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Bill’s Seafood – Westbrook, Connecticut

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Kind of a fun vibe going on here and by fun, I mean rough around the edges in a way where weekend bikers and prissy college girls can all go mingle, drink and feel tougher than they are.  It has a nice, large deck that’s very crowded with happy patrons on a warm summer day.  It overlooks some type of water, not very pretty though.  My friend Jill, who joined me that day, pointed out that I shouldn’t miss the “singing bridge” view, apparently a big draw here.  Frankly, I don’t get it, it’s not pretty and I didn’t hear any singing, just cars.

After setting up camp at a prime table on the deck, we ordered up some vino (yes, they have a full bar) and I asked about the lobster rolls.  Yes, the meat is fresh picked and cooked there, according to the waitress.  I was actually only going to order the cold version, but since she said it was fresh picked we ordered up a hot and cold lobster roll.  Kind of unusual, and a good thing, to have a choice.  Most places are committed to one version.

Upon arrival, they looked to be good sized rolls, slightly longer bun than usual, but the meat just looked, well, sloppy.  It just didn’t look as appealing as you would like it to.  It was kind of a mess, shreds, chunks, poorly distributed mayo, all just shoved into a bun in an uneven manner.  They just didn’t look that good, probably partly because we had just eaten the beautiful, lobster roll perfection served by High Tide Gourmet maybe two hours before.  The lobster rolls both weighed in at about a hearty 8.5 oz, generous amount.  Trying not to judge a book by it’s cover, I tried out both.  The cold was pretty good.  I could do without the lettuce and tiny bits of celery, but it had good flavor, not too much mayo, buttery split top bun.  Really, pretty good, but not so good I’d come back soon for it.  The hot was worse.  There was a lot of butter and that certainly never hurts a situation.  The problem was the meat.  As Jill put it, it tastes like how lobster ravioli tastes when it’s been sitting around hot for too long.  There was tail and claw in both, and if the waitress was correct about the fresh picked status, which I do feel like I’m questioning, this should have been great.  Booze sold, waterfront, fresh picked, choice of hot and cold.  Bill’s had all the elements, but somehow missed on bringing them together.

Then there’s the check.  I get lobster stands not taking credit cards, I don’t like it, but fine.  By the way, most these days do take credit cards, I mean you can get a credit card swiper on your phone now.  This place is a full service, year round restaurant that serves booze and they don’t take credit card.  With checks that size, to only take cash is a problem.  They point out that they have an ATM in the front, great.  I’ve heard all the arguments why places don’t take credit cards, mainly because the card companies charge a % of the transaction, but I would think that works out in your favor when you figure how much less people spend when they know they can’t outspend the amount of cash in their wallet.  All cash business also depend on a great deal of honesty at all levels of the business.  While at the front for the ATM, I stopped in the restroom and had to hold my breath the whole time because it reeked of urine.  This is the ladies room, on a Monday afternoon.  I can’t imagine how the mens room smells after a Saturday night.  Never a good sign at a food service establishment.

On the up side, the onion rings were quite good.  Also, they do have an ice cream stand outside that serves Gifford’s ice cream and the staff was all very pleasant and fun.  I’ll be back to Bill’s for an ice cream, but doubt I’ll return for the lobster roll.

Weighed in at 8.5 oz. for cold and 8.2 oz. for hot

Bill’s Seafood website

Visited July 2012

Bills Seafood Restaurant 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