacious booths and period décor with gorgeous dark wood. The common negative point, however, is that it is so loud in these restaurants that you can’t hear your dining companions over the din. Though you might think this is because of the awesome, budget-friendly prices at King’s Fish House, you’d be wrong. The lobster is okay, but pricey: $40-$44 per plate minimum. You’d probably do better to cook at home and turn the television up loudly to get the same quality and atmosphere at a lower price.
The Lobster in Santa Monica (1802 Ocean Avenue) boasts an incredible view of the ocean from nearly every table. The lobster is only mediocre, which is somewhat to be expected in a place that looks like a tourist trap. The prices and service are great – but only during happy hour. If you plan to dine outside of that narrow time window, be prepared to pay tourist prices while getting only cold to lukewarm service.
A local institution in Santa Monica is Ocean Ave Seafood (1401 Ocean Avenue) with its wall of windows overlooking the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Monica Pier. You can order up to a 3 pound live Maine lobster from their tank. They serve a New England Lobster Roll for $26.95. In addition to their extensive oyster bar, they serve up Iced Shellfish Platters with oysters, clams, jumbo shrimp, black mussels and half a lobster. You can also order clam chowder with apple-wood smoked bacon and a bowl of fish chowder.
Another seafood restaurant in Santa Monica, CA is the BP Oysterette (1355 Ocean Ave). Besides a nice raw bar, BP makes a Lobster Mac and Cheese with Gruyere cheese and truffle oil for $18 and a Lobster Roll on a brioche roll with
homemade sweet potato chips for $22. You can also find Maine steamer clams and fried clams–whole belly Ipswich clams served with lemon aioli. There’s also an outside patio to enjoy oysters and beer by the beach.
Oceanside’s Rockin’ Baja Lobster Bar & Grill (258 Harbor Drive South) serves a Pacific or Baja lobster (not real Maine lobster) in many different forms, all with a Mexican cuisine flair. If you prefer this style of lobster, the prices are reasonable at about $18 per person for the “slipper lobster tails.” The atmosphere is extremely casual – it’s not a bad deal if you don’t mind everything on the menu (except the margaritas) coming in a bucket, and everything being cooked with Mexican sauces and spices.
The Lobster Trap in Avalon (128 Catalina Avenue) has a helpful, friendly staff and serves generous portions of lobster. The lobster roll, however, was filled with nearly tasteless lobster (except for lots and lots of salt), and was ice cold. The rice was equally without flavor. The roll isn’t toasted, which sometimes causes it to fall apart after being soaked with its lobster filling. The prices are reasonable, however. It’s an okay place in a pinch, but don’t rush to The Lobster Trap.
Redwood City is the site of Old Port Lobster Shack (851 Veterans Boulevard). An informal lobster restaurant, patrons place their order and then find a seat. Served with coleslaw on the side, their various lobster dishes a little pricier than usual. A coffee cup-sized portion of lobster bisque is $7.75, with both cold and hot lobster in it. We were confused.
Yankee Pier (3593 Mt Diablo Blvd) is another Bay area seafood restaurant located in the heart of historic Larkspur, CA. Here you can order a lobster roll on griddled bun with housemade kettle chips and coleslaw, served chilled or hot for $22.50. They also serve fried Ipswich clam platter. On the menu is a New England clam boil with clams, shrimp, mussels, linguisa & red potatoes for $21.00.
Sams Chowder House (4210 Cabrillo Highway North) is a New England style seafood restaurant overlooking Half Moon Bay. Sam’s West Coast version of the Lobster roll is its much publicized signature dish. Unlike the real East Coast version, Sam’s does not use mayonnaise in the mix, just lots of butter on a warm brioche roll. It sells for $21.95 with potato chips and a dollop of coleslaw. Not so sure about the brioche roll with all the butter, but it is well packed with good chunks of fresh lobster meat. The chowder was not bad, but a little thin compared to a good Boston chowder. For those who can’t manage a trip to Half Moon Bay, Sam’s has its own San Francisco Bay area food truck called the Chowdermobile.
The food trucks have become a popular scene in the Los Angeles, CA area. Now there is a food truck that sells lobster rolls aptly named The Lobsta Truck. The main attraction here is the lobster roll made with fresh lobster meat on a toasted split top roll with mayo or butter for $12. The bread and lobster meat are flown in from New England. Also on the menu is a crab roll and New England clam chowder.
Did you know who holds the largest Lobster Festival in the United States? If you guessed the Maine Lobster Festival in Rockland, ME—you guessed wrong. The Port of Los Angeles Lobster Festival claims to have the largest lobster festival in the world. For the 201o festival, held in September, over 32,000 Maine lobsters were flown in fresh, cooked and served.
The best deal we found was LobsterAnywhere.com, which offers live Maine lobster delivered fresh to your door – or anywhere in the USA – the next morning! Located in New England (arguably, where all good lobster comes from),
LobsterAnywhere.com gets their seafood directly from the Atlantic Ocean via trusted suppliers and ships it so it arrives at its peak freshness. In addition to whole lobster, this company offers lobster tails (in four different sizes), lobster meat and lobster rolls. Other shellfish, shrimp, chowder and starters are available for the full seafood experience. The prices are reasonable, and the result is a high-quality lobster dinner delivered to your door, fresh, the next day. Try it!