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Restaurants

Rock Lobster (Queen West)

Posted by Liora Ipsum / Profiled on June 28, 2013 / review policy

Rock Lobster TorontoRock Lobster's new location is now open and I'm not talking about the spot on Ossington that isn't even a year old. Taking over the address from popular diner, Shanghai Cowgirl, the newest outpost of this wannabe chain seemingly popped-up in mere weeks.

It was a necessary expansion for owner Matt Pettit who started the seafood company as a pop-up at the Toronto Underground Market and parlayed the instant cult following into a corporate catering business before opening the two restaurants in the last year.

Rock Lobster TorontoThe Queen West location is at least double the size of the original and decked out in Maritime regalia and taxidermy. Pettit masterminded and executed the wood clad room himself and consigned his dad to do the "Homeward Bound" mural upfront, and buddy, Mike "Spazz" Echlin to paint scenes of hunting dogs and fly fishing.

Rock Lobster TorontoOut back, there is a massive patio that accounts for more than half of the seating and is about the closest you can get to eating lobster at a picnic table in the city.

While the menu on Ossington is quite tight, here it's doubled to include all the favourites; raw bar, lobster roll, lobster poutine, along with seafood alternatives tied together loosely by a streetside, street food kind of theme. There's maple mayo and potato chip-dusted Corn on the Cob ($7/2) and Bacon Wrapped Corn Dogs ($7/2) served with sriracha mayo and maple mustard dips.

Rock Lobster TorontoThere's also an accommodating range of prices; you could stop in for a $5 Lobster Taco or Fillet "Eh" Fish, or eat a simple but totally excellent plate of Fish and Chips for all of $12. Pettit imports his own seafood direct from fisherman on the East Coast (crab from the West) and notes that only the oysters are left in the trusty hands of Oyster Boy.

Rock Lobster TorontoTonight's main event; a Steam Whistle SteamPot ($39) is served to the table in 4-quart enamel pot. When our server sets it down and lifts the lid, it's like the plume of smoke that precedes a magic trick. There's a moment of awe as the beer infused haze diffuses to reveal the feast of crab legs, shrimp, clams and mussels all seasoned with Old Bay and steamed over corn on the cobs, red potatoes and sausage. Eating it is epic and leaves me feeling like I've accomplished some great feat.

Rock Lobster TorontoFrom the bar there's wine on tap and beer by the pint, bottle or can. The cocktail list developed by F&D director, Robin Wynne boasts the signature Rock Lobster Caesar ($12) along with some new noteworthy concoctions like tequila Slushies ($10) and the very brunch-time appropriate, Breakfast of Champions ($10), a Fruit Loop infused vodka mixed with Cointreau and cereal milk.

Rock Lobster TorontoThe new location sells Matty's tartare sauce and cocktail sauce by the jar up front, and similar to how the nearby Lisa Marie is selling take-home meats to grill, this Rock Lobster is keeping fish mongers on staff to offer raw and chilled seafoods from a retail counter.

Rock Lobster TorontoThe restaurant accepts walk-ins only, seven days a week for lunch starting at noon and dinner until at least midnight; on weekends there's brunch and if anyone out there is still pouting at the loss of Shanghai Cowgirl's late night eats, you can rejoice because Pettit plans to keep hours 'til 3am on Friday and Saturdays.

Rock Lobster TorontoPhotos by Jesse Milns

Discussion

30 Comments

sw / June 28, 2013 at 10:11 am
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Seems odd to open a second location in such close proximity to the first. I feel like the clientele that frequents the Ossington outpost are the same people that would now choose to dine at the Queen and Bathurst location instead. Maybe moving a little farther east/central would be more wise?

