The New Belle Isle
Only seen a couple of posts since Belle Isle moved across the bridge from East Boston to Winthrop, so I thought I'd make a handy thread for discussion on the new location as we went there yesterday afternoon for the first time since the move.
Been to the old location probably 50 times, and since we live south of Boston and outside 128, you know that we must love Belle Isle to go that far that often.
Building is much more substantial
Plenty of parking (although if the place fills up, I wonder if this might change), and nice not to be on the street or in the rutted back lot.
BATHROOMS! And even with some nice decoration (check out the seaglass inspired trim on the walls)! Big step up from the gallon sized jar of generic Purel!
Big counter, new menu boards (a bit further away than the old ones, I'll bring my glasses in next time!), more people behind the counter (and, it appeared, in the kitchen), Pepsi dispensing machine (instead of the 20 ounce bottles), little red buzzing lobsters to let you know when your food is ready, 2 big screen TVs, and BEER AND WINE!
Seating area is huge, probably can seat 100 people inside, and it looked like there might be outside seating as well. Windows facing the old location and across the harbor, looked like they will open nicely in warm weather. Seating is mostly large picnic bench style, with fixed benches. Easily can fit 8 at a table. Also two traditional tables with chairs with backs in the middle of the floor, and a couple booths on the wall furthest from the windows.
For 3PM on a rainy, cold Sunday afternoon, the place was busy! Must have been 25 people eating or waiting for food when we got there. Considering the old place was crowded with 15 people, this bodes well for Belle Isle.
We always get the same thing: Me, a lobster roll with fries, her, a lobster roll with onion rings. But now there was an option! The traditional roll is still $19.99, but you can get a Tail Only roll for $27.99. Tempting, but not tempting enough for us to bite.
Comments: With all the new staff to take care of the customers, I fear we may lose a little of the familiar touch. I've always been recognized at the counter and my wife and my regular order has always been known. I have no problem placing my order, but that was a nice, homey touch that I fear I will miss.
Sign warned that food was taking 10-15 minutes, but our lobster rolls were ready in about 5-7 minutes -- our little electric lobster buzzed and we picked up our late lunch. I did see the staff bringing food to some customers which was nice.
The food. So you know, we rank Red's Eats as 100 on the Lobster Roll scale. Belle Isle has always been a 99 for us, with nothing else consistently over 95 (and we've taken a few "Lobster Roll Quests", where we drive ridiculous distances and eat way too many lobster rolls). We opened the carefully folded paper and this is what we noticed (note: This is based on a single sample and may not be indicative of anything):
1) Sandwich was piled high, and the lobster was falling off the sides of the roll, but it seemed smalled, end to end
2) There appeared to be more lettuce underneath the meat than before (3 leaves vs. 1)
3) The ratio of tail to claw/knuckle meat seemed to be lower than in the past. Could this be because of the "tail only" alternative? I don't know.
Conclusion: The lobster roll was delicious, but we give it a 97, instead of a 99. Still the best option south of Wiscasset, and maybe we just caught it on a bad day (for them). Not gonna stop us from stopping in and gorging ourselves, but will keep an eye out on quality.
My first time back since the above post was today, and I don't want to take the general lobster roll thread down this road, and a fear has been realized.
Standard roll (plus a side) is still $19.99, "tail only" roll was $26.99.
Whereas in the past the standard roll was probably a 50-50 mix of tail and claw/knuckle meat, and it was nearly so in my prior report in December, this time our rolls were about 75-80% claw/knuckle, and 20-25% tail meat. Don't get me wrong, it's still the best roll in the Boston area (wish I lived closer to Red's Eats), but it has left an opening for another purveyor to try to top it, when in the past I would have thought that was nearly impossible.
As soon as you mentioned the tail only lobster roll, I knew what was ahead. Unless they are serving lobster claw stew or lobster claws with drawn butter, the regular roll is going to suffer a deficit ratio. That's why my favourite lobster roll is the one I shuck and make myself.
There is one other alternative: They might be selling "fresh lobster meat" as well as "fresh lobster tails" (I think Marden's does this), in which case they could sell the "extra" non-tail meat loose like that.
I forgot to mention in my review that due to the weather, we also got a cup of their clam chowder. Never had gotten any soup at the old location (did they even have it?) and it was very good. Perfect temperature, lots of clams, and the right amount of potatoes.
Great review. I'm not worried about losing the personal touch as I found the old staff unaccommodating to downright abrasive at times. If there is less lobster in the roll that sucks, but it wouldn't be shocking given the higher overhead. We will get over to try it soon.
Have to agree with the abarsive 'tude of the old staff, think the wait staff aproach will be better. As for the roll size, if the customers don't like the roll, the sales will identify that to the owners qiuckly. Finally, I don't have to eat in the car where I use to pop a beer!
I just visited the new location a week ago and had the lobster meat roll instead of the tail only roll. I don't think the amount of meat has changed at all, but I do agree that the lobster meat roll has less tail than before. I think you end up with more knuckle mostly and maybe a bit more claw.
It certainly loses the grungy character of the old location, but the new location is definitely an upgrade in my book.