The owners of Dock and Roll Diner, a trailer that specializes in lobster rolls, recently returned from the Lobster Rumble competition in New York. Although they did not come home with any medals from the prestigious competition, they arguably came back with something better – a new muse for their menu.
While Lee Krassner and his business partners were in the Northeast, they decided to take a trip to Maine and meet the guys at Ready Seafood, a renowned lobster company in Portland. “They supply some of the most high-end restaurants up on the northeastern seaboard,” Krassner said. “Up where they are, it’s some of the best, if not the best lobster.”
Their former supplier was more commercialized than they wanted for their customers, Krassner said, which preempted the visit to see what Ready Seafood could offer. After a cruise on one of their lobster boats and a tour of their facilities, Dock and Roll knew they had found a real catch. “They’re about sustainability and quality and traceability, things that attracted us to them beyond that they’re great guys,” Krassner said.
The relationship has inspired four new menu items, including the Lobster Peaux Boy, filled with panko-crusted Maine lobster, New Orleans rémoulade and Mardi-slaw (shredded carrots, red cabbage, greens and grilled corn). The truck also added a Maine Jonah crab roll (Maine Jonah crab leg, secret house dressing, Romaine lettuce, lemon butter and chives), Sea Slaw (cole slaw with a seaweed crunch), and a scallop roll (quarter-sized seared scallops, scallion, house seasoning and lemon butter).
Krassner, a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education in New York, was witness to the latest lobster roll craze when restaurants like Luke’s Lobster made waves in the East Village. He and his business partners, Daniel Dennis and Adam Lewis, originally intended to open in East Hampton, but the town's laws would have made surviving as a mobile vendor difficult. Instead, the Austin natives all got on board to try their concept back home.
“Basically the inspiration was to bring home something that I had been familiarized with and seen take off in the place I used to live, knowing the culture of our two cities are very similar,” Krassner said. “Growing up here and knowing the coolness and the trends food-wise, it just seemed like people were progressive and wanting to try new things and like having new options.”
Dock and Roll Diner opened a trailer in Lakeway in August 2011 with the goal of making their rolls affordable and accessible. The idea took off and soon a second location opened in the Bouldin Creek neighborhood. They have since moved out of their Lakeway location, docking at Westlake’s Midway Food Park since last August. A third truck recently hit the streets to provide catering services. Krassner also dreams of setting anchor in a brick and mortar location, lured by the idea of a kitchen big enough to support his ideas. “We’ve had some special menu items that would be easier to keep on a full-time menu that if we had a bigger kitchen, more storage, the opportunity to serve more people,” Krassner said.
The lobster roll has certainly become a vehicle for Krassner's creativity, including the diner’s popular Real B.L.T. with smoky chicken-fried bacon and tomato. Krassner has also incorporated Asian and Mexican flavors to his menu with dishes like the Ninja Roll, which is dressed with an Umami sauce (a reduction of soy, black vinegar, ponzu, lime juice, and hoisin), and El Fuerte (grilled corn, lime, cilantro and a spicy sauce) – all starring Ready Seafood claw and knuckle lobster meat.
“The most important thing is the quality of the lobster and then the quality of the roll. Either one of them can basically make or break a good lobster roll,” Krassner said.
The quality of their new purveyor shines most in the menu’s foundational Maine Event, Dock and Roll Diner’s take on the classic lobster roll. The meat is tossed with a house dressing that lets mayonnaise off the hook and instead lets acidity brighten the lobster. Customers can also choose to get their order “naturoll,” meaning just lobster meat and a little bit of butter on a freshly baked roll from Austin’s Sweetish Hill Bakery. “Whatever the individual preference, we want to make it happen,” Krassner said.
Dock and Roll was the sole Texas business in New York’s Lobster Rumble in June, and will be representing Austin again when they compete in Los Angeles on August 1. Once they return, the owners hope to find a permanent home to continue sharing the lobster love.
Dock and Roll Diner - South First
1503 S. 1st, 512/924-1766
Sun., Tue. -Thu., 11am-3pm; Fri.-Sat., 11am-8pm
Dock and Roll Diner - Midway Food Park
1905 S. Capitol of Tx Hwy 512/571-2123
Sun.-Tue., 11am-3pm; Wed.-Thu., 11am-8pm; Fri.-Sat., 11am-9pm
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