Every start-up dream begins with two words: what if?
Once upon a time, David Galin and his buddy George Craig fantasized about opening their own unique restaurant. But they were young and fate was very fickle. So each forged a highly successful non-culinary career -- in academics (David) and finance (George). A generation later, the two pals found themselves fishing up in Maine; and on a sudden whim, once-upon-a-time magically became now.
What if they brought the seaside Maine Lobster Shack experience -- and all its Wharf to Table freshness -- to Fairfield County?
Voila: The Boothbay Lobster Company, a unique concept restaurant at Harbor Point in Stamford, which opens for real next week. Galin and Willie Craig (George’s son, a partner in Boothbay, and himself fresh out of college) offered CTbites an exclusive sneak peek at a dream come true.
“'Wicked Fresh' is our pledge,” Willie told us. Pulled fresh from clean, cold Maine waters, the seafood will be rushed by BLC’s refrigerated vehicle down the coast to Stamford. “We don’t believe in tanking our lobsters,” David added, explaining that holding crustaceans in tanks causes the meat to deteriorate, affecting its fresh texture and taste. “This is why we source from day boats rather than commercial vessels,” he said. That way he can guarantee that his lobsters haven’t been stressed for a time in the ship’s hold.
In Stamford, the lobster undergoes simultaneous baking and steaming in a digital oven calibrated to not heat higher than 195 degrees. This controlled temperature ensures that the creature’s internal seawater doesn’t boil, which would toughen the meat and blanch its briny notes. To add to the Boothbay Harbor flavor, the lobster is baked over a bed of locally sourced kelp. Cooking time and temperature are dialed to the shell’s molting stage to craft the sweetest meat possible. Cooking time: under 15 minutes. Extremely high-tech prep for one of the world’s oldest foods.
Willie walked us through the customer experience. On entering, patrons place an order off a huge chalkboard over a counter. After paying, the party then finds a table inside or on the outdoor patio. In minutes, a server brings cooked-to-order food to the table. Average time in the restaurant: under 30 minutes.
Even the culinary category is Wicked Fresh. “Let’s call it ‘Fast Fine Food’,” Willie suggested, a breakthrough from the “Fast Casual Food” segment epitomized by a Shake Shack or Panera. Boothbay’s prices will be lower than a full service seafood restaurant and the quality of the food higher and fresher than other counter order establishments. Boothbay intends to make its unique concept of “Fast Fine Food” affordable for families. And healthy.
Their menu is refreshingly simple and easy to navigate. Lobster can be ordered whole, either a la carte or as a Maine Shore Dinner. The 1¼ pound lobster will be flanked with Bang’s Island mussels, corn, and potatoes. (Amazingly, the dinner is going to be priced way under 30 dollars.)
Naturally, lobster is also served as a lobster roll: 4½ ounces of meat are side loaded into a Martin’s potato bun, which has been butter toasted on the griddle. The roll is served either Maine style, chilled with mayo, or Connecticut style, warm with a side of drawn butter. (For every lobster roll sold, Boothbay will make a generous donation to the Stamford Food Bank.)
Diners can also order fried fish and clam sandwiches, as well as steak or cheese. And there’s “Ocean Food:” Clam Chowder with chopped white and sweet potatoes or those Bang’s Island Mussels dressed with butter, garlic and herbs.
Lobster plays a starring role in Boothbay’s signature sandwich, the “BLC,” whose culinary cast includes a strip of smokehouse bacon from Maine, a cheese blend, and smoked tomato aioli. Lobster can also be ordered at the raw bar, steamed, halved, and chilled. The bar also features oysters, clams, a seafood cocktail, and daily specials when available.
Cocktail service will limited initially, but the restaurant will offer an extensive list of fine wines and Maine beers.
Even the décor and ambience are hyper-local Maine. A live streaming video feed of the docks at Boothbay will be projected across one wall of the restaurant, and the distressed wood on that wall (as well as the rest of the space) has been imported from Maine. Even the bar top is locally sourced. Refurbished and re-imagined, the wood originally stretched down a wicked slick bowling alley in Portland.
After Boothbay opens, stay tuned for a full review of their food. If you can’t wait, their fare is currently available from their food truck, which makes appearances around Stamford. Catering services are also available.
And if your appetite has been whetted for Lobster rolls, check out our updated CLR list, coming soon.
14 Harbor Point Road 203- 870-9565 www.boothbaylobster.com