Finding the perfect lobster roll in Maine could be like finding California’s best taco truck, the classic deep dish of Chicago, or the best pastrami sandwich in New York.
“It’s almost a cult thing,” said Shawn Whitney, owner of Morgan’s Lobster Shack and Fish Market in Truckee.
Originally from New England, Shawn and his wife Heather are bringing classic East Coast eats to the Truckee Tahoe area at Morgan’s Lobster Shack and Fish Market.
The “East Coast ski bums” opened their restaurant June 28 to serve up something new and unique for West Coasters, and provide a taste of home for Easterners.
THE LOBSTER ROLL
Shawn believes the beauty of the lobster roll lies in its simplicity:
Large chunks of butter-soaked lobster should fill a toasted bun spread with some light mayonnaise, all topped with a squeeze of lemon.
Because “it’s all about the buns,” Shawn special orders his from the East Coast.
Shawn also calls the lobster docks of Maine at 6 a.m. daily to put in his order. The fish is flown in directly and delivered to Morgan’s Lobster Shack on West River Street six days a week.
Lobster, scallops, halibut, swordfish, salmon, and shrimp are some of the seafood available for purchase through the fish market, or for eating in-house. Morgan’s offers any fish, prepared any way.
“If you only like one fish you can come in and have it 30 different ways,” Shawn said.
Morgan’s uses local ingredients in its salads and boasts of house-made pickles, salmon cakes, and poke.
“I’m addicted to the poke and ceviche,” said Kim Mynatt. “I bring it home and slice fresh avocado on it.”
While talking with some repeat customers and friends, Shawn admitted to having a steak recently “after eating fresh fish 21 days in a row.”
BRINGING EAST OUT WEST
Heather comes from Maine and from a long line of fishermen and lobstermen. Named for her father, Morgan’s Lobster Shack is adorned with buoys and netting, old lobster traps and photos of Bailey Island.
“What better way than to have photos from home?” Heather said of her restaurant’s décor.
Many customers from the East Coast feel at home right away at Morgan’s. Ordering fresh seafood out of a small shack, with lines of people out the door, is a common experience in New England.
“We all remember what it was,” said Shawn. “It brings back a lot of memories for people who grew up around it.”
Shawn and Heather do bring some West to their Eastern fare. The California Lobster Roll is served with Siracha and avocado because, Shawn said, “a little heat — that’s California, and avocado — that’s always California too.”
A FAST, FRESH START
Since opening just a few weeks ago, Shawn and Heather have nearly quadrupled their number of employees. They say it isn’t uncommon to go through 40 pounds of fish in just two days.
“It’s been fun,” Heather said. “Exhausting but fun. It’s so surreal.”
Now with head chef Michael Plapp, the restaurant plans to offer cooking classes and catering in the future.
“Without a good chef you don’t have anything,” said Shawn of Michael.
“I think we sold him on what we’re doing and the simplicity of life.”
The kitchen and counter space are small, but, Shawn said, “That’s the charm of this place. He prefers his restaurant to be ‘family style’ and simple, where one can see the whole kitchen.
“It’s wide open, there are no guessing games,” he said.
Morgan’s doesn’t take reservations but adheres to a first-come first-serve style, often times leaving the restaurant with standing room only.
On the stone patio in the back there are wrought iron tables and reclaimed wood picnic tables, complete with condiments like malt vinegar for fish and chips.
The purpose of the hanging Ziploc bags, filled with water, may stump some, but Heather says they are an East Coast trick to keep flies away.
Reno residents Tom Fountain and Michelle Kling happened upon Morgan’s while visiting Truckee last week.
After enjoying a lobster kale salad, scallops and a lobster roll, Tom decided to take shrimp and scallops home to try his hand at sautéing the seafood.
“It’s nice to see a place where I can get fresh fish,” he said. “And know that it is good quality.”
Morgan’s Lobster Shack and Fish Market is open 11:30-8 p.m. daily.
“It brings back a lot of memories for people who grew up around it.”