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Aug 13, 2009 10:13 PM

Live lobsters in D.C. - where to buy?

We'd like to purchase live lobsters for an upcoming dinner. Where is the best place to purchase - value wise. in the D.C. metro area - or Maryland (Bethesda and a bit beyond) please.

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  1. The very best I've found in town is which sells from trucks in Bethesda, Kensington, Rockville, and Baltimore at various locations and times from Friday to Sunday.
    You don't have to order ahead, although it's a good idea if you need lots of lobsters for a party.
    The lobsters are flown down here from Maine to meet the guys on the truck.
    The price fluctuates but they are impeccably fresh.

    I've bought them and stuck the bag in the spare fridge once for two days and they were just fine until they met their demise in the pot. Except that they escaped from the bag and were crawling all over the fridge, hanging off the shelves on the door and climbing on the extra beer. Rounded them up and put them in a sturdier bag.

    11 Replies
    1. re: MakingSense

      oh goodness, making sense, i wish i could see a picture of that gang of lobsters!

      1. re: MakingSense

        Seconded, thirded, and whatever else you need. There's no better choice in the Metro area. Price is competitive with the grocery stores, and you can't buy a fresher lobster unless you stand on the docks in NE.

        Sure, you can buy one for a few dollars less per pound at the Asian markets, but this is like the difference between never frozen wild caught tuna, and Star Kist in the can.

        1. re: DanielK

          They're alive at Great doesn't get fresher than that.

          1. re: Ericandblueboy

            Lobsters degrade in captivity, especially in grocery store tanks. It is worth the effort to get lobsters that were recently harvested. Still, I have had excellent lobster from H-Mart.

              1. re: Ericandblueboy

                To further clarify, once lobsters are caught, and their claws are banded, they can't eat. So they slowly waste away. Lobsters in the supermarket are typically WEEKS old.

                The taste difference between a supermarket lobster, and one from Salt River that's at most a day old, is stunning.

                And, FWIW, while I have occasionally gone for the Great Wall or H-Mart $5/lb lobster, I think they're markedly inferior to those from Giant/Safeway/etc. But $5 is hard to pass up sometimes...

                1. re: DanielK

                  i'm curious: 1. are the lobsters starving to death; in other words, do they have to have claws to eat? 2. when with banded claws, do the lobsters' bodies start a metabolic response that begins to utilize -- for sustenance -- the muscle in their bodies, thus reducing not only weight, but affecting texture?

                  1. re: alkapal

                    I don't know the answer. See the following for information: Storing lobster is not so simple as just putting them in a tank.

                    1. re: jfish

                      very interesting, jfish.

                      >>>Lobsters (and lobster pathogens) are poikilotherms — meaning that they are unable to regulate their body temperatures through metabolism. The body temperature of poikilotherms is instead determined by the surroundings. To stay warm in winter, lobsters move into deeper water.

                      Keeping lobsters in cold water causes their metabolism to slow down so they won't eat too much and produce copious amounts of waste that would poison them. In addition, low temperatures slow pathogens that may otherwise attack lobsters.....

                      Unhealthy lobsters may:

                      Stop grooming and become fouled;
                      Lose equilibrium and lie on side or back;
                      Become weak and flaccid;
                      Fail to close claw around object; and
                      Fail to respond with tail flipping when harassed.""<<<<

                      sort of makes me sad....

                      "death of a lobster"
                      (mind you, i love to eat lobster,'s a little sad, nonetheless, to read about bad lobster care. i say: keep 'em super healthy, then dispatch with dispatch!)

                    2. re: alkapal

                      Lobsters eat just fine without claws. Claws are for defense and crushing/ripping food, but aren't used to feed themselves. Feeding is done via the small front legs that have pinchers on them. And no, lobsters don't don bibs before dinner.

                      A large amount of the "fresh" lobster everyone loves is a product of the Canadian pound system, where lobsters are held in huge pounds, typically during summer months when prices are lowest, then released onto the market when prices rise, usually going into the fall and winter.

                      In New England, tanks are used for storage, vs pounds. In either event, it'd be fairly rare for anyone in this area to find a lobster that at most, is a day old.

