As the weather warms and outdoor seating becomes a premium, I'm drawn to the Lobster Joint's backyard. It's not an idyllic landscaped urban garden, but rather an expansive gravelled lot with rows of picnic tables, where even during peak hours you can reliably carve a space for a small group.
But the open air dining is hardly the only reason to make the trip out to north Greenpoint; their fresh seafood shack fare is largely successful in faithfully honoring their New England inspirations.
Lobster rolls are invariably amongst the most expensive items on any given menu, and rarely meet the fickle personal expectations about how they should be prepared. The Lobster Joint's Lobster Roll ($17, with fries, pickle, and coleslaw) should satisfy the consensus with its cold lobster salad, tossed sparingly with mayonnaise, celery, and herbs, heaped onto a buttered and griddled top-split hot dog bun. The quantity of salad, which is mostly claw and knuckle, simply dwarves the bun; bite after bite tastes markedly of sweet lobster and little else. If I had to subject the roll to the highest scrutiny, I would grumble that at times the lobster salad is a bit heavy on the fresh herbs; the presence of tarragon is occasionally too apparent.
Other rolls find equal success in their simplicity. The oyster roll ($15) is piled with cornmeal-dredged deep fried oysters that don't reveal even the slightest hint of grease.
In the crab roll ($16), a mix of blue lump and peekytoe crab meat, tossed with tartar sauce and dusted with celery salt and paprika, evokes memories of a Chesapeake bay crab boil, less all of the shell cracking and leg picking.
Simplicity betrays a Filet o'Fish sandwich ($12) though, as a perfectly crisp beer battered fried white fish (daily variety) and snappy bread and butter pickles are overwhelmed by a sad, dry, too-large sesame bun. Also disappointing is the lobster mac and cheese ($17). The serving is generous, easily enough for two; and though the lobster meat is plentiful, its flavor is diminished by a plain bechamel, smooth and rich but lacking any sharp cheese bite or lobster essence.
The excess of fresh seafood also extends to the bar, where the Bloody Mary ($9) comes not only with the normal accoutrements but also a lobster claw. Oyster shooters ($6) with chilled Reyka vodka are a simple briny pleasure and an ideal way to kickstart your happy hour (when the shooters are $4).
Happy hour at the Lobster Joint is a thing of beauty. If you can make it to north Greenpoint between 4 and 7 during the week, you'll find stirred cocktails made with quality spirits; Kraken rum dark and stormys and Dorothy Parker gin and tonics are a steal at $4 ($8 normally, or $28 for a pitcher). Dollar oysters and sliders ($4) of lobster salad, crab cake, or fried oyster only sweeten the deal.
You could easily make a cheap dinner out of a few oysters and two or three sliders, but if you've come a long way, you might as well linger in the backyard, slurping oysters and drinking. And when hunger really sets in, go ahead- get the lobster.