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Feb 7, 2009 03:15 PM

North Beach Lobster Shack: Closed

I was in North Beach today and hoped to go to the NB Lobster Shack since I'd read good things about it on this board. First I saw a sign that said they were on vacation and then another sign - an eviction notice for non-payment of rent. Oh well...We went to Rose Pistola instead, sat outside in the sun and had fabulous roasted brussels sprouts with pancetta and lemon, iron skillet mussels, and a goat cheese, roasted pepper, and Nicoise olive pizza. So all was not lost after all! (I know that RP gets some negative reviews from people expecially because of the prices, but I've always had delicious food and great service there, and I don't think the prices are that much higher anyway.)

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  1. Rose Pistola has had gone through periods of positive reports and negative reports. It seems to depend on who is the chef. Good to hear you had a good meal.

    The Napa location of the Lobster Shack closed too. I'm not surprised about the North Beach location closing. It was the wrong location for a New England seafood joint though it might have fared better had not Woodhouse opened at almost exactly the same time. As to Napa, didn't see it as a New England seafood town. If they only put one of the restaurants near the water and downplayed the casual shack part, it might have done better. If people are paying $30 per person, especially in this economy, you don't want to place the order at a counter. I really liked their food though, so am sad to see those locations closed. Hope they are able to keep the Redwood City shack open.

    Rose Pistola
    532 Columbus Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94133-2802

    10 Replies
    1. re: rworange

      You might be right about why the Napa location didn't work. The counter ordering never worked for me in that setting, and the quality was never great. I'd like a lobster roll with more than just claw and their Ipswich's were always overcooked.

      1. re: rworange

        i went to OPLS in redwood city today for lunch, and the naked lobster roll remains delicious. they are now also doing bbq (!), which we did not try. there is a big spit bbq thing out in the parking lot in front of the restaurant, and they offer ribs, pork, and chicken, i think. a strange combination with a seafood joint, but they claim to have won some bbq award. i was too busy enjoying my lobster roll to look that closely.

        1. re: artemis

          Good to know they are doing well at least in that location. The big thing was they were never really able to train staff to really get it right unless they were there.

        2. re: rworange

          I don't know where I saw it (maybe Tablehopper?) but they said they did 10 times the business in Redwood City and were thinking about opening somewhere else (S. Peninsula) maybe Cupertino?

          It was the Tablehopper and here is the quote:

          "I spoke with owner Russell Deutsch, and he said it was a tough location for the business, like parking issues and a lack of a big lunch scene. They do ten times the business at their Old Port Lobster Shack in Redwood City, so they plan to open another location in Cupertino or Sunnyvale, or somewhere like that. He sold the location to two brothers who are going to be opening a Belgian fry place that will be open late into the night—stand by for more."

          I can't find the permalink on her page, so I don't want to link to the "current" post, which will be out of date soon.

          1. re: P. Punko

            Yeah, I saw when I checked the website if Napa was still open that they announced they were looking for a new location.

            If they don't go for a place on the water, they would be much better opening up somewhere in the East Bay rather going south. I don't think with the large India, Vietnamese,other Asian and Mexican population down that way that they would do well. The relative blandness of New Enland seafood isn't going to attract people not familar with the cuisine.

            In say Berkeley, you have lots of students from out of state with visiting parents and many of those students wind up roosting in the area. There's no East Coast food in this part of the bay. Even the seafood options are limited. We've got Sea Salt. That's it in terms of really good.

            Of course, I don't say this just out of self-interest of hoping to have a fried clam place closer to me. You know, there's no real good place for a whole boiled lobster in this area either. There's not even bad places like Red Lobster. The only other seafood is the marginal Nantucket and the average chain Dead Fish and their other restaurant Spengers.

            1. re: rworange

              I wish they had maybe a little better mix of lower priced but quality stuff- I would go for really good clam strips instead of the whole ones (it would be nice to have the option for either). I just feel they are pricing themselves into a tough position in this climate. We'll see what they come up with. East Bay does sound like a better mix I would agree.

            2. re: P. Punko

              Belgium fries makes some sense although a Clown Alley greasy burger type place is what NB needs. Protein and grease always seems like a good idea after a little drinking.

              Any way, lobster in NB and SF never made sense to me...not a $17 buck roll. Tough area given rent and all. A crab cake sandwich makes more sense. Oh well.

              1. re: ML8000

                I could see burgers working too, but it would have to be grass fed style intsead. There's Moe's a minute away, and a Burgermeister closer to the Wharf on Columbus.
                Sandwiches of any type are abundant.

                It helps to know North Beach though. Doesn't sound like these Lobster folks really did.

              2. re: P. Punko

                FYI you can get a permalink by clicking on the timestamp at the end of the article (in this case "The Chatterbox").


                IMHO, they should just move about 1/4 mile north to Fisherman's Wharf, where the clientele would be less critical and wouldn't blink at the price. North Beach isn't particularly kind to "theme" restaurants.

                1. re: Xiao Yang

                  North Beach isn't particularly kind to "theme" restaurants.

                  ... like Stinking Rose

                  Despite the inexplicable clam chowder fettsh at FW, I don't think a New England restaurant where tourists are looking for SF food would play well.

            3. It didn't help that they took the location over from a place called Frisco Fish and Chips, and were trying to introduce San Francisco to $17 lobster rolls.

              It also didn't help that Sotto Mare popped up around the same time, and were curiously leaving crabs roasting unattended on a steel drum like thing outside in the sun for entire afternoons.

