A dream spot for surf-and-turf lovers in Hampstead
If The Dining Companion and I sat down to develop a restaurant concept that focused on our favorite foods, we would come up with a place that serves lobster and barbecue. Much to our delight, we discovered a restaurant in Hampstead that does just that.
Lobster Q in Hampstead, as they say, does surf and turf their way, with a menu that features lobster, seafood, barbecue favorites, along with sandwiches and salads.
The small, unassuming place is located in a strip mall on Route 111. I could tell when we pulled up that TDC already had reservations. We've found in our culinary adventures that restaurants in strip malls are like the boxes on the game show "Let's Make a Deal." You don't know if you're going to get a cash prize or the Zonk.
When you enter Lobster Q you walk right into the small bar/waiting area. The dining room, where we sat, is behind the bar area and was bigger than we expected, although it is still quite cozy. From looking around, and listening in on conversations between waitstaff and guests, it became obvious that this is a popular place for the "locals." The atmosphere was laid-back and friendly.
Land, sea or both
Because they offer two distinct types of cuisine, the menu is rather large. In an effort to narrow down the options, I decided I would take the seafood track this particular evening (although I was tempted by the special: Peanut Butter and Jelly Chicken Wings).
I started with the New England 'Steamahs!' ($11.99), local steamed clams with beer broth, butter and lemon. On the upside, the steamers were very tender. But while I expected a simple dish, I wish the broth had more flavor. I was disappointed I couldn't taste any of the beer and lemon. I was, however, happy dipping the steamers in the ramekin of melted butter. Melted butter makes everything better.
TDC ordered the fun sounding Coco-Loco Shrimp ($9), jumbo sized shrimp covered in a golden fried coconut batter served with a sweet and sour sauce. He said the sauce bore a resemblance to apple sauce in sweetness and texture and that the shrimp also had a pleasantly sweet taste along with a satisfying meatiness.
Continuing with the theme, I ordered the Luxurious Lobster Pie (market price, which this day was $22.99). I got exactly what I was hoping for: a whole pile of claws and tail meat with a bit of sauce and the right amount of buttery crumbs. I appreciated that the taste of the lobster shone through. It was perfectly complemented by the lobster sauce.
For dinner TDC decided to try a few things, which Lobster Q's three-meat combo platter ($20.99) allows you to do. A real plus is that they let you choose not only from the barbecue meats list, but also from the seafood options. TDC left the seafood to me, though; he picked the Fried Chicken Tenders, the Pulled Pork, and the Big Honkin' Pork Ribs. The platter is served with cornbread and two sides.
The rib meat fell off the bone, and the chicken and pulled pork were both tender and juicy. This is a huge meal that is sure to please anyone that likes variety - and leftovers, all of which were reheated and just as delicious the next day. They also let you choose from their housemade dipping sauces. TDC had a mesquite BBQ and decided to try the Carolina Lava, which is a spicy mustard sauce. There is nothing too spicy for TDC, and he's been deceived in the past by sauces with hot sounding names with nothing but tameness to follow. Not here; the Carolina Lava is more of a challenge than a sauce. It will wake up your taste buds and bring a few tears to your eyes, so be forewarned.
After all that food, we valiantly moved forward to the dessert menu. TDC opted for the Chocolate Monkey ($4.99). He was expecting something similar to chocolate mousse, as that is how it was described on the menu, but the actual dessert is more of a chocolate cake with a couple different chocolate frostings. It is served surrounded by mounds of whipped cream and all of it is covered in chocolate sauce. The dessert was fair enough, but TDC liked the name better.
I chose the gluten-free chocolate cake ($4.99), a very fudgey flourless chocolate torte. It's not often that I have to stop eating something because it is too sweet, but halfway through I had to put the fork down. Eating the cake was akin to eating a giant piece of fudge. It cried out for a sauce, perhaps raspberry, to cut through the sweetness.
One thing that sets Lobster Q apart is its beer menu. While it may not be extensive, it features some hard-to-find brews. We were invited to sample a beer Lobster Q developed with Martha's Exchange in Nashua called Rib Sticker Red, a beer with a smoky barbecue vibe. We ended up as fans.
At the end of the night we could safely say that we didn't end up with the Zonk at the strip mall. But while the concept was a winner for us, we agreed that taking two different cuisines and putting them together and doing both of them right is a challenge.
We think they were more successful with the barbecue side of the menu and would be tempted to go back to try a few more of those offerings.