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I have lived on the east coast, but only as a student or recent graduate, when I could only afford to summer in a rarefied resort known as "my apartment" and subsist on fresh fruit, cottage cheese and potato chips, and the occasional grilled sausage or cheap hot dog. One summer I read an essay in praise of lobster rolls. (I think Calvin Trillin is to blame, but I can't find any proof.) They sounded delicious, a luscious combination of creamy mayonnaise and sweet, chilled lobster meat, with a slight hint of lemon and herbs, and a toasted buttery bun. Imagining them made me hungry. They sounded even better than plain old lobster.
Anyway, when I found out that Mercadito Fish served lobster rolls, I immediately volunteered to review it. And then I put it off so I could daydream about the lobster roll for a few more weeks. I don't usually subscribe to a philosophy of self-denial where food is concerned—after all, we could all die tomorrow and I've never heard anything about the cuisine of the afterlife, which leads me to believe there isn't any—but there is something special about a lobster roll. (Even though I could get one at Pret a Manger or Au Bon Pain, both of which I walk past at least once a day. Lobster rolls are too special to be consumed at one's desk while simultaneously catching up on Internet reading, and they should not come wrapped in plastic.)
Labor Day weekend sounded like the best time to eat the lobster roll, not because it was the end of summer, but because a long weekend would allow time to savor it. We went late, after it was already dark. We sat at a table on the sidewalk. The buildings looked very tall and white. A few tables over, we could see two separate all-female parties celebrating 29th birthdays. Elderly Gold Coast people with stiff new faces walked by with their dogs and made pleasant conversation with the doorman.
As far as lobster rolls go, this one was petite, dwarfed by a plateful of fries. The size and the price kept it from being perfect; $24.50 seemed a bit excessive to me. (You can, however, get one that's similar, if not identical, for $17.50 at Mercadito's Municipal Bar.) But it was tasty, with the right proportions of creamy mayo and tender lobster and chewy, buttery bread, with pleasing hints of lemon and tarragon and onion. In other words, it tasted just like it was supposed to, not like childhood and salty air and nostalgia (which was good, because I'd already seen Boyhood that day and was already feeling melancholy about the passage of time), but like a rare treat and a luxury.
Mercadito Fish, 10 E. Delaware, 312-640-8141, mercaditofish.com