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Lobster Rolls: Tackle Box vs. Luke’s Lobster

For a dish that contains only a handful of ingredients and is a prime example of the KISS acronym (“Keep it simple, stupid!”), it’s shocking that restaurants could screw up a lobster roll. Yet they do. Mayo overload, cold bun, shoddy quality lobster, lobster diced too small, too much filler, watery filling… a lobster roll can go wrong in numerous ways, and the more you eat them, the more you take note of variations in quality.

Tackle Box is new to Cleveland Park; Luke’s Lobster, by way of NYC, is new to Penn Quarter. I’ve been casing both places since they opened, eager to get my hands on their versions of the lobster roll. I ended up trying both within days of one another, leading to inevitable comparisons between the two.

With the impressions still fresh in my mind, let’s break down the two rolls according to various criteria.

SIZE

Tackle Box: A longish roll, I’d say about eight inches in length.

Luke’s Lobster: Shorter than Tackle Box’s, but packed with arguably more lobster, which evens things out.

Winner: Draw

BUN

Tackle Box: Superb. Buttered and toasted, it was more substantial than a typical hot dog bun, and had more bite. An excellent vehicle for lobster.

Luke’s Lobster: Traditional hot dog bun. Toasted and came out nice and warm. Possibly buttered, but I didn’t taste it as much as in the Tackle Box bun.

Winner: Tackle Box

LOBSTER

Tackle Box: Chunky, but I wanted it even chunkier. Appeared to be knuckle meat?  Lightly dressed with mayo, and sprinkled with some sort of seasoning. Could have used more lobster. The lobster only reached halfway up the bun; to me a proper lobster roll should be almost at the point of overflowing.

Luke’s Lobster: Beautiful. Succulent, sweet claw meat in large pieces, like they’d just been pulled out of the shell. Meat was piled high in the bun, to the point where I accidentally dropped one piece on the ground. Dammit! went my internal monologue, and I briefly considered enacting the two-second rule. The point is, there was a lot of lobster. Very light dressing of mayo — mostly smeared along the bun. A sprinkling of lemon butter, and like Tackle Box, a dash of spices on top.

Winner: Luke’s Lobster

TASTE

Tackle Box: Good harmony of bun and lobster, and the bun really was delicious. But again, I felt like the entire thing could have been more substantial. The lobster appeared small in the bun. A few big bites and it was all gone.

Luke’s Lobster: Spot on. Sweet, sweet lobster. Big pieces. A simple roll, with a few flourishes like the lemon butter which elevated it.

Winner: Luke’s Lobster

VALUE

Tackle Box: $19, which includes an ample serving of piping hot french fries. $19 is certainly pushing it on price, but the fries were very good.

Luke’s Lobster: An a la carte roll for $16. Sea salt chips are available for an extra $1, but no fries.

Winner: Draw

CONCLUSION

While I appreciated both rolls for their merits, in the end, Luke’s just looked and tasted more like the quintessential lobster roll. Tackle Box rocked the bun, both mastered the mayo distribution, and I enjoyed the respective dashes of spices… but it was the piled high, sweet claw meat of Luke’s that won me over.  It’s the sort of lobster roll you’d want to eat at a roadside stand in Cape Cod or Maine. Or, in downtown DC.

OVERALL WINNER: Luke’s Lobster

Tackle Box
3407 Connecticut Ave. NW
Washington, DC
202-450-6875

Luke’s Lobster
624 E St NW
Washington, DC
202-347-3355

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The District Dish Hits Tackle Box

My friend Sonya is one of the co-hosts of “The District Dish,” a cable/web lifestyle series that interviews its guests in bars and restaurants around DC. On Monday they shot at Tackle Box in Cleveland Park.  Seeing as that’s both my ‘hood and a restaurant I’m eager to check out, I moseyed on over to observe the proceedings.

During the interviews those mouth-watering platters of seafood sat on the table as decoration… and went completely untouched.

Of course, my one-track mind wouldn’t stop asking the question: For the love of god, when is someone going to sample that food??

Not to fear, it did not go to waste. The shoot wrapped and everyone dug in, including me, doing my best “Joy Luck Club” impersonation by trying to take the “worst quality” pieces and leaving the really good stuff to the hosts, who’d actually earned it.

This platter was piled high with mussels, steamers, snow crab legs and shrimp.

The lobster, split in half and grilled, was enormous. Look at those claws, they’re like boxing gloves.

As a New Englander, I couldn’t be more thrilled to have a lobster shack in the neighborhood. Having a small taste only whetted my appetite for more seafood and a return visit.

Tackle Box
3407 Connecticut Ave.
Washington, DC
202-450-6875