At the end of the 1,850 feet that make up the Huntington Beach Pier, a new seafood monger has taken up residence. The sprawling, two-story setup is complete with ocean views and kitschy, maritime-themed furniture, and it’s all a far cry from the back of a van that housed Chris Tompkins’s makeshift raw bar when he first began back in 2017. The Huntington Beach location is Broad Street Oyster Co.’s second opening of the year, and a third is on the way later this fall. That kind of glow-up is rare for any business, much less for a restaurateur in the post-pandemic era.
Tompkins insists that his secret lies in his straightforward approach, particularly when it comes to his shop’s most in-demand item. Their “world-famous” lobster roll is served simply, with either mayonnaise or butter, though it can be upgraded with decadent toppings like uni, caviar and extra lobster. “I hope I’m not giving away Broad Street Oyster Co.’s key to success with this, but the secret is that we keep it simple, Tompkins tells InsideHook. “A lobster roll is at its best when it’s executed at a high level but with a degree of simplicity that allows the lobster to stand out. There’s a beautiful balance between the succulent lobster, the richness of the mayonnaise — or butter, for those Connecticut-style fans — and the crunch of a toasted split-top roll.”
Tompkins, the bearded, Neptune-like founder of the brand, was an East Coast kid, born and raised in New York. But he decamped to the West Coast following a stint of international backpacking in his twenties. His Insta-famous lobster roll at Smorgasburg quickly translated to Broad Street Oyster Co.’s first brick-and-mortar location, which opened in Malibu in 2019. West Coasters might not be as familiar with lobster rolls as our counterparts on the Eastern seaboard, but Californians caught on quickly, and there’s almost always a line out the door at the original location. The Santa Barbara spot launched this spring, and Huntington Beach began welcoming customers in late August. The Ghirardelli Square location is slated for October.
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So what is it that makes the lobster roll so beloved? Tompkins notes both its beachy associations and easy decadence. “The lobster roll is a New England staple that represents summertime and coastal living, and who doesn’t want to partake in that year round?,” he says. “It is a relatively simple dish that oozes approachable luxury and makes you feel like you’re on a seaside vacation.”
As for the choice between Maine rolls (made with mayo and served cold) and Connecticut style (tossed in butter and served warm)? “That’s a tough question to answer — and not because I don’t have a personal favorite, but because you’re asking me to choose sides,” he says with a laugh. “I’m a mayo fan, which surprises even me because I typically avoid mayonnaise as much as possible. When it comes to a lobster roll, I really can’t have it any other way. I think it comes down to the same type of regional pride that has sparked the debate between Chicago-style deep-dish pizza alongside New York-style pies. You will definitely have defenders of one over the other, but at the end of the day, you have great pizza — or, in this case, lobster rolls.”
In honor of the restaurant’s expansion across California, Tompkins is sharing his lobster roll recipe so everyone has a chance to recreate it — just in time for National Lobster Day on Monday.
Broad Street Oyster Co. Lobster Roll
- 1 lb. cooked lobster meat (claw, knuckle and tail)
- ½ cup mayonnaise
- 2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
- 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh chives
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 4 split-top hot dog buns
- 4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
- 1 tsp. lemon zest
In a large bowl, combine the lobster meat, mayonnaise, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Mix until all the ingredients are well combined. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour to allow the flavors to meld.
Preheat a grill or grill pan over medium heat.
Brush the cut sides of the hot dog buns with melted butter. Grill the buns, cut side down, until they are toasted and have grill marks, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the grill and set aside.
To assemble the lobster rolls, spoon the lobster mixture onto the buns, dividing it evenly among them.
Sprinkle the chives over the lobster. Close the buns and serve immediately.
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