Lobster Shack is the kind of restaurant you fantasize moored in countless coves along the Long Island shoreline, bringing in the catch and the customers.
This one, landlocked in reality, is a casual, friendly destination for seafood, emphasis on Homarus americanus, which reaches your table several ways, most recommended.
"Shack" doesn't quite describe the newcomer, a bright corner spot, easily identified by the illuminated name and a big red lobster marker that almost qualifies as a contribution to roadside architecture. Inside, the hue is blue-gray, with decor taking in a surfboard and a ship's wheel, a sign shouting "BEACH" and a few paddles, plus images of marine life. Etched glass sports a wave design, as does the wall behind the bar.
And if the message isn't entirely clear, your place mat offers a step-by-step guide to "how to eat lobster."
Before you start cracking claws, try the good shrimp cocktail or the modest New England-style clam chowder. Enjoy the fresh beet salad, with goat cheese and orange slices, interrupted only by candied walnuts. Shrimp balls are similar to very mild arancini, or rice balls, each encasing a nearly microscopic shellfish.
Slices of scungilli, served on biscuits, are pretty pungent. Have no fear of the house's "famous" hot sauce. It's almost as tame as the medium or the marinara. "Chile duck sauce" is the foil for slightly spongy, not-so-crisp lobster fritters. Things improve with the zuppa di mussels, best finished with white wine and garlic, and lush, lobster-laden macaroni and cheese under a breadcrumb crust.
Your meal really gets going, however, with three very good lobster rolls: a traditional, Maine lobster-salad roll; a warm, buttery "South Shore" lobster roll on a toasted garlic bun; and an "angry lobster roll," or the Maine production sparked by snappy Sriracha sauce. Respectable competition comes from a fried soft-shell crab sandwich, if not the less-than-crabby crabcake.
Whole lobsters are available steamed, broiled, oreganata, marinara and fra diavolo. The simply steamed one is moist and fine; the fra diavolo, while more angelic than fiery, is tasty, too, atop linguine. Generous fish and chips, made with cod, delivers some crunch. Grilled swordfish, set on a tricolor salad, is on the thin side, but flavorful. Inveterate carnivores can pick filet mignon, a burger or chicken Parmigiana.
For dessert, consider cannoli, or the thin, cigar-shaped zeppole. By now, you may be hooked.