On Wednesday afternoon the Cousins Maine Lobster trucked rolled into the circle at Bedford Square in Westport to offer their version of the perfect lobster roll. Although I hail from the city that never sleeps, my New England roots were planted well over 30 years ago having lived in Boston, and summered in both Maine and Newport. At the risk of sounding presumptuous I daresay that I happen to know a thing or two about what makes a good lobster roll. So when I was invited to try them out I couldn’t possibly say no.
My first decision was whether to order the Maine Lobster roll, chilled, and made with mayo, or the Connecticut roll, served warm with drawn butter. I opted for the latter. I also decided to try the Lobster Tacos as well as the Lobster Tater Tots… Yes, that’s right, Lobster Tater Tots!
Service was pretty quick given that several people had ordered ahead of me. My order was placed in a white paper bag which I promptly set on a picnic table nearby. I carefully removed the items and unwrapped them.
The lobster roll was warm, the bun – which hails directly from Maine – was nicely toasted and held up well to the drawn butter. The bun did seem a bit small to me, but the lobster was plentiful. I took a bite and set the roll back down. The meat was sweet and tender and the warm, salty butter, complemented by the toasted bun did not disappoint. This isn’t meant to be ‘gourmet’ or ‘fancy’. Simply put, it’s New England street food at its finest. If I closed my eyes I could have just as well been in Cape Elizabeth, Portland or Kennebunkport…
Next I tried the lobster taco which isn’t exactly your typical, traditional New England fare but, when done right, it’s a favorite of mine. I opened the package to find three tacos topped with a tomato salsa, slaw, a special sauce, and the lobster. What struck me at first was that there seemed to be a lot less meat per taco, but it was buried beneath the salsa (which was abundant – perhaps overly so).
The tacos themselves were light, refreshing and very flavorful. Thumbs up from me. I finished my taco and wrapped up the other two.
Finally and perhaps the most dangerous, the tater tots! I unwrapped the package to find a most enormous serving of tots topped with the same tomato salsa and sauce I had had on my tacos. The tots were crisp and warm with plenty of topping to go around. While I could always go for more lobster, there was an adequate amount. This is definitely a dish meant to be shared and while it was good and fun, if you’re looking for a true lobster experience this shouldn’t be your main dish. I helped myself to a few tots, packaged the rest back up, placed my order back in the original bag and drove home, about 10 minutes away.
I was curious to see how well it transported. The lobster roll travelled perfectly. While not as warm as when I first opened it, it held together well and the bun still had substance and wasn’t at all soggy. A win for me. The tacos also held up nicely and the tortillas remained firm despite the sauce and salsa. The tater tots fared less well. Though still tasty and still somewhat warm they did get a bit soggy. I gobbled up the rest of my lobster roll and let my two hungry boys assess the other two tacos and the tater tots, both which got a thumbs up and they seemed not at all bothered by the fact that the tots weren’t crispy
The Backstory – the short of it.
Two cousins, Jim and Sabin, grew up in Maine and reunited one winter not long ago in Los Angeles. They reminisced about their childhoods with huge pots of boiling water in their backyard, butter-laden ears of corn, and family all gathered together at picnic tables, working their way through steaming hot lobster. The two then talked about the growing popularity of food trucks and then had the idea to bring their family traditions to the LA food scene. They pooled their savings together and in 2012Cousins Maine Lobster was born. When word spread around town they cousins found themselves with a line about 60 people deep. East Coast transplants raved about the authenticity of the rolls and word started to spread like wild fire and within days of opening their truck, they became such a media darling that they were offered a spot on Shark Tank.
The two spent two months preparing for their appearance, practicing their pitch, going over finances, projections, sales activities and vendor relationships – basically, doing whatever it took so that their pitch was perfect. Although rejected by Billionaire Mark Cuban it was Barbara Corcoran who eventually joined the team to help launch Cousins Maine Lobster with her $55,000 contribution for 15% of the business. Today there are 20 trucks in 13 locations throughout the country, a restaurant in West Hollywood, California, and one slated to open up in New York City in the not too distant future.