              You know what North Beach needs? A place that's open for lunches, and stays open late so people have a place to go down there. Open something solid, and it's a license to print money. It's not rocket science, There's no shortage of vacancies down there, the problem is a lack of smart restauranters with the business sense to survive.

              9 Replies
              1. re: sugartoof

                You'd think. But North Beach is haunted by the ghosts of places like Clown Alley, and Cafe Europa, and the original U.S. Restaurant. Somehow it doesn't seem to work.

                I don't see an OPLS working in the East Bay. We've already got Seasalt and one $13 "po"boy. Cheap fish and chips down next to the cheese steak place on University would be awesome, but it doesn't seem like it could ever happen.

                1. re: Chuckles the Clone

                  (Well technically US Restaurant still exists, but it's not the same thing.)

                  Sure, some old classic irreplaceable joints have closed up....but that happened years ago.

                  1. re: Chuckles the Clone

                    I think it would work ~ I would go. Outside of Asian places I am usually stumped for a quality place that serves more than "the fish of the day" or all fried. I don't know of any place in the East Bay that has steamers. Any area that could support a Yankee Pier would support a OPLS. What I really would like is a Fish Market or Tadich over here! Walnut Creek has the Yacht Club but maybe they could support a more casual choice as well. Re: the cheap fish and chips ~ I have noticed a place on University called Fish Castle. Have you been? (Maybe that should be a separate post.)

                    1. re: Chuckles the Clone

                      I was thinking about Clown Alley and U.S. Restaurant and the deal was both had a humble and non-judgmental side to them. That's of course easier when you're selling inexpensive eats and not paying high rents. Given high overhead I think any new place faces having to hit their mark right out of the gate while charging much more. That's sort of a deadly combo for casual and in particular late night. Someone with a good hot dog cart there on a weekend night could kill in the right location...but they'd never get a license.

                      1. re: ML8000

                        The original Clown Alley was a ghost town in it's last days, to be fair.
                        US Restaurant sold the business, after the younger family took it over.

                        North Beach rents are actually low, or consistent with market rents. I know a fair amount of landlords down there. The problem is a lack of eligable business owners who want to be in NB, who also have the startup needed to hold out until their restaurant can turn a profit, which can take two years. That or they just don't know North Beach, and what goes with the neighborhood. How many Thai restaurants do they need? Meanwhile, it's the higher rents on Columbus, which is obnoxious these days, that get snatched up first.

                        I mean, I think everyone on this board would love to see an influx of new restuarants in NB but now we have laws prohibiting it. Literally.

                        1. re: sugartoof

                          I, for one think North Beach has enough restaurants, and I've lived in NB since the Clown Alley site was still a gas station Those that can't make it will eventually replaced by good ones that can, like the recent example of Piazza Pellegrini replacing the lame Frankie's Bohemian. And what's obnoxious about Columbus? Are you bothered by Italian restaurants and cafes with sidewalk seating? Would you prefer the return of Ben & Jerry''s, Sophie's Crepes, Carl's Junior and KFC, all of which failed on Columbus?

                          1. re: Xiao Yang

                            I know the area about as well as you do, but I have no idea what your point is. You asked what's wrong with Columbus, and then list a bunch of chains that were once on Columbus. It's also where most of the fratty crowds,and vagrants are drawn to. Meanwhile, there is only two places in all of North Beach you can get a cup of freshly roasted coffee that didn't come out of a can...and one of them, the one that the neighborhood groups all hang out at, is in fact a franchise (and the freshness of their product is debatable anyway).

                            It's a nightlife zoned neighborhood that's ALWAYS had destination restaurants.... I can't believe there's a Chowhounder here who wouldn't see the current options improve though. You're incorrect in your theory that the ones who can't make it are being replaced by ones that can.... Lou's by the Square, anyone? People are still going to North Beach in droves on weekends, looking for good food and atmosphere. There are DOZENS of vacancies, that need vacancies, and I can think of worse things then restaurants. Had the Lobster Shack survived, it would have been a great thing.

                            by the way - Frankie's Bohemian was a really great place for burgers, and huge beers, that drew in a solid crowd of students from up the hill. It actually had the vibe of some older lost hangouts in NB.

                            1. re: sugartoof

                              My point is that North Beach is comfortable for people who have lived in North Beach for a considerable time. It doesn't aim to be SOMA or Noe Valley, or any other place a lot of people have just moved to from Nebraska, nor does it desire to pander to a Gen Y demographic. Your characterization of Columbus Avenue shows that you just don't get it.

                              1. re: Xiao Yang

                                What is it I'm not getting? That you live in the neighborhood and find the vacancies comforting? You think the food options are thriving?

                                I'm sure you agree, yu don't live in a 50'-60's theme park. Frankly, it doesn't matter if I "get it". Places need to open that will draw in RWorange, ML8000, etc. etc.or guess what, North Beach will not exist ...and if a 20 something from Nebraska wants to move into North Beach, then honestly, it's no different then someone from Queens doing it in the Sixties, or wherever, like half the neighborhood did (which really was about 20 years too late, by the way). You come from the gentrification generation that drove out many of the old Italians, after all...and now, it's mainly working class Asian families. Funny how nobody is arguing how the neighborhood should serve THAT community. Otherwise, it's food and drink that survive in North Beach, and always have.

                                Piazza Pellegrini has $30 entrees by the way.