Luke’s Lobster will bring a taste of Maine seafood to California this fall, opening the first West Coast branch of its 29-location chain in SoMa. The new California Luke’s will arrive at 92 Second Street (the space previously destined to become Saison’s fast casual concept, Fat Noodle), hauling in lobster, shrimp, and crab rolls with it.
In 2009, Luke Holden (a third generation Maine lobsterman) and partner Ben Conniff made a splash with their first Luke’s in New York’s East Village. They’ve grown at a serious clip since then, and to fuel their expansion, built their own seafood business in 2012: Luke’s Lobster Seafood Company in Saco, Maine.
“Because we control the seafood company, we’ve never written ‘MP’ on a menu before,” says Conniff. On the East Coast, his company’s lobster rolls are typically about $17, made with a quarter pound of chilled lobster dressed with melted lemon butter, mayo, and seasoning.
“We don’t want you to have to go a white tablecloth restaurant to enjoy a great seafood meal,” Conniff says, summarizing the philosophy behind Luke’s and its classic seafood shack forbearers.
Luke’s does things a little differently than some traditionalists: Rather than shipping live lobster to the chain’s locations in locales like DC and Philadelphia, Luke’s buys its lobster from Maine and Canadian fisherman and separates and steams them in Maine. That process, Conniff explains, makes for much better meat, since lobsters kept alive in tanks aren’t getting the right diet and exercise.
In SoMa, Luke’s new space (formerly Henry’s Cafeteria) isn’t so new at all — It’s a historic pre-quake building that Conniff says should “feel classic” in an otherwise modern neighborhood. In the busy business area, Luke hopes to do brisk power-lunch sales as well as catering and eventually delivery — “it’s a food that travels well” Conniff says of his rolls.
To attract an after work crowd, too, expect Luke’s to pour beer from Northern California and Maine (think Allagash). And since Luke’s has occasionally tailored its local menus to fit in with various regions — adding stone crab claws at their Miami branch, for instance — it stands to reason that Luke’s could be a good place to spend Dungeness crab season in San Francisco.
Stay tuned for more as Luke’s approaches.