It's a good location, nonetheless, and I'm looking forward to sitting on that back patio (though I'll miss Shanghai Cowgirl's jalapeno grilled cheese sandwich).
Sandman replying to a comment from sw / June 28, 2013 at 10:47 am
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Not that close in proximity
tnt / June 28, 2013 at 11:06 am
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Isn't having bins full of lobster right up there for all to talk and spit in a violation of some kind of health code?Even with the 8" splash guard wall?
matt / June 28, 2013 at 11:09 am
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makes perfect sense. I hate hipsters and wouldn't set foot on osington. i would go as far as to say i'd stay on a burning streetcar and risk death rather than pull the cord when that street is called. i would go to the new location on queen however.
Finally replying to a comment from matt / June 28, 2013 at 11:14 am
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i second that notion.
Matt2 replying to a comment from matt / June 28, 2013 at 11:39 am
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Sounds like youre an over-dramatic self-hating hipster...
... replying to a comment from Matt2 / June 28, 2013 at 12:00 pm
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Or someone who knows Ossington is as awful as it sounds.
CG / June 28, 2013 at 12:11 pm
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Went to this location on my birthday and had an excellent meal! ohhh my god the corn dogs... LOBSTER CAESAR! CORN ON THE COB! *droooool* Everything was tasty. The patio is amazeballs. The drink menu has some really interesting cocktails on it among your traditional beer/spirits/wine.

You need to go here. NOW! I know I'll be back.

/twocents
Swag Butler / June 28, 2013 at 12:49 pm
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Low quality lobster dressed up in gimmicks, advertised as low price but it is actually pretty expensive as ordering several small dishes ads up (portions are quite small)

Lobster mac & cheese was very bland, cant taste the lobster and honestly KD tastes much better

Lobster rolls had too much mayo and too little meat (if you want great lobster rolls, Box Lobster on the harborfront). This was my favorite dish, but the rolls are quite small here.

Jerk Lobster was strange, lobster was soggy and tasted old with a bunch of spice to mask the blandness

Lobster poutine was pretty bland, tasted like an overpriced poutine from new york fries, again not enough lobster

I digged the decor, but it's basically a hipster joint to be seen, not for foodies
P / June 28, 2013 at 01:02 pm
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The raw bar is excellent, shrimp are delicious (although 6 for $12 is still a little pricey). Lobster deviled eggs were super good, and the fish 'eh filet was great as well, and for only $5 is a pretty sweet grab and go lunch option. I do think $14 for their lobster roll is a little pricey (the harbourfront place is $9.95 and more meaty), but I'm digging what they've done with the place and for the most part, menu additions are really good.
Dude replying to a comment from Brian / June 28, 2013 at 01:43 pm
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*there are
j-rock replying to a comment from matt / June 28, 2013 at 01:51 pm
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Yeah, because there are no hipsters on Queen west.
j-rock replying to a comment from Brian / June 28, 2013 at 01:51 pm
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I should have read this comment before posting exactly the same thing.
Ilike Food / June 28, 2013 at 02:29 pm
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If people, and I call them people because hipsters are just people, are keeping you from eating good food, I pity you.
Moi / June 29, 2013 at 11:09 am
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Well. looks flippin' good. sigh. (nice photos BlogTO :)
EricM / June 29, 2013 at 10:40 pm
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I went here for the first time this night. Forget the hipster debate, forget being over pretentious. It's a great place, with a great vibe serving some pretty great food and drinks. Thrilled about the new location and a good patio space. All the best folks and I'll be back!
TasteBud / June 30, 2013 at 01:31 pm
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Ate here last week. Pros are the ambience is nice. The waiter was sweet and attentive. The menu had a variety of seafood selection. The corn on the was surprisingly delicious. The con - Unfortunately was the lobster roll. There was like a table spoon of lobster meat in the lobster roll, and basically I was just eating bread. I'm hoping its just because it is there first month, maybe will check it out again if food trumps style.

Womblemon / July 1, 2013 at 01:47 pm
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I'll qualify myself before you read any further; these are my unsolicited thoughts on Rock Lobster and specifically their new location. I'm not an employee (past or present) nor am I a shareholder or investor in Rock Lobster, but I have patronized both locations and I do know Robin (and have met Matt). These guys (and their hand-picked teams) are at the top of their game; they work their butts off (think 18 hour days) to bring you a food and drink experience unlike any other. As a guess, they most likely have two locations within 'proximity' of each other because they are slam-jam packed most weekends and many weeknights. Seating is in demand so I don't think it's a poor business decision to open multiple locations within reach of a large number of your target customers; even if that means being within a couple km's of each other. I personally think the food is very good, maybe 7.5 out of 10, but ultimately, the experience and ambience are excellent. Rock Lobster is not a chain like Red Lobster, nor is it a higher end target like Rodneys, it is an up and coming Toronto Original (way too few) so take it for what it's worth. People of Toronto - you don't know me, and I don't know you, but if you're looking for a place to have a fun night out, try some amazingly themed cocktails (all-star team of bartenders; seriously), and try some sharing platters of seafood; then you won't be disappointed. It might not meet everyone's expectations (is that even possible?) but you won't be sorry you went; they work hard to bring you an unique experience and you'll leave with a smile.
jon / July 2, 2013 at 10:27 am
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I know I'm going to get slammed for this post but I'm going to go ahead with it anyway. I will qualify this with I will give it another chance... BUT... was there on Sunday evening fairly early. We waited for a seat on the patio and had a couple of great cocktails served by an incredibly nice and attentive waitress. We got our seat on the patio and were excited by the great vibe. This is where our experience took a turn for the worse. They were out of just about everything. The entire Raw Bar portion of the menu was not available... the lobster boil was not available nor was the beer I ordered. Fine I understand that, it happens but just a tip for Rock Lobster... Please have lobster available (it's in your name). The server on the patio was sub par and was extremely inattentive. We wound up ordering something we didn't really want and after waiting over an hour for food we gave up payed for our drinks and left... It's a shame because we live in the east end and were excited to try this place.

I will go back just not sure when.
AVC / July 6, 2013 at 12:38 pm
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Amazing! Food and service were great.
JDG / July 8, 2013 at 03:56 pm
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I ate here last week, and while the staff were wonderful - quick and attentive - and my food was prepped and delivered shockingly fast, I was pretty underwhelmed. As a few other comments indicated, the lobster didn't have much flavour, and my lobster roll was woefully under-stuffed. The lobster taco was small too, which would be forgivable if the taste was there, but it just wasn't. I may give them another shot and try the steam pot and the corn on the cob, the latter of which look delicious, but my first experience was unfortunately underwhelming.

Big thumbs up for the service, but the food just didn't measure up.
Dolores Smith / July 17, 2013 at 09:40 am
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If the restaurant supports Maritime fisheries and focuses on sustainability - is this a reason to eat there?

Canadiana is still important for patriotic Canadians!
jd / July 23, 2013 at 02:45 pm
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Ate here on the weekend. Food I would give a 7/10. Staff were great 9/10.

My only complaint is they could do with some shade on the patio.
kid kurse / August 2, 2013 at 12:01 am
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Went tonight with my lovely lady for my birthday dinner. The Keg has been my birthday dinner ritual for many years but decided to mix it up this year. So glad we did!! From the minute we walked in, till the minute I waddled myself out it was an amazing experience. Awesome staff, fantastic drink menu and unbelievable food. Will be back as soon as I can. Thanks for a great b- day!
lauren / August 8, 2013 at 12:31 pm
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absolutely amazing corn on the cob and fish and chips! the fish sandwich is also great, especially for 5 bucks! cocktails are great as well, very creative and delicious. lobster roll was a bit underwhelming for $14 dollars but the chips on the side were tasty! look forward to our next visit!
madada / August 8, 2013 at 12:49 pm
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this restaurant is horrible....would never go back.

get rid of the garbage smell on the patio, nearly unbearable.

if u want seafood you shouldnt be going here.
martin / August 27, 2013 at 04:12 pm
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I had the Lobster roll. 14 bucks!!!! with super greasy chips.
I had a Mclobster roll the same day. 7 bucks and tasty. Oh and no greasy chips. BETTER BUN
I WOULD NEVEWR RETURN TO ROCK LOBSTER.
Juna / August 28, 2013 at 11:52 pm
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It's cool, I guess, if you're into sitting extremely close to the people at the next table and not being able to hold much of a conversation because of how loud it is with other people talking right next to you. The food is alright but pretty expensive. There's just as good food for better prices at other places in the city. I like the Canadian decor though, the theme is nice. I happened to go when it was raining so maybe it would have been better on the patio.
Jane Rodgerson replying to a comment from Womblemon / October 3, 2013 at 06:52 pm
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Couldn't agree with you more. Not to be missed!
Mikey / January 25, 2014 at 10:30 am
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The Ceasar is legit. I'd go back just for that.
Another cocktail (called maple something...) was disgusting, tasted like blended rib meat, and not in a good way

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