Marc Cassel and his wife, Suzan Fries, share responsibility for the finest Maine-style lobster roll in North Texas. At their East Dallas restaurant, 20 Feet Seafood Joint, Fries bakes the light challah bread rolls daily and Cassel cooks the pound-and-a-quarter lobsters in water that mimics the salinity of the sea, even going so far as to add seaweed to make it more “ocean-y.” After that, each bun is buttered and griddled, and the lobster meat is tossed with a little mayonnaise, a pinch of salt and pepper, and lemon juice and zest. The result is a roll that is remarkably cold, sweet, and salty—and surprisingly straightforward. “The temptation to chef this up was huge,” Cassel says. “But Suzan was the voice of reason. We keep it simple.”
D Magazine: You take your lobster roll pretty seriously. Tell us how you perfected your cooking techniques.
Marc Cassel: When my daughter graduated from Wellesley, Sue and I spent about a week up in New England checking out all the summer shacks. At Woodman’s in Essex, Mass., we found that they cooked their lobster in seawater they pumped in from the estuary behind the restaurant. Suzan talked with the cook for a while and observed his technique. We tried to mimic their method by cooking them in salted water that approximated the ocean salinity and added the seaweed the lobsters come packed in. It took a little trial and error to get the timing right, but we think we’ve nailed it!
D: Suzan experimented with different types of bread. What kind of research did she do and how did you settle on the final product?
MC: Suzan experimented with several dough recipes but the real trick was finding one that wasn’t so rich that it overshadowed the lobster itself. We settled on a challah type of dough, similar (loosely) to brioche. We think this housemate roll compliments the lobster nicely.
D: I understand most of your customers are happy with your Maine version. What happens when someone from Connecticut comes in? Can you explain the difference between the two versions?
MC: Yes, over 90 percent of our guests order it the way we serve it which is cold lobster dressed simply in a lemon zest mayo on a toasted roll. We are happy to serve it with warmed lobster meat and drawn butter for those that of that [Connecticut] school of thought.
D: You both stepped away from fine dining to offer fine seafood in a downhome atmosphere. After almost five years, how do you feel about your decision?
MC: Great! Our guests really like our BYOB (policy). Also, we have a dog friendly patio and raise money in-house for both The Love Pit, a pitbull rescue where we got our latest dog the adorable Paisley, and Elizabeth Dry’s POP Garden. POP is a community garden built in several elementary schools (Bayles is in our neighborhood) where kids are taught how to grow, future, and harvest healthy vegetables in a near food desert. Elizabeth is awesome! Other than that we are a relaxing place with a killer playlist and a friendly, helpful staff.