                      1. re: tbw

                        One can tell how fresh the lobsters are by looking at the antennae. The longer and more in tact the less time they have been in captivity. If they are with points and unbroken they are the freshest. The shorter the antennae the longer they have been in tanks.

        2. I bought lobsters a while back from Dean and Deluca in Georgetown. I know everyone thinks D and D is always expensive, but they were priced at the going rate and very convenient. You have to call ahead and order though - best to give 48 hours notice, then check back and confirm they made the order.

          1. Lobsters @ Great Wall were selling for $6.99/lb. last week...I've seen them as low as $3.99/lb.

            9 Replies
            1. re: Chownut

              Thanks everyone. We went with Salt River. I'll report back on lobsters quality. They guys running the stand were really nice though and seemed to have a good selection of other fish/seafood too. Hope they're good!

              1. re: beauxgoris

                Did they have any nice Salmon fillets?

                1. re: mdfoodlover

                  ^^I didn't see salmon - but they did have very nice looking Artic Char fillets. Next time I'm going to buy some and also some branzino. (also had North Carolina shrimp which I'd be interested in buying too). Humm, my list is long.

                  1. re: beauxgoris

                    Their fresh Carolina shrimp are stunning.

                    According to their website, they have Wild Alaskan Salmon at $15.99/lb.

                    1. re: DanielK

                      Thank for the link. I had not seen that offering when I looked at their web page Friday. Now I'm sorry I missed them in K'town saturday morning. B'more & Bethesda are to far away to be convenient for me, but I'll make a point of checking the Kensington sale next Saturday. The NC Shrimp or Artic Char alone sound like a good reason to drive down from Howard Co.

                  1. re: Chownut

                    They were 10.99 for 1 1/8 - 2 pounders I believe. The only disappointment is that they were soft shells, and obviously in between molting so there wasn't a lot of meat in the claws, etc. I don't know much about lobster though - so maybe that's just how it is this time of year?

                    1. re: beauxgoris

                      IMHO at that price you shoud get hardshells or they should at least tell you prior to purchase.

                      1. re: jfish


                        I've never seen it on a menu, but imagine a soft shell lobster sub (ala a soft shell crab sandwich).

              2. Does anyone know if Salt River Lobster is still open? Was planning on going to get seafood this weekend, but their website has disappeared!

                5 Replies
                1. re: Alexmluc

                  I bought some last Friday (the 11th) in Bethesda. They had been having some problems with their mailing list, and their tech problem may have extended to their website, too.

                  I have been buying from them literally since they first started driving down here from Maine every Friday morning--some 20+ years ago. I have always had nothing but excellent lobsters from them.

                  Until last week. When I went to take them out of the bag, they were motionless. And light for the size. I cooked them anyway, and they tasted just fine. Just very short on the meat, however. I'm sure it was just a one-time thing. But you might want to give them a poke before you take the bag.

                  The N.C. shrimp and clams were excellent.

                  1. re: Alexmluc

                    I had one of the most amazing lobsters of my life a few weeks ago from SR. Called ahead to reserve it because I wasn't able to pick it up until the end of the day. Work through their technical difficulties to order from them!

                    1. re: pineapple sage

                      bacchante - it's not just you. I purchased lobsters from them a few weeks ago and was shocked at how little meat there was in the claws and tail. I don't know if they had just molted or what was going on - but I was disappointed by the amount of actual "meat" in each lobster. So at the very least: it was a two time thing.....

                      1. re: beauxgoris

                        Definately poke them and make sure they are alive. You can also squeeze the main cavity shell and it should not have any give, the shell should be nice and hard. And like I said above, the longer the antennae the better.

                        1. re: sekelmaan

                          They weren't soft shelled like a soft shelled crab - but they must have just molted since there was so little meat vs. size of the shell. They were also super active, so I assumed that was a good thing. Next time I will make sure I get hard shells though!

                  2. Worth noting that the Giant in Columbia Heights also sells lobsters. So if you can't make it to Salt River, and you don't have a car to get an H-Mart, and you're closer to the Giant than to Great Wall, and you're not expecting to eat the freshest lobster you've ever had, go there. We made their lobsters at the end of August and they were tasty. About the same price as Great Wall, too.

                    1 Reply