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Old Port Lobster Shack - Downhill alert or just wildly inconsistent? [Redwood City]

My dining companion and I were anticipating our meal at Old Port. We ordered the Ipswich clam appetizer, a Maine Roll and a steamed lobster.

The whole-belly fried clams, usually delicious, were greasy, under-fried and limp. Minutes ticked by. When our entrees finally arrived, we noticed my lobster was dark dark red, almost black. Not a good sign. After 3 attempts to crack the claw (note: I work out and am pretty strong), I handed the claw across the table and asked for an assist. After two tries, my companion was able to crack it. The meat was waaaayyyy overcooked. Dry, almost powdery. Some of the pieces in his roll were overcooked as well.

I flagged down the host, and she swapped out my lobster for a plate some of roll meat. It was slightly better, though some pieces were soggy and icy, others overcooked.

As we were leaving, we noticed the absence of a line out the door.
Our dinner was $70 (the only drink was a diet Coke). At these prices, I expect the lobster to be perfectly cooked. The whole experience left a bad taste in my mouth (literally and figuratively).

We've had similar experiences two out of our last three visits. After years of visiting OPLS, this former-Bostonite won't be returning anytime soon.

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  1. is this from the redwood city branch or the woodside branch?

    1. We went to the Woodside branch (counter service only) about a month ago and the lobster in the lobster rolls was definitely overcooked. Chowder was fine.

      1. This was the Redwood City location. It has gone downhill considerably. Clearly the guys in the back have not been taught how to properly cook a lobster. Not even close. We had been occasional visitors since it opened and it could be hit or miss but now it's a consistent miss.

        1 Reply
        1. re: ChewChew

          That's super sad. Come back, OPLS!

        2. Super sad as well to hear this. We'd come to expect it at the Portola Valley (not Woodside) location, but thought the original was a safe bet. When OPLS expanded to Napa and to San Francisco, it quickly failed in both sites due to horrible quality control.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Melanie Wong

            They expanded to Napa and SF? That's news to me. I don't see any mention of it on the site or on the web. They were slated to expand to Cupertino, but that never happened.

            I'd definitely bring the subpar food to the owner's (Russell's) attention. He's generally really attentive, and it's unbecoming for Lobster Shack to slip up like this. They ought to know if they're really unaware of it since there are few alternatives as-is.

              1. re: Jon914

                We plan to do that. We met Russell when he opened the RWC location and he struck us as someone who wants to get the details right.

            1. Yesterday I met a resident of Redwood City who had some interesting angles on OPLS that perhaps others might corroborate. First off, he encouraged letting the owner know about the problems.

              Then his theory for some of the drop off in quality is that other than items that must be cooked a la minute, much of the food is prepared in an off-site commercial kitchen (e.g., chowder) and has lost a little something in the translation. Also, much of the energy seems to be devoted to the food truck, ShackMobile.

              I learned that BBQ cook from Woodchuck BBQ (closed) is working at OPLS now, manning the Ole Hickory smoker.

              My old post on the St Louis style ribs, would love to hear if they're still good.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Melanie Wong

                It's interesting that you mention the truck. I frequented it quite a bit when it made regular stops on the peninsula during weekdays. It still goes out, but mainly on weekends to Piccetti Winery in the Cupertino hills. They dropped the weekday lunch shifts because they struggled to get enough business (I witnessed this because for a time, I had it every week).

                During that time, I also got to hear a bit about how running the truck took a lot of effort, and how they had to get up earlier in the morning to do all the prep work for the truck, which apparently differed from that for the restaurant. So in a way, it did sap some of their resources (plus Russell and his main host, Shay, traded off on manning it for a while), but they've now scaled back on it.

                The quality was about the same as the restaurant (lobster rolls, chowder, bisque, mac & cheese), but at a lower price point and without the hassle, so I'm a bit sad that they scaled down that effort relative to before, but I totally understand why.

              2. I was there (Redwood City) a few weeks ago and had a lobster roll, my usual order. I did not detect any change in quality, tho I did note that my order was delivered extremely fast, within 5 minutes of placing the order. I got there early, around 5:30 or so and when I left, the line was much longer.

                1. My brother reports that his ribs were underdone, which is kind of unusual as the usual fault at BBQ places is overcooking. Anyway, they're cooked offsite and then reheated when you order.

                  1. OPLS is opening up a new location in Valley Fair according to an alcoholic beverage application posted in the central area.

                    Valley Fair is in the midst of a sitewide renovation project, and the food court is being taken more upscale. Along with OPLS, a new location of the Super Duper burger chain will also be coming in.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Jon914

                      The new location in Westfield Valley Fair in San Jose opened on Friday. Hope it has a better quality control than the previous expansion efforts. Interestingly, the FB page showed a photo of an oyster bar at this location,

                      Here's more about all the food court offerings,

                      1. re: Melanie Wong

                        I actually did at the grand opening and was one of the first customers that day. To my surprise, the food was fine considering that it was grand opening. The chowder was creamier than I remember and more generous with the clams. The roll was fine - not the best I've ever had from OPLS but not off/wrong like described above. They provide a bag of Lays instead of Kettle chips, but everything else is identical. Haven't tried any of the deep-fried stuff or the oysters yet.

                        Pricing is the same as the original, but tax is included. Got the order fulfilled in just minutes.

                        Overall, smooth sailing this time, more than I could say for some of the other stands we got small bites from - those had some service and prep blips you tend to see on day 1.

                    2. Does anyone know what became of the Peninsula foothill location (Los Altos on Homestead near 280, next to a Trader Joe's)?

                      It had posted "coming soon" signs seemingly for years.

                      1. OLPS has come up twice on restaurant roulette, and the line has been out the door. After 10 minutes of waiting with no line motion, we moved to greener pastures. I wish I could tell you what I think of it!

                        1. Thanks for the tip / update, it used to be great place. Sad to hear going downhill abet to probably make more profit from the consumer!

                          1. Visited, one data point, didn't find anything amiss.

                            As a new-englander for some of my life, I've road-tripped to maine from boston for some of that succulent, succulent lobster. I've had clams on the beach in Rhode Island.

                            OPLS seemed "fine".

                            What boggled the mind was prices. $20 for a roll. $20 for a basket of clams.

                            Were the clams just right? Well, I do like my clams cooked a touch more, but the taste was spot-on. Not greasy, low breading quotient. I don't know why there's no clam roll.

                            Was the lobster just right? Yes. Nothing was black or shriveled, taste was just right.

                            Was the atmosphere pleasant? Sure, if sitting on a parking lot overlooking a fast food burger joint is pleasant.

                            But, man, $70 out-the-door for two people, for what I consider cheap beach food. A bit shocking.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: bbulkow

                              Was there enough sweet and fresh lobster meat, presumably from a live lobster from the tank, to justify the $20 roll? Sounds like the answer was no?

                              1. re: vincentlo

                                It's hard to make that value judgement.

                                There was a LOT of fresh, sweet meat.

                                But $20 is a LOT of money.

                                I just spent a minute trying to see what maine lobster rolls sell for in Maine... and every place says "Market price" but I bet they're often $20, looking at the menus.

                                Looking at the pictures, it's about what I got at OPLS.

                                Maybe I just have to adjust from 30-year-old prices.