No two visits to The Lobster Trap (35 Patton Ave, Asheville; $17-$49) have to be the same but, in my opinion, there are two requirements for every trip: oyster shooters and lobster macaroni & cheese. Fill in the rest however you please. Even if you disregard my recommendations, I dare say you will not be disappointed. In two trips to this downtown Asheville institution, I certainly have not.
On the most recent outing back in May, the group decided to attempt The Lobster Trap Feast – a smorgasbord of menu offerings fit for a party of four to six (our party included eight, myself and two others going out on our own to explore the menu). The seemingly never-ending arrival of food to the table is impressive, if not overwhelming. It begins with the oysters, pulled from a selection of locales and prepared to your preferred temperature, cooked or raw. Cups of soup or bisque soon follow, paving the way for the main event, a smattering of crustaceans, mussels and clams. A selection of sides for this group begins and ends with lobster macaroni and cheese, possibly with a vegetable somewhere in there to placate the carbohydrate overload.
I’m not a lobster guy1, but I do enjoy seafood. Over two separate trips to The Lobster Trap I’ve tried their crab cakes, the aforementioned lobster mac & cheese, and, most recently, grilled tuna accompanied by the superfood du jour, avocado2, and matching drizzle. I ordered the tuna rare and it arrived as near to perfection as I could detect. To put it succinctly, the food was spot on.
Not to be outdone by the kitchen, the bar offers a wide variety of cocktails, even putting their own spin on a few classics. This group has been on a bourbon kick lately, and many of the custom offerings, sounding like unique yet familiar concoctions3, catered perfectly to our tastes. The Lobster Trap is also associated with its own brewery, though I don’t think any of us took a dip. I’ve already mentioned the oyster shooters, which are fantastic.
The Lobster Trap is smallish, and is certainly not quiet. The staff is very pleasant and accommodating – the hostess took a cell phone number and offered to call us to let us know when our table was ready, allowing us to pre-game around downtown Asheville while we waited. The eight of us sat reasonably comfortable at one of their large booth tables, with one person at the end. The atmosphere is rustic without feeling old; modern materials intended to look old adorning the room.
Someone once asked me why we eat. Unguarded and let down by my inner Admiral Ackbar4, I fumbled through an apathetic, yet ill-fated response. Emboldened by my failure, my antagonist proceeded to lecture me on food’s vital role as an energy source for our bodies and our collective over-dependence on food as a source of pleasure5. But, to me, this is an overly simplistic view of the relationship between food and the human experience. If we are all just machines, mechanical processes dependent on optimized input and output for the most efficient operation, then yes, food is just fuel. But we’re not. We are human, designed to experience pleasure, to fellowship with each other and, when possible, share our experiences with each other. I’ve been fortunate to be in great company every time I’ve visited The Lobster Trap, but being complicit in that experience is no small feat. As easy as it may be to serve as the backdrop for that experience, it can be just as easy to ruin it. The Lobster Trap nails it, providing a great atmosphere, pleasant and accommodating staff, and fantastic food to top it off.
- It falls into a category I call “Things I Don’t Need to Know I Like”.↩
- I am among the smitten.↩
- Our waitress claimed authorship of one of the drinks (Smokey Eye).↩
- “It’s a trap.” ↩
- Later that evening, he proceeded to wrestle with our waiter over the limited, perhaps even non-existent, gluten-free options on the Applebee’s menu. In 2003. ↩