The interior of Luke's Lobster; the rolls here have both butter and mayo with knuckle and claw meat. Photographs by Joshua Yospyn
In Washington, two restaurant themes keep popping up: lobster rolls and New York imports (case in point: Freddy’s Lobster + Clams in Bethesda and Danny Meyer’s Shake Shack in DC’s Dupont Circle). Now comes Luke’s Lobster—opening today in Penn Quarter—which checks both boxes: Its original location is in Manhattan’s East Village, and it specializes in the New England seafood roll.
Co-owners Luke Holden, a 27-year-old Georgetown alum, and Ben Conniff successfully cloned their box-size storefront four times in Manhattan since its debut in 2009. They also just opened a food truck. Bryan Holden, Luke's younger brother who's running the DC location, says there's no plan yet for a set of wheels in Washington. But if the shop is equally popular in the District, the line outside Luke's may rival the hour-plus wait at Red Hook Lobster Truck, another New York-based brand.
The lobster rolls at Luke’s are unorthodox: Instead of binding the meat with just cold mayo (Maine-style) or warm butter (Connecticut-style), both products are swiped inside a Maine-sourced, top-split bun. The lobster—which comes from Holden’s father Jeff’s sustainable Maine seafood company—is a quarter-pound of claw and knuckle meat. Rolls are $15, and another $2 gets you chips (Miss Vickie’s brand), soda, and a pickle.
Lobster isn’t the only crustacean on the menu: Diners can order Jonah-crab rolls and Empress claws as well as bowls of Maine-based Hurricane’s Soups (think clam chowder and spicy crab-and-sweet-potato bisque). A liquor license is in the works for New England beers such as Shipyard and Allagash. But, as the name of the restaurant proves, the focus here is the lobster roll.
Luke’s Lobster, 624 E St., NW; 202-347-3355; lukeslobster.com. Open daily 11 to 10.