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Ford’s Lobster (winter) – Noank, Connecticut

lobster grilled cheese

When I heard Ford’s was now open for their first season during the winter, I had to try it out.  Main reason was, I really could not picture where they were putting people inside.  When we were there in the summer, all seating was outside and there were no buildings besides a small kitchen and lobster pound.  Turns out, they have turned a storage building into a lovely restaurant that seats about 50ish with a wall of windows overlooking the ocean.  One of the main reasons I wanted to try out Ford’s in winter is because their lobster for the lobster rolls is fresh picked.  That’s not so easy to find in the high summer season and pretty rare in the winter.  When you factor in eating a fresh picked lobster roll in winter, with a waterfront view, I think I can count the ones I can think of on one hand (Ray’s, Brown’s, Markey’s, Eastwind Lobster and Petey’s).

The staff at Ford’s is a big part of what makes it great.  I know, I profess not to care whether staff are happy or not, as long as I get what I ordered, in a reasonable amount of time.  But, the staff here just makes you feel like you stopped in to a friend’s house for lunch.  They are so friendly, open and chatty, but not too chatty, just right.  And, they all just seem to genuinely love working there and love working for the owner.  I don’t know who he is, but judging from how his staff talks about him, he seems like a great, hands-on owner who engenders a great deal of loyalty from his staff. lobster bomb roll

When we were here in the summer, we had the cold lobster roll and the bisque lobster roll.  Both very good, but for winter, I wanted to try the hot lobster bomb, buttered, hot, fresh picked lobster (nearly twice as much as in the lobster roll according to our server), served in a sourdough bread bowl.  Honestly, I kind of wanted to take home several of these fresh baked bread bowls and eat them with all manner of yum inside.  When the bomb arrived, I wasn’t really sure how I should approach eating this concoction.  Do I pick it up, use a fork and knife, if so, where do I start?  So, I just dove in with my fork and knife chopping into it.  Yum, this is some good stuff, tail and claw meat, tender and tasty and sourdough bread that is crispy outside, soft and chewy, warm inside.  If I had one complaint, I would say it just didn’t taste buttery enough, but it wasn’t soggy, so that was good.  I think they saute the meat in butter, which is a tougher move to pull off since the butter gets too hot to really cling to the meat and cooking already cooked meat makes it taste just a smidge over done.  I prefer the meat to be warmed by tossing it in melted butter, maybe barely heating it a bit more.  That sort of lobster perfection was achieved by what Ken ordered, the special for lunch, lobster grilled cheese.  I know, the first thought with lobster grilled cheese is, isn’t the cheese going to overpower the lobster.  The second question is, are they just going to put some small amount of lobster into an otherwise regular grilled cheese.  Both of those concerns are no concern in this case.  The sandwich contains the same amount of meat as the lobster roll, still in all of its full chunk tail and claw glory.  The American cheese melts perfectly into the lobster, giving it the warm creaminess so elusive in many a hot lobster roll.  This is what you want, when you want warm lobster on bread, perfection.  This may be one of the best lobster concoctions I have ever had the pleasure of putting in my mouth.  Too bad Ken ordered it, so I only got a few bites.  As if all that wasn’t enough, I’m pretty sure, though I didn’t ask, that the bread used was bakery fresh, I think it was wheat or a multi-grain, a flawless complement.  It was a special, so you may want to call ahead so you’re not disappointed.

One more note, the chowders here are fantastic, particularly on a blustery winter day.  I ordered the New England chowder (creamy) and Ken ordered the Noank chowder (clear clam broth).  Then we switched since we both preferred the other chowder.  I was a huge fan of the Noank and it was chock full of clams.  More tasty goodness, even if it did mean I didn’t have room to order the peanut butter pie from a nearby bakery for dessert.  Oh well, next time!

Ford’s Facebook Page

Visited February 2013

Ford's Lobster on Urbanspoon



Ford’s Lobster – Noank, Connecticut

Ford's lobster roll

I felt like I had really reached some inner circle of lobster roll status when some folks who saw my Lobster Gal interview on NBC 30 passed on this tip to me.  I had literally never, ever heard of Ford’s Lobster in Noank, not on any boards, searches, articles, nothing.  As you may know, I’m not really a fan of the popular Connecticut lobster roll spots, also in Noank, Abbott’s and Costello’s, so to hear that there was another lobster roll establishment in Noank for those in the know came as quite a surprise.  Even writing about it now feels a bit like letting the cat out of the bag and sharing some sort of lobster roll state secret.  Much as I would love to keep this spot all to myself and those few in the inner circle, this venue deserves to be known, much more widely.

It’s not easy to find.  Frankly, it wasn’t even easy to find the address on a google search, all lending more to the exciting, clandestine nature of Ford’s.  Once my GPS finally figured things out and led us down a tiny, windy road to the water, there it was.  Nothing more than a quiet lobster sign with the word Ford’s marked that you had arrived.  There is was, down by the water, just two little shacks covered in lobster buoys and a deck overlooking one of the prettiest views with lobster in Connecticut.

The menu is fairly basic, at this BYOB establishment, but they were clearly getting quite creative and much more high-end than a shack with their specials list.  Then I saw it on the menu, the lobster roll I dream about and often put together myself, the lobster bisque option in addition to a hot with butter and a cold with mayo.  We decided to go with one cold and one bisque, it was a warm day, and frankly, Abbots had recently turned me off from the hot version.  I asked and the meat here is indeed fresh picked, not at Ford’s, but at another local facility every morning.  She did say that the lobster was Canadian, not Connecticut lobster.  I respected and thanked her for her thorough honesty on the lobster source, that’s very important info to me and not something every place is willing to part with.  Honestly, ideally, I always prefer local lobster, not Maine, but whatever state we are in when eating the lobster roll.  I think it lends to the authenticity, freshness and it always feels good to be a lobster locavore.  But, I will take fresh picked lobster however I can get it as it is not very common anywhere and less often in Connecticut.

I actually forgot to ask about the previously frozen, fresh picked status before ordering, but once I bit into this one, I knew immediately, that this was not previously frozen.  The fresh, briny, tender flavor was there and if you happen to have just eaten a suspected frozen, then you eat a definitely fresh picked, the difference is obvious.  Ford’s uses large chunks of tail and claw, tender, the cold version is tossed in minimal mayo and has celery chunks, which I could do without and mostly picked out, but I didn’t really mind because the meat was so tasty.  They also seem to mix to order, so I’m sure you could request sans celery.  The bisque version is warm and has the very thick bisque poured on top.  I would really prefer it to be tossed in the bisque.  The large blob on top makes it a bit unwieldy and the bisque doesn’t move into the whole sandwich, equally distributing itself in each bite.  The bun is not your standard top split bun, it’s more of a hearty hot dog bun, somewhat larger and more dense.  The flavor is similar to the standard white bun, but it has a bit more flavor, freshness and I suspect possibly bakery fresh.  The bun is not toasted or grilled.  I happen to like it this way, but I know it’s not for everybody.  They are so nice here though, I suspect they would grill it for you if you asked. The Ford’s lobster roll is certainly among the best in Connecticut, fresh hearty meat served on fresh bread on the ocean, doesn’t get much better.  They also had something curious on the menu called a lobster bomb.  I assumed this just a jumbo lobster roll, but our waitress explained that it was kind of a hollowed out bread bowl, filled with lobster.  Wow, this is definitely something I need to try out.

As it happens and I actually had trouble believing at first, Ford’s is open year round, Wednesday – Saturday.  I say hard to believe, because I’m still not sure where they put people inside, but sure enough on their Facebook page, lots of specials and pictures going on through the winter.  I fully intend to make my way down there this winter and report back.  I’m thinking a hot lobster roll in the winter, on the ocean, would be just heaven.

Weighed in at 6.3 oz. for the bisque and 6.1 oz. for the cold lobster roll.

Ford’s Lobster Facebook Page

Visited September 2012

Ford's Lobster on Urbanspoon

Costello’s Clam Shack – Noank, Connecticut

Costellos lobster roll

Costello’s is the better looking, smarter, but more shy twin of Abbott’s.  Just kidding, sort of, Costello’s is the sister property of Abbot’s.  It is about less than half a mile farther down the road and it has a fryer, so different menu.  From what I could tell, their menu is pretty much the same as the Abbot’s menu, except that they also have all things fried, onion rings, french fries, fried clams, etc.  They also seem to have better seating and a better view.  There is an upstairs deck overlooking Noank harbor, very pretty spot to enjoy some fried food.  I can’t say that I enjoyed the lobster roll.  This is exactly the same lobster roll as the one they serve at Abbott’s, in case you were wondering.  So, see my review on Abbott’s for my rant on why I’m not a fan.  Unfortunately, the photo above may be one of the best that my meager photographic skills have ever been able to capture of a lobster roll.  Unfortunate because the lobster roll isn’t as good as it looks.  It isn’t bad, just not very good.  The bun here was less dry than Abbott’s, but that was about it.  Note the multitude of spongies in the photo where I piled them up on the side.  The line at Costello’s is much shorter, the view is much better, the menu is more extensive, they even serve whole lobsters and if you’re into the Abbott’s lobster roll, they serve the same one here.  I can’t imagine why there would be any reason to go to Abbott’s.

Weighed in at 5.8 oz.

Visited August 2012

Costello's Clam Shack on Urbanspoon

Abbott’s Lobster in the Rough – Noank, Connecticut

I had tried this lobster roll back in the days before I took photos of them all.  It’s certainly a favorite of many Connecticut lobster roll lovers.  So, I knew I would be heading back.  What I remembered about it was a strange lobster roll, chopped up and stuffed in a ramekin, served on a dry hamburger bun and not so great scenery.  I remembered wrong, the scenery is actually great.  I think I went on an extremely crowded day the last time and sat in the back area so I didn’t get to take in the whole view.  It really is beautiful, classic Connecticut, all sailboats on the water, opening up to the wide sound.

I was however, correct in my memory of the lobster roll.  It was more chunks and less shreds than I had remembered.  Large chunks of claw and knuckle meat, stuffed in to a round form type thing, heated up with butter and put on a somewhat dry hamburger bun.  The bun was really nothing special, think McDonald’s Big Mac bun, sesame seeds and such.  Just like that, except more dry.  It is grilled, but I think that is a mistake that dries it out more.  The stuffed into a lobster meat cake concoction is really a curious, and to me, not good lobster creation.  As I touched it, the lobster meat was all stuck to each and didn’t easily break apart, rather like they had been packed in that form for quite some time.  I don’t think they are putting this in the mold when you order.  The meat was not quite dry, it had a decent texture, not much flavor, warm, strangely didn’t taste very buttery.

This was the moment that for the first time in Lobster Gal history, I began to question my belief that I prefer a hot lobster roll.  I don’t think I really do like hot better.  I found myself wishing it was one of the tasty cold ones.  I began to see why people don’t like hot lobster rolls.  First, they’re hot, and it’s summer, so there’s that.  Second, the meat is inevitably drier than cold, just by virtue of the re-heating, since they are never hot from being fresh cooked.  Third, the butter never really sticks much because, well, melted butter is liquid and if they use a lot, it still doesn’t stick, just sogs up the bun.  So, a hot lobster roll often doesn’t even really taste very buttery.  Thank goodness I’ve taken to ordering a side of melted butter with every lobster roll, it covers a multitude of sins of both the hot and cold variety.

That was the description of the hot lobster roll, we also ordered the cold, just to see.  This was a whole different can of worms.  The cold lobster roll is served on the standard buttery grilled hot dog bun.  The bun was much better than the hamburger bun.  The lobster meat was very different.  I was surprised that two versions of lobster meat could be so very different.  This was very shredded, almost no chunks, just swimming in mayo and with chopped up celery.  The meat, when I wiped off some mayo to sample alone, didn’t even taste the same, maybe it was the mayo marinade.  It’s also worth mentioning that they don’t have a fryer at the Abbott’s location, so no fries or onion rings or any such accoutrements.  The fryer is at their sister property 100 yards down the road, Costellos.  I went to Costellos as well, I’ll give it its own review, but it if you want this lobster roll, I would head to Costello’s.  It’s the exact same lobster roll, with shorter lines, a better view, and a fryer.

I asked the gal at the counter when I ordered my lobster rolls at Abbott’s if the meat was fresh picked.  She gushed about how they have tanks of lobsters and they cook them all there and how great it is.  Told me we could go take a look at the tanks if we want.  Sounds good.  But, after eating both the Abbott’s and the Costellos lobster rolls, I couldn’t shake the suspicion that the meat on these lobster rolls is frozen meat. It just had that texture and flavor.  It also had the spongies that are kind of folded and curled up, indicating to me that they have been packaged that way and sitting in that position long enough to permanently hold it.  Fresh lobster meat spongies are flexible and straight, frozen aren’t.  It tasted like decent frozen meat, not bad, just didn’t taste fresh picked.  So, I did some asking around and found a guy who used to work at Abbots, jackpot!  He said that the meat in the lobster roll is indeed frozen meat.  I knew it!  Maybe I am getting a more refined lobster palate where I can distinguish different types!  Now, to be clear, this info isn’t official info from Abbott’s or Costellos, so I can’t confirm that it is 100% accurate.  But, the guy did work there, and didn’t even know that I write a blog about lobster rolls, so he had no reason to tell me a tale.  So, there it is.  When I though about the girl at Abbott’s answer, she did say that they have live lobsters there and they cook live lobsters there, she never really said that they pick the meat for the lobster roll there and use it on the lobster roll.  Maybe she was confused by my question, maybe she knew what I was asking and gave me an accurate, but misleading answer, maybe she was right and they do use fresh picked meat on the lobster roll and the guy was wrong.  I’ll let you decide that one.  I won’t be back for any more of their lobster rolls.  Abbots did look like it had a nice selection of desserts.

Hot weighed in at 6 oz.

Cold weighed in at 5.2 oz.

Visited August 2012

Abbott's Lobster In The Rough on Urbanspoon