Random Revisit: Old Port Lobster Shack

meter-great-Wait, wait, wait. How could I possibly “revisit” a place I’ve never been to before? Well, if you’ll recall, some time back I reviewed Portola Valley Lobster Shack. The parent (or sister, brother, uncle, etc.) company of that restaurant is actually Old Port, and so really what I’m doing here is visiting a second Old Port location.

So long Sbarro, hello Old Port.

So long Sbarro, hello Old Port.

“Truly tasty grub, now available in a crowded mall near you “

This particular location just so happens to be smack in the middle of Valley Fair mall, an absurdly complicated place to shop with the worst traffic flow in the northern hemisphere. I found myself wandering this retail purgatory the other weekend, led by my happily shopping spouse, trying to decide which clothing shop had the most comfortable “dude chairs”. (It’s Johnny Was, by the way.)

As a reward for my mall meanderings, I was corralled into Valley Fair’s newly renovated food court for a bit of lunch. Gone are the days of crappy fast food burgers, cardboard pizza, and stir fried alley cat. The new food court is filled to the brim with excellent upper-middle-range food options which, in mall terms, is like hitting the lottery. And hey! Over there, in the corner – it’s Old Port Lobster Shack. Lunch is served.

I don't understand why restaurants do this. Bread does not need to be shiny.

I don’t understand why restaurants do this. Bread does not need to be shiny.

We ordered some brisket mac & cheese and a fried popcorn shrimp roll, found a table, and waited. After only ten minutes of watching a toddler gleefully dismember an Avenger action figure, our food was ready. I picked up the brisket mac and the pulled pork sandwich and walked back to…. Waaait a damn minute. Pulled pork? Let me see that receipt again… Crap. It says pulled pork. I guess I mumbled when I ordered.

Well, no matter, everything they make is good. We didn’t feel like sitting around for another ten foodless minutes, so we just went ahead and ate. The pulled pork sandwich was, as expected, top notch. And, unlike all other mall food I have experienced in my life, it was freshly made and absolutely piping hot. The bun was disturbingly oily, or perhaps it was clarified butter, but that’s just me being picky. It was all very tasty in any case, oil and all, and I had no true complaints.

Mac & cheese & brisket. What more could you ask for?

Mac & cheese & brisket. What more could you ask for?

The mac & cheese was unfortunately a little more pedestrian than what I had previously experienced in Portola Valley. I don’t mean to imply that I didn’t enjoy it, because I most certainly did, but it didn’t have the crispy baked edges and toasty cheese topping like mac that is truly baked. To be fair, I can’t really expect that out of a kitchen running in “mall prep” mode. The quality that Old Port manages to crank out in this setting is excellent, so they get a pass on this one.

In spite of a couple very minor setbacks, my previous rating of 35,098,552,670,980 flavor molecules for Old Port Lobster Shack stands. It’s a squarely above average eatery with truly tasty grub, now available