Yankee Lobster | Boston, MA
All in the Family
When Yankee Lobster moved into Boston's Seaport area in 1999, you mostly found fishermen and blue-collar workers in the area. Few businesses drew locals or tourists so it wasn't a big destination. But as a 50-year-old business that had already moved a few times in its existence, they knew if they put out a good product, people would find them. However, what the Zanti family didn't know at the time was this move would be one of the smartest decisions in the company's history as the Seaport grew up around them quickly over the next nearly 20 years.
These days, the Seaport comprises a number of hotels, great restaurants, condo buildings and tourist attractions, and Yankee Lobster has gone from being mostly a retail space where people would grab a lobster roll while they waited for their order, to having lines down the block full of people grabbing a table to dine.
Yankee Lobster is a no-frills seafood spot with kitschy décor and a small retail operation that prides itself on having great customer service. In fact, everyone who gets hired there goes through a pretty extensive training to ensure everyone can help a customer whenever they need it.
"We take pride in what we're cooking and the employees who come here go through a pretty intense training to make sure the customer gets the best experience," said Frank Zanti, Yankee Lobster's assistant general manager and a fourth-generation family member working in the business. "We go into knowledge about seafood, beer and more. Everyone gets trained the same way so anyone can answer customers' questions. The customer can get that experience no matter who they're talking to."
That experience, where people come from all over to the small 35-seat fast-casual restaurant (with a 40-seat patio in warm weather) to get clam chowder and lobster bisque, whole steamed lobster, fish and chips, crab cakes and cod cakes, fish stew, three different kinds of lobster rolls (yes, they have traditional with herbed mayo, but they also have a deep-fried lobster roll with Old Bay seasoning) and, of course, the now-famous lobster mac and cheese served with cole slaw that was featured on the Food Network's Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives With Guy Fieri in 2012.
Being featured on the Food Network catapulted the Yankee Lobster to another level. People started flocking to the restaurant for the mac and cheese and would also try other dishes. It led to the restaurant getting awards and accolades, including being named with the best lobster roll from Boston magazine in 2016. This year, the Boston Red Sox named Yankee Lobster's lobster roll the official roll at Fenway Park and it will be available in about 10 concessions and in premium seating.
In addition to the spotlight, what makes the experience of eating at Yankee Lobster even better is that much of the seafood comes from next door at Commercial Lobster, the family's wholesale business, where fresh seafood arrives daily. There, about 12 large tanks with filtered water pumped in from Boston Harbor hold fresh, live lobster and other seafood hold so everything is super fresh. And people can get tours of that side of the operation.
"If you want a two-pound lobster or a lobster roll, they're coming from those tanks in the back," Zanti said. "Everything is picked to order. We're bringing in all fresh fish. We pick all our own crab and lobster meat. We try to be as local and sustainable as possible."
After nearly 70 years, it looks like they know what they're doing.