Lobster Truck Competition Heats Up in Midtown
By Kiratiana Freelon on May 23, 2011 4:59pm
By Jill Colvin
MIDTOWN — The claws are out.
The lobster competition is heating up in Midtown with the launch of a second new food truck specializing in seafood in less a month.
The Red Hook Lobster Pound truck rolled into Midtown Monday morning for its second week serving the Midtown lunch crowd — just blocks away from where Luke's Lobster truck was picked clean when it launched May 9 to rave reviews.
Eric Wagner, 24, who lives in Murray Hill, said he knows one of the guys who runs Luke's Lobster Truck, but couldn't help trying out the new truck when it pulled up near Rockefeller Center at 50th Street near Sixth Avenue.
"This could be considered treason. But we'll ignore that," said Wagner, as he waited eagerly for his roll.
Like Luke's, Red Hook started with a highly successful brick-and-mortar location that was launched two years ago by lawyer and former culinary student Susan Povich, who hails from Maine.
Povich, 47, knew she wanted to go mobile, but chose to kick off her two food trucks in Washington, D.C. — a friendlier market than NYC, she said. Less than a year later, she was ready to roll in Manhattan.
The custom-built truck's menu is relatively simple. Lobster rolls sell for $16 and come in two varieties: "Maine Style" is served chilled and tossed in a home-made lemon mayonnaise, while "Connecticut Style" is served warm and braised in butter.
"I think we're the only ones that do the Connecticut-style," she said.
The truck also serves $8.50 shrimp rolls tossed in a garlic tarragon mayo, as well as chips, Maine root soda and Robicelli's whoopee pies.
So far so good, fans say.
"I've heard phenomenal things about it. But it's hard to get out to Red Hook," said Soo Chang, 34, who works in Midtown, and lined up Monday for her chance to try a roll after tracking the truck's location on Twitter.
"Everyone's been talking about how this place is the best," she said.
At 1:45 p.m., the truck was still busy with a line stretching down the block.
Steph Vogel, from the West Village, said she was excited to see some more diversity in the local food truck scene.
"I've never had it from them, but I've heard it's amazing so I'm excited," she said. "The truck food's gotten so great."
Bill Wolff, 45, who lives in Chelsea, had tried the truck last week and stopped by to bring back lunch for his coworkers at the Rachel Maddow show, including one for Maddow herself.
"It is an A-plus. Delicious," said Wolff, who was also excited to hear that there are now two lobster trucks on the road.
"I just may have to be brand-loyal, But I'm willing to try food trucks any time," he said. "Competition's good. I hope there's enough business for both."
But Povich, who gets her lobster directly from Maine, said she has no interest in duking it out.
"We have no pretension of dominating the world of lobster," said Povich, as she took a break from the truck.
"I'm happy that everyone's in this business. It's great for the people of Maine because the lobster industry really benefits,” she said.
But Venessa Torres, 30, who lives in Gramercy, couldn't help but compare. She loves Luke's shrimp rolls and convinced a co-worker to order one so she could take a bite.
"I am going to have to go with Luke's as my favorite," she wrote in an email after returning to her office for a taste, adding that she preferred the simple presentation of Luke's.
Others were less discerning,
"How can you go wrong with a lobster roll?" asked Rachel Cohen, 51, who lives near Madison Square Park and added that she was happy to support new small businesses in the neighborhood.
David Weber, 33, co-founder of Rickshaw Dumpling truck, which was parked down the block from the lobster truck Monday, said they were happy for the additional company.
"It's an opportunity to try new things," said Weber, who belongs to the same food truck collective as the Red Hook Lobster Pound Truck. "It makes it a destination."
Hungry New Yorkers can track the truck's comings and goings on Twitter at @redhooklobster