For approximately 157 more hours, the Lobsta Truck has the dubious distinction of being the newest entrant into L.A.’s endlessly combustible upscale food truck scene. They serve a very limited (or focused, if you’re feeling generous) menu: lobster or crab on a toasted split top roll with either mayo or butter, as well as clam chowder (cup or pint), ice cream cookie sandwiches, whoopie pies, lemonade (“fresh squeezed,” though I didn’t see anyone squeezing lemons into the distribution vat), and, rounding out the theme, Cape Cod chips.
Officially, their launch is December 3rd in Venice (where else?), just in time for First Friday. By then, they’ll have a graphic wrap on the truck, which is currently naked. This indecorous condition did not stop them for having a soft launch of sorts, in, of all places, Old Town, right on Colorado. They called this special appearance “Lobsta Truck Unwrapped” (if you or someone you love is a devotee of the Food Network, this is a very confusing name indeed—I kept expecting to see Marc Summers and crew pop out of the Apple Store). If you absolutely cannot wait to try lobster from a food truck, they’ll be making one more such appearance before the get their new clothes, at the Hulu Offices at Olympic and Bundy.
I would urge patience, however. You’ll need it to endure the lengthy—I won’t say interminable—wait. After getting in line at 7:11 p.m., I received my order of lobsta roll with butter and cup of clam chowder at 7:40. A half-hour wait is not out of the ordinary for a fancy food truck, especially on its first night of operation, with kinks still to work out. Nevertheless, the pace seemed lugubrious.
I could offer some idle speculation as to why, but the hammer has been held in abeyance too long already. To come to it: this place (“place”?) is just not worth it. Prices are big, portions are small, and while the food is good, it’s not that good.
Here is a picture of the lobster roll:
Here is a picture of the lobster roll with my index finger in the shot:
This cost $11. My finger, from the base of the knuckle, is about 4 inches long. That’s $2.75 per inch, before tax. Lobster is expensive, you say? So it is, especially when you don’t have to kill it and prepare it yourself. Hard to believe it used to be a poor people’s food. I was checking out other people’s orders as they were served, so I knew the roll was going to be on the small side, but I was still surprised. Maybe if I knew the economics of lobsters I wouldn’t have been. Still, there are only about five food items on the menu, two of which are prepared desserts. With so narrow a focus, one would think they could bring the price down some. Maybe they already have, in which case phooey on me, but it sure doesn’t seem like it.
There are contexts in which paying $11 for so little food would not be so annoying, would be outright normal. Most of those contexts, however, involve a seat, a table, and a waiter who is paid to be a waiter, as opposed to paying to be one.
This would be easier to write if the lobster roll wasn’t good. The lobster is fresh and nicely chilled, there’s a satisfying lather of butter, and the roll is an effective vessel, pleasantly toasted. It’s a nice snack. If you are a fiend for lobster and don’t mind paying a premium for novelty, this is the truck for you. If you are a curious but cost-sensitive, mildly-impatient eater, this is not the truck for you. It’s maybe not that simple, but I’m going to pretend it is.
A few tangential things worth mentioning:
1) The clam chowder was for someone else, but journalistic integrity required that I at least inspect it. My sense is that there were, like, no clams. A clam ran through it, maybe, on its little clam legs.
2) Food trucks are nothing new in Pasadena. They are new, however, on Colorado Boulevard, in the heart of Old Town—right by the Mac store—on a Saturday night. Clearly they’ve been planning this for some time, as the necessary permits can’t be easy to come by.
3) At least one restaurant felt threatened by this unexpected incursion. While I was waiting in line, a portly man charged up to the counter and demanded to know who was in charge. The truck’s cashier pointed at the manager, who was then addressed by the agitated portly man thus: “I know you guys got permits but we got restaurants around here and there’s going to be trouble.” Then he stormed off. Then, a mildly goofy guy in line said to no one in particular, “but you don’t have lobster rolls, where are your lobster rolls, dude.” The people have spoken. Dramatic! It’s not quite the 5700 block of Wilshire, but it’s something.
4) The colloquial spelling is cute, but where is the ‘h’? Lobstah with buttah the way mah used to make it. Then again there is this place.
5) That is all.