When Nick Badovinus dreams of the quintessential lobster roll, he dreams of freckled, rosy hunks slathered in butter, cradled in a warm, griddled, split-top brioche bun.
He dreams, in other words, of something simply luxurious. We didn’t know we needed that vision. Apparently, we did.
With his new Yo! Lobster in Highland Park Village, which opened last November, Badovinus brought exactly this quintessence to our land-locked city, a Washington-state native doing an East Coast darling.
For him, it’s all about simplicity.
It’s a classic he first “discovered” as a self-described bright-eyed and bushy-tailed chef at The Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek years ago, under Dean Fearing.
Now, at the new restaurant in his old Perfect Union Pizza location, where the menu also covers a cold seafood bar, cioppino fish stew, fish and chips, and his hallmark burgers, he’s preparing it with a deft poach. You can choose classic Connecticut- or Maine-style, chilled and dressed in mayo, with a side of Old Bay-seasoned fries or creamy coleslaw. (I could not, I should say, get over the ultra-creamy coleslaw with its tarragon and other fines herbes.) He riffs on the standard: chicken-fried as a Texas homage; slathered in Louisiana voodoo sauce; or given a bit of California cool with avocado and sauce Louie to play on West Coast crab Louie.
Even the riffs require no more than three ingredients—avocado, tomato, sauce Louie; or bacon, buttermilk-herb dressing, and jalapeño—dependent wholly on impeccable-quality ingredients.
Buttery and luxurious—certainly. Decadent as all get-out—absolutely. With a price-tag to match—naturally. The one adage seems to be “Keep it simple.” As anyone who also fantasizes about them knows, it doesn’t take much.
“We love seafood. I love lobster rolls. There’s not much more to it than that,” he says. (Though I’d beg to differ. These beauties invite us to consider the lobster. No avant-garde soul-searching necessary.)
It’s also an escape to the coast. As with most Badovinus concepts, he espouses “a certain type of escapism. We always try to do places that are a little transportational, that take you somewhere else,” Badovinus says.
In this case, “going out to the East Coast wasn’t [necessarily] going to be something people were up for. And that presented an opportunity.” And so, for a moment, the small audacity opens to “take people somewhere else and let them indulge in something that isn’t readily available here. That is kind of a break. That is kind of escapist. That is transportational.”
As for his own lobster-roll preference, “I am a Connecticut versus a Maine guy because I love just warm butter—period—on anything,” he says. “Just warm butter, a little bit of lemon, salt, and big ol’ chunks of lobster on a butter-toasted roll. It’s pretty tough to beat.”