The Lobster Trap
5300 North Park Drive
For three years, I have driven by the Lobster Trap Restaurant on the banks of the Cooper River in Pennsauken nearly every day. I have parked in the parking lot they share with the playground so many times, I have lost count. But I have never had a desire to stop in and eat there. The outside of the restaurant is a little shack looking – like a snack bar on the beach kind of feel. It really looks like you could walk out of Cooper River, all Creature from the Black Lagoon looking, and walk right up to the restaurant and eat. And who wants to eat next to the Creature from the Black Lagoon?
So we are a year away from our middle daughter’s First Holy Communion. For the oldest daughter’s celebration of her First Holy Communion, we went to Yesterday’s, located on the Intracoastal Waterway in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. Well, we lived there then, and there were any number of restaurants to choose from with a waterfront view. I was hoping we would find something just as nice here, with an interesting view, and as we were walking around Cooper River during a regatta a couple of weeks ago, we thought it might be worth looking into the Lobster Shack, um, I mean Trap after all.
Can I just say that you could have knocked me over with a feather when we walked in late last Thursday night for our dinner. You walk across the boardwalk entry ramp into a restaurant that is bright, crisp and clean looking. Simple but elegant in decor, I am quite surprised at how busy this place is at this hour. It is almost 9 PM when we walk in, and there is still a pretty good dinner crowd.
We are offered a table in the dining room or out on the deck, and even though it’s too dark to really see or appreciate the view of the river during our meal, Jim asks for a deck table. We have our middle daughter with us, and even though the deck has heavy plastic “walls” keeping the cool evening breeze out, she is cold from the ceiling fans. The deck itself is adorable, if a little kitzchy. The wooden frame is adorned with white twinkle lights, and decorated heavily with silk plants. There is plenty of room out here for a party of our size (we are estimating anywhere from 25 - 40 people), and the manager tells us that he can keep an area separate for a larger party, even while he still seats other diners out here.
I am a little taken aback by the prices listed on the menu. Having recently eaten at the more upscale McCormick & Schmick’s, the Lobster Trap prices seem a little steep even compared with the fresh menu from McCormick & Schmick’s. We see a range of prices that go from $20 for chicken and shrimp or chicken stuffed with crab to $45 for King crab and lobster tail. I’m on a scallop kick, so I order the grilled sea scallops ($22.50). That’s when I find out that you also get a soup or salad, a potato, and a vegetable with the meal, so it really makes it seem much more reasonably priced than it did a minute ago. I order mine with salad, as the only soup offering is New England clam chowder, which can be a bit tough to eat after gastric bypass surgery. I opt for the baked potato and grilled vegetables. Eilis selects the flounder, which is broiled with lemon and butter for $18.50. She also chose the salad and had french fries and apple sauce as her side dishes. Jim had the special of the night, which was a Chilean sea bass, and ordered the clam chowder, garlic mashed potatoes and roasted vegetables. We start the meal with one of Eilis’ favorites – fried calamari. At $10.50, the platter was piled high with lightly breaded rings of calamari and a delicious marinara sauce. Some of the calamari was a little tough to chew, which is more of an issue for me post operatively than it is for anyone else at the table, but we manage to scarf down the appetizer in short order.
Our super friendly waitress brings a warm loaf of soft, delicious bread that Eilis and Jim both enjoy enough to want to bring the leftovers home with them, if there are any leftovers! Jim only drinks water with his meals, and the waitress is very quick to refill his glass, which is a big plus in his book.
Eilis flounder is delivered, and looks and smells delicious. She digs right in and enjoys the broiled to perfection fish so much that she all but ignores the big mountain of fries on the plate next to her. The fish is perfectly seasoned, and the portion is pretty generous, but the fries are DELICIOUS! I know, I know, you’re saying “What the heck is she doing eating fries after gastric bypass surgery? What a fat ass!” Get over yourself. It’s not like I gobbled down the whole plate. I merely sampled the fries, which were crispy on the outside, tender on the inside, and boasted just the right amount of salt. No ketchup needed to hide the taste of these fries! The apple sauce didn’t get eaten, except a quick bite for Eilis to determine it tasted funny.
Jim’s Chilean sea bass is beautifully presented alongside a heaping portion of the garlic mashed potatoes. This is a wonderful piece of fish. Thick and delicately flavored, this is easily the highlight of the table. He eyes my baked potato and suddenly does not remember ordering garlic mashed potatoes, but he says they are good and gets through a good amount of them before getting too full.
My scallops arrive in what looks like a spun sugar bowl – except it’s more of a string potato type thing. It’s very pretty, but I don’t taste it because I know I’m not going to have room as it is for the good sized portion of scallops. I am a little disappointed that the flavor of the scallops doesn’t quite match the two fish dishes. They are a little bland, and I add my own salt, but the potato is steaming hot and light and fluffy; while the grilled vegetables are a nicely seasoned assortment that are really enjoyable.
By the time we finish with our meal, Eilis is cold and we are all stuffed. We grab the info on the banquet menu, and we are warned that because our event is a year away, with the way prices are going up, there is a good likelihood that the prices on the current menu will not be honored next year at this time.
We enjoyed the meal overall, and the interior of the location was a very pleasant surprise. On a scale of 1-5, I would say the Lobster Trap is a solid 3, with some things (french fries) definitely scoring higher. The service was pleasant, the atmosphere is comfortable and relaxed, and this is definitely on the list for the First Holy Communion party.