These days, minor indulgences that don’t break the bank are important. It doesn’t get any better than a dinner of fresh lobster – but even with its amazing, expansive coastline, finding the best lobster in California can be tricky.
The Golden State is chock full of outstanding restaurants and fish markets, but where can a seafood lover find the best lobster at the most reasonable price? We investigated, and what we learned is that not all lobster joints are created equal. Here’s a summary of what we learned.
California Lobster and Seafood Restaurants
Bay Area and Surrounding Areas
Redwood City is the site of Old Port Lobster Shack (20 Woodside Rd). They also have a joint housed in Portola Valley (3130 Alpine Rd #300). Being an informal lobster restaurant, patrons place their order and then find their own seat. Their various lobster dishes sided with coleslaw are a little pricier than usual. A coffee cup-sized portion of lobster bisque is $8.75, with both cold and hot lobster in it. We were confused.
Yankee Pier (3593 Mt Diablo Blvd) is another Bay area seafood restaurant located in the heart of historic Larkspur, CA. You can also find them in the San Francisco International Airport. Here, you can order a “Fresh Maine” Lobster Roll on a griddled brioche bun with housemade kettle chips and coleslaw served chilled or hot for a pricy $29 – $6.50 higher than what it used to be. They also serve their fried Ipswich clam platter.
Sam’s Chowder House (4210 Cabrillo Highway North) is a New England style seafood restaurant overlooking Half Moon Bay. Sam’s West Coast version of the Lobster roll is its highly-noted signature dish. Unlike the real East Coast version, Sam’s does not use mayonnaise in the mix, just lots of butter on a warm brioche roll. It sells for $26.50 with potato chips and a dollop of coleslaw. Not so sure about the brioche roll with all the butter, but it is well packed with good chunks of fresh lobster meat. The chowder was not bad, but a little thin compared to a good Boston chowder. For those who can’t manage a trip to Half Moon Bay, Sam’s has its own San Francisco Bay area food truck called the Chowdermobile.
King’s Fish House has 9 locations scattered throughout southern California (and one location in Nevada and one in Arizona). Most noteworthy of all their restaurants are their spacious booths and period décor with elegant dark wood.
A common complaint among customers, however, is that it is so loud in these restaurants that you can’t hear your dining companions over the din. Though you might think this is worth it because of the incredible, budget-friendly prices at King’s Fish House, you’d be wrong. The lobster is okay, but pricey: $46.50-$62.50 per plate minimum. Their menu is all over the place price-wise. In the end, you’d probably be better off just cooking at home and turning the television up loudly to get the same quality and atmosphere for a lower price.
Los Angeles County
The Lobster in Santa Monica (1602 Ocean Avenue) boasts an incredible view of the ocean from nearly every table. Unfortunately, an ocean view only goes so far as the lobster they serve is mediocre – which is somewhat to be expected in a place that looks like a tourist trap. The prices and service are great but only during happy hour. If you plan to dine outside of that narrow time window, be prepared to pay tourist prices while getting only cold to lukewarm service.
Another seafood restaurant in Santa Monica, CA is the BP Oysterette (1355 Ocean Ave). Besides a phenomenal raw bar, BP makes a Lobster Mac and Cheese with parmesan and truffle oil for $24 and a Lobster Roll on a brioche roll with your choice of side for $26. You can also find Ipswich Steamers–New England soft shell clams. There’s also an outside patio to enjoy oysters and beer by the beach.
The food trucks have become a popular scene in the Los Angeles, CA area. One food truck that travels within the LA area sells lobster rolls aptly named The Lobsta Truck. The main attraction here is the lobster roll made with fresh lobster meat on a toasted split top roll with mayo or butter for $13. The bread and lobster meat are flown in from New England. Also on the menu is a crab roll and New England clam chowder.
Did you know who holds the largest Lobster Festival in the United States? If you guessed the Maine Lobster Festival in Rockland, ME—you guessed wrong. The Port of Los Angeles Lobster Festival claims to have the largest lobster festival in the world. For their 201o festival held in September, over 32,000 Maine lobsters were flown in fresh, cooked and served.
The Lobster Trap in Avalon (128 Catalina Avenue) has helpful, friendly staff and serves generous portions of lobster. The lobster roll, however, was filled with virtually tasteless lobster (except for excessive amounts of salt) and was ice cold when served. The rice was equally without flavor. Because the roll wasn’t toasted, it began to fall apart after being soaked with its lobster filling. The prices are reasonable, however. It’s an okay place in a pinch, but don’t rush to The Lobster Trap if you’re hoping for top-notch quality bites to eat.
San Diego County
Oceanside’s Rockin’ Baja Lobster Bar & Grill (258 Harbor Dr) serves Baja lobster (not real Maine lobster) in many different forms, all with a Mexican cuisine flair. If you prefer this style of lobster, the prices are reasonable at about $19 per person for their Lobster Tails Bucket. The atmosphere is extremely casual – it’s not a bad deal if you don’t mind everything on the menu coming in a bucket (except the margaritas) and everything being cooked with Mexican sauces and spices.
Best Lobster Delivered to California
The best deal we found was LobsterAnywhere.com, which offers live Maine lobster delivered fresh to your door anywhere in the USA the next morning!
Located in New England (arguably, where all good lobster comes from), LobsterAnywhere.com gets their seafood directly from the Atlantic Ocean via trusted suppliers and ships it so it arrives at its peak freshness.
In addition to whole lobster, this company offers lobster tails, meat and rolls in different portion sizes and weights. Other shellfish, shrimp, chowder, desserts and sweets and a variety of scrumptious starters are available for the full seafood experience. The prices are favorable, and the result is a high-quality dinner quickly delivered fresh to your door. Try it!