STORY WRITTEN BY LEN LEAR
For 21st Century Media
The restaurant industry is fueled to an extent by trends, and there is probably no hotter trend these days than the lobster roll. An article was posted June 10 on zagat.com titled “The 16 Best Lobster Rolls in Philly,” and this fish dish is shore-ly showing up on so many menus these days that zagat.com could easily post another article, if they choose to, on “The Second Best 16 Lobster Rolls in Philly.”
A traditional lobster roll is a sandwich filled with lobster meat, soaked in butter and served on a hot dog bun with the opening on the top. As far back as 1970, chopped lobster meat heated in drawn butter was served on hot dog buns at roadside stands in Maine. Although lobster rolls have been associated with Maine ever since then, they have also been fairly common for about 25 years or so in the other New England states and on Eastern Long Island, where lobster fishing is common. They have been virtually unheard of in landlocked regions like much of the Midwest, where fresh lobster is more expensive and more difficult to obtain.
Restaurateurs are always looking for something new to give them a competitive edge, however, and in the past couple of years, aided by our proximity to New England, lobster rolls have popped up on local menus about as often as tulips in April.
Jeremy McCann, 35, who has a degree in finance from McGill University in Montreal but who now lives in South Jersey, decided to put his own spin on the lobster roll craze, so he put together a group of area investors, most of them Main Liners but none of whom had any restaurant experience, and on Jan. 20 of this year they opened Quincy’s Original Lobster Rolls, which they call a “fast-casual and family-friendly experience,” in the Swedesford Plaza at 414 W. Swedesford Road in Berwyn.
“Our goal is to be like a vacation spot at the Jersey shore,” said McCann. “We were waiting for a location in the Gateway Shopping Center because there is so much foot traffic there, but we were told we would have to wait for a year for a vacancy, and we were anxious to get going as soon as possible. We want to prove that the concept works. On the first day we were open, someone came in and bought the first lobster roll, and I was excited. I said, ‘Wow, they bought it!’”
Quincy’s (the name is supposed to remind people of Cape Cod, Newport, Nova Scotia, etc.) menu features a classic lobster roll, packed with fresh, tender Maine lobster meat, as well as a “Maine Liner” roll featuring a chilled lobster salad. All the food is shipped overnight from Maine. Each selection is priced at a reasonable $10.95 and served on a lightly buttered, griddle-toasted New England-style split-top bun. You can add Cape Cod chips and a non-alcoholic beverage to any of the meal selections for $3.
Want extra lobster? Ask for “Wicked Style” for an additional $5. Other menu items include Maine lobster bisque, New England clam chowder and a “landlubbers” children’s menu. For a different spin patrons can sample the “No-carb lobster boats,” BLT roll (bacon lobster and tomato), lobster grilled cheese or a Chatham salad with chilled lobster. And for those who can’t make up their mind, “Quincy’s Sampler,” is a taste of three different rolls in one basket ($16.95). Our own favorite dishes were the clam chowder and the lobster grilled cheese. Our least favorite was the lobster bisque.
“You can’t make this food cheap,” said Jeremy. “The ingredients are expensive, but we do feel we are offering great value for the money. You could not go to the supermarket and get these ingredients and make these lobster rolls for what you pay here.” For dessert, Quincy’s features “Wicked Whoopie Pies,” a Maine specialty ($2.95) that’s been spotlighted on Oprah, the Food Network and Rachael Ray. They are definitely NOT “health food.”
A harbor theme is reflected in the restaurant’s décor, featuring boardwalk-like floors, weathered windows and a full-length wall mural that reflects a harbor overlooking the water. There are no corny knick-knacks on the walls, lobster traps, fish nets, etc. Menu items are posted on an HD flat screen at the front counter, and daily specials are promoted at the counter chalkboard. Patrons can see their food items on a screen at the counter as their order is being placed.
Quincy’s offers dining in and take-out options and welcomes phone orders. Larger trays are available for corporate catering. While you order at the counter, the food is delivered to your table, and clean-up is handled by the staff. After 4 p.m. Quincy’s includes candlelit tables and BYOB service, although there no ice buckets. About 60 people can be seated indoors, and there is some outdoor seating as well.
The property was previously a bicycle rental shop. “Our goal is to open other Quincy’s.” said Jeremy, “but knowing what I know now, I would not open another restaurant in a property that was not previously used as a restaurant. There are too many permits and other things you have to go through, but the township was relatively helpful and supportive. They were sticklers for rules but helpful. I have heard horror stories from other restaurant owners, and we did not have any of that. I have so much respect now for restaurant owners, knowing how much work is involved, even if your menu only has a small number of items … I thought lunch would be about 80 percent of our business, but it has turned out to be about 50/50 between lunch and dinner.”
For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.quincysoriginal.com.