Best of Summer: Lobster Rolls
For our next installment of Best of Summer, we're spotlighting a seasonal treat that represents the meat of southwestern Connecticut's culinary tradition: warm lobster rolls.
The sandwich -- chunks of butter-soaked lobster piled into a toasted bun -- is a specialty of the Gold Coast. In fact, the Connecticut lobster roll is believed to have been born at Perry's Restaurant in Milford some 87 years ago.
A whopping 750 readers voted on their favorite place to get lobster rolls, and here -- drum roll, please -- is the winner: Seven Seas Restaurant.
The place: Seven Seas Restaurant, 16 New Haven Ave., Milford
The history: Opened in 1965 by longtime Milford resident Richard Smith, the Irish-style pub "is a place locked in time," said manager Ricky Smith, who is Smith's grandson and the son of the owner, Richard Smith Jr. Since then, very little about the restaurant has changed, including the lobster rolls. The recipe may even date back to the Pilgrim Restaurant, an establishment Smith's grandfather owned prior to Seven Seas. (There is a black-and-white picture of the Pilgrim hanging on Seven Seas' dining room wall.)
The vibe: A friendly neighborhood tavern. Nestled in the heart of downtown Milford, the restaurant features a full bar fronted by swivel stools, big-screen TVs mounted on the walls, green-and-white-checkered table cloths, vintage photos highlighting Milford's past and even a Ms. Pac Man arcade game. "There's no flash, but it's a great place to hang out, drink beer and eat some food," Smith said.
The crowd: Families, locals and flocks of all-age partiers who pack the bar at night.
Best seat: One of two tables at the front of the restaurant. There, you have a full view of the street, the bar and the entrance to the kitchen.
The roll: Asked about the secret to the success of Seven Seas' lobster rolls, Ricky Smith has a simple answer: "Huge portions." Oh, and he's not playing around. Try this on for size: A heaping 3-ounce mound of fresh warm claw meat, piled high in a grilled buttery top-cut bun and surrounded by a generous portion of crispy, thick-cut steak fries and a cup of house-made slaw. The lobster, which comes fresh from Rockport, Canada, is shipped in by the crate loads over the summer. "There's 12 pounds of lobster per case and we go through 12 to 14 cases a week," Smith said. "It's a summer delicacy."
What else should you try: The fish and chips. This flaky tender cod is another local favorite.
Must-have drink: Have a cold brew with your lobster roll; I recommend either the Samuel Adams Summer Ale or Harpoon IPA. The citrus notes from both beers complement the sweet, buttery flavor of the lobster.
Bonus: The celebrity clientele. Dan Patrick, who records his eponymous syndicated radio show in downtown Milford, is a regular customer. Darius Rucker, frontman of Hootie and the Blowfish, makes pit stops here during his tours of the Northeast. Singer John Legend and his wife, model Chrissy Teigen, have also stopped in, as has "Entourage" star Jerry Ferrara.
Second place: Szabo's Seafood, 615 Howe Ave., Shelton
Third place: Off The Hook, 170 Ferry Blvd., Stratford
Other top vote-getters: Lobster Craft, food truck; Danny's Drive-In, 940 Ferry Blvd., Stratford; Knapp's Landing, 520 Sniffens Lane, Stratford; Restaurant At Captain's Cove, 1 Bostwick Ave., Bridgeport; Crabshell, 46 Southfield Ave., Stamford.
Coming up: In the next installment of Best of Summer, we'll ask you to vote on your favorite beach in Fairfield County. To vote, visit http://blog.ctnews.com/culturecache.
Scott.firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @scottgarg