Foodies Go Crazy For Underground Brooklyn Lobster Roll

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If you're itching for some good 'ol New England seafood, no need to spend hours on I-95. A Boston native's underground lobster business is shaking up Brooklyn's seafood scene.

Chowhounds heard about it through the grapevine -- just phone in your order via Ben Sargent's cell phone for a homemade lobster roll prepared in his own Greenpoint basement kitchen.

Sargent, 32, started the unlicensed business in October. From 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., he serves freshly cut Maine lobster, bought from the Red Hook Lobster Pound, on freshly toasted buns.

Customers simply call his cell phone asking for the lobster guy, and "contribute" $14 to his "dinner parties."

Sargent, who would not disclose how many rolls he sells, said it all stared when he began exploring different recipes with friends. As rave reviews spread, friends of friends -- and then complete strangers -- called, e-mailed and inquired on Facebook.

The New Englander moved to Brooklyn ten years ago and opened the now-closed seafood joint, Hurricane Hopeful. Over the years, his seafood business has evolved from unofficial, to official to underground. He says his biggest frustration with New York is that restaurateurs try to get too fancy.

"It took me a few years to learn that if you just stick to the things you're good at, people who really care -- who come from Maine, Massachusetts, coastal spots who've had a lobster roll on the side of the road -- they might just be like, 'That guy's doing it right.'"

Sargent's rolls are designed to be a three-bite slider -- made of chunks of lobster meat, never minced. He also boasts that he uses less mayo than most, topped with Old Bay seasoning.

Sadly, it may be too late to get your claws on a roll.

"Stupid me, I sort of opened my mouth... The fire department came is morning. They know me! There were ten of them on my doorstep this morning and they were [shaking their heads] 'Ben, Ben, Ben...'"

For the time being, Sargent's business is on the back burner. But keep your antennas up -- "I honestly never thought I'd have to go further underground with this," he laughs. "I don't want to let people down yet again."

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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