Over the years one finds that some of the best places to eat are not fancy; sometimes border lining on being considered a dump. One such hidden gem is tucked away in a strip mall on Hillsborough Avenue right before entering Oldsmar. Lobster Haven Seafood Market and Restaurant is not much to look at, but if you are homesick for New England or just love seafood simply prepared, this is the place for you.
The décor may be off putting at first – Concrete floors and mismatched chairs with tables fill 2 dining rooms. Lobster tanks in back, freezer cases and a counter make up the seafood market. The one nice touch is the Maine memorabilia – funny lobster art, photos of Maine lighthouses and several lighthouse figurines. I asked a server about them one day and she said they were given to the restaurant by a lady who was cleaning out her house.
Run by a transplanted Bostonian, the lobsters are flown in fresh from Maine. While not as good as being in Maine or Boston to eat fresh caught, it does ok. I lived in Maine for 4 years, so it works fine for me when I get a craving for comfort food. You can eat in (highly recommended), take out or purchase seafood and fish to prepare at home.
Service is sometimes slow, but taking time isn’t always a bad thing. Order drinks – tea, sodas including ones from Maine and wine and various beers that are available.
Order the Lobster chowder (chowda to you New Englanders). This is not a bisque like other restaurants serve. Thick, creamy and stunning with the amount of lobster in it. No scrimping here. It’s a decadent treat, especially on a rare cold Florida day. It’s so filling, it could be a meal in itself. The toasted bread and butter is downright habit forming. For those who don’t like lobster, clam chowder is equally creamy and filling.
For New England flavor, several menu items fit the bill. Try the various “bucket” dinners as well as the lobster dinners. The bucket dinners come with lobster and various seafood (steamer clams, mussels, shrimp, etc). All dinners come with corn on the cob and steamed red skin potatoes. For lighter appetites, the Chix Lobster is just the right size.
Don’t miss trying the Lobster Rolls. There are two versions – the familiar one mixed lightly with mayo and the U-Conn which is served with melted butter. Visiting Maine one year, I discovered the natives go for the butter version. Both are served on a New England style hot dog bun – less crust, more dough or request it served on a lettuce leaf for gluten free eating. Served with cole slaw, potato or macaroni salad and kettle chips. Get it with the Lobster Chowder. Wicked good!
Watch for occasional menu offerings such as the New Orleans seafood dinner. My dining companion loves the spicy flavors enhancing the seafood.
There are a few menu choices for those who don’t like or are allergic to shellfish.
Con #1 – Many people find the menu pricey. Anyone visiting New England will find the same prices or higher. Check their website for specials. A Groupon makes dining here truly affordable.
The other con – Crowds seem to run in waves. I was the only one in the place at 1pm on a weekday. If there are specials (Monday is Snow Crab Night), there can be quite a few diners. Naturally more crowded on weekends and crazy busy on Fridays during Lent. It is a great place to end the weekend. I’ve seen quite a few beach goers dine there on Sunday evenings. Good seafood and you don’t have to dress up.