The latest issue of New York magazine features an exhaustive look at the city’s lobster roll scene and includes a fascinating breakdown of the economic, environmental, and ethical factors that have helped to create our current glut of crustacean-filled buns. A lobster surplus, plummeting prices, and the growing urban appetite for anything that can be defined as “artisanal” and “sustainable” all receive their due, but what’s equally fascinating (if predictable) is how much smack lobster roll purveyors like to talk about each other.
Ben Sargent, more widely known as Dr. Claw, proprietor of Greenpoint’s Underground Lobster Pound, holds Rebecca Charles, the creator of Pearl Oyster Bar’s $27 lobster roll, responsible for promoting a false, fancified version of the Maine lobster roll that was subsequently copied by restaurants across town. And although Sargent proclaims his “love” for Charles, he also takes her to task for offering a fork with her rolls. Blasphemy! Despite these infractions, Sargent saves his most damning sentiment for the lobster roll at Mary’s Fish Camp, proclaiming it “the worst in the city.”
Sargent also reserves withering scorn for the buns used by Luke’s Lobster and the Red Hook Lobster Pound; he himself uses Pepperidge Farm, though he’d prefer to keep that a secret. Also, he thinks it’s bad that the Lobster Pound drains their lobster juice. And while he can’t say why it’s bad, he does offer that the Pound’s proprietors “do the dumbest things.”.
For her part, Susan Povich, the co-owner of the Lobster Pound, says that Sargent’s lobster roll “has gotten better” than when he started out. She likes him (or at least did before the article went to print). But she doesn’t seem to like Luke’s Lobster, or at least Luke Holden’s practice of pre-proportioning his lobster in Maine, because “it looks weird when you actually unwrap Saran Wrap with four ounces of lobster in it.” Also, Povich, whom the article describes as a lawyer, says she’s “a trained professional chef,” and the guys at Luke’s are not.
Luke Holden refrains from hating on his competitors, and Charles — who’s been serving her roll since 1997 and is no stranger to smack talk — likewise refrains from entering the fray, instead offering the hilariously dismissive observation that “[t]hese young men come into town proclaiming they make the best lobster roll. It’s a little bit too much testosterone.”