"Congratulations!" Christine Higgins exclaimed as she walked through the doors of LobsterCraft Tuesday.
She and her friend Karen Schlegel had just arrived at the restaurants, which officially opened that day, for lunch.
"We've been watching the changes to the store over time," Higgins said after she ordered a fresh, hot lobster roll. "I'm so happy to see another nice thing come to town."
Higgins has had a LobsterCraft lobster roll before and said they are "delicious."
LobsterCraft, which prior to Tuesday, operated out of two food trucks that rolled through Fairfield County. By popular demand, owner Mike Harden and chef Trong Fletcher opened the permanent location at 286 Tokeneke Road in Darien. There are plans to open a second location in New York City in the fall.
The night before the long-awaited grand opening, Harden said he couldn't sleep. There had been a recent surge of social media activity on the LobsterCraft Facebook page. At the end of July, the owners had found a handwritten note that read "Hurry" taped to the window of the store.
But on its first day, the business at LobsterCraft was "steady," Harden said, for which he said he was thankful.
Behind the counter of distressed wood and into the kitchen, Fletcher was at work assembling lobster rolls for his family, who traveled from Shelton for lunch.
"It's nice to have little more room," Fletcher said about the space difference between the food trucks and the kitchen in the store. The 600-square-foot site was once the home of a deli.
Harden, a commercial lobsterman, said he's been seeing new faces walk through the doors on the first day and that a common theme from some of them was that they were glad a store opened up because "they were sick of trying to find the truck."
Urged by his wife to give cooking lobster rolls a try, Harden purchased a battered truck from Indiana in 2012 and spent four months cleaning and hand-painting it before taking the nascent LobsterCraft out on the roads of Fairfield County. When the demand became overwhelming, he enlisted Fletcher, a friend of 30-odd years with a family history in the food business, to co-pilot the venture.
Since 2012, LobsterCraft has peddled a simple menu of lobster rolls, attracting a throng of 100 customers on a good day.
Though Long Island Sound's lobster industry may only yield a fraction of its former catches, LobsterCraft still sources local ingredients whenever possible. The rolls come from Muro's Original New York Bakery in South Norwalk and LobsterCraft has relationships with a number of local farmers' markets, both to buy produce and to sell the finished product.
The LobsterCraft food truck closed in January and February to refurbish the equipment and prepare for the coming spring season. But the Darien restaurant will be a year-round operation.
For information, lobstercraft.com.