Travel to Maine or Nantucket may be out this summer, but one Chevy Chase DC restaurant is offering an even more unusual experience: lobster rolls brought to your doorstep via delivery robot. Nantucket Clam Shack, a brand new virtual restaurant from the team behind I’m Eddie Cano, debuted this week out of that neighborhood trattoria with a beachy menu—fresh Maine lobster, clams, chowder, and cold beer and wine. The fleet of squat Starship Technologies delivery robots, which operate within a two mile (ish) radius, are just the whipped cream on the key lime pie (meals are also available for carryout or traditional DoorDash delivery).
Long before chef James Gee was at the helm of I’m Eddie Cano, he spent five summers cooking around Nantucket at spots like the storied Galley Beach Kitchen. He connected with partners Massimo and Carolyn Pappeti during a stint in the Hamptons. The whole crew would typically travel to Carolyn’s native East Hampton around this time of year, so they decided to bring the food and vibe to DC—at least until Labor Day and possibly through the end of September, when the theme of the virtual restaurant may change.
Gee works with a Maine lobster purveyor he first met while cooking at José Andrés’s China Chilcano. The meat is fresh, never frozen, and served by the quarter pound in toasted Panorama Bakery rolls—either warm dressed in celery butter or chilled with lobster aioli. Both styles ($27.95) come with slaw and potato chips. The same purveyor supplies fresh clams for chowder—creamy New England or spicy Portuguese—plus buckets of steamers, and whole belly fried clams (the latter two are weekend-only). Other mains include beer-battered fish sandwiches, buttermilk fried chicken, and mussels fra diavolo with warm garlic bread. Drinks range from the no-frills (Truly, Miller High Life) to backyard summer concoctions like a batched dark n’ stormy cocktail for two.
The Starship delivery robots, which also deliver groceries from nearby Broad Branch Market, can hold a surprisingly large amount of food (they look like adorable coolers on wheels). Gee says they’re spacious enough to accommodate DIY lobster roll kits for four, though maybe not the other meal kit option: a whole Nantucket clam bake. Customers are required to download the Starship app for bot delivery, though for traditionalists, the restaurant takes curbside carryout orders by phone.
So as a young chef working in Nantucket, would Gee ever have envisioned sending out a fleet of lobster- roll-toting robots during a global pandemic?
“I was probably dreaming of being a super fancy TV chef like everyone else in the early 2000s,” he says. “Good food is good food, and sometimes you’re just serving what feels appropriate at the time. This is something we want to eat ourselves.”