Inhaling sea meat at Da Lobsta

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Claw, meet bun. Or claw meat bun.
Weight- and budget-conscious people say you shouldn't go to the grocery store when you're hungry or you'll leave $30 poorer, but much richer in spreadable cheeses and a variety of things on which to spread them. Another piece of prudent advice: don't go to a place that specializes in lobster rolls when you're starving or you end up inhaling rather than savoring a sandwich made of the pricey sea meat. And an order of lobster mac 'n' cheese. Some slaw. And an entirely superfluous bag of Cape Cod potato chips. Hey, they were reduced fat.

Which isn't to say Da Lobsta is particularly expensive. Thirteen dollars—sorry, $12.95—seems about right for a relatively small lobster roll, I guess; the same dish, albeit, a bigger version to my recollection, will set you back $25 at Shaw's Crab House.

I know what you're thinking. We all could have thought of better names for a lobster roll concept restaurant. Or at least suggested they put h's after Da and Lobsta so it resembles New England vernacular rather than the name of a terrible mid-to-late-90s rapper from Maine. (Which reminds me, have you watched this video of L.L. Cool J performing at a Waterville, Maine, high school in 1985? You should. The befuddlement. The haircuts.) Apparently, Da Lobsta's name was inspired by an LA food truck that also specializes in variations on the classic sandwich.

Da Lobsta serves eight different lobster rolls (or slightly cheaper crab or shrimp rolls), from traditional to several vaguely ethnic variations, like the Mexican with salsa, guacamole, and lettuce, the Indian with mango chutney and a potato-paneer salad, and the Greek with feta, tzatziki, and tomato.

All of that sounds fun enough, especially if you're subbing crab or shrimp ($11 and $9, respectively). But when you're spending $13 on a lobster sandwich, it's more fun to actually taste lobster. Covering it in a bunch of shit is as bad as breading and frying it, if you ask me. Which you didn't, but you're reading. I went with the traditional, dressed only in tarragon mayo and garlic butter. The tarragon flavor escaped me, and, really, I didn't detect much mayo either, which was fine since it wasn't needed to bind anything. The grilled New England-style hot dog bun wasn't filled with a gloppy, mayo-laden lobster salad—a bastardization that passes at a lot of restaurants—just big pieces of sweet claw meat with a drizzle of garlic butter. And that's it. And that should have been it for me.

But I was starving.

Besides the chunks of lobster plopped on top, I can't think of anything particularly nice to say about the lobster mac 'n' cheese ($8). No, wait. I can. They use cavatappi. But nothing makes me feel like more of a fat American than adding salt to a rich dish like mac 'n' cheese (it's like adding more sugar to Kool-Aid). I had to revisit the salt shaker more than once and the lobster was gone with half the mac left. The chowder was bland, too—scarcely better than something that came out of a can.

The space itself is clean (it's only been open for about a month) and friendly, if a little hokey, what with the replica seafood-stand signs and anthropomorphized lobster mascot in sunglasses. Also, if you have to use the restroom, pray it's not urgent because it's downstairs—in the Thai place next door.

Da Lobsta, 13 E. Cedar, 312-929-2423, dalobstachicago.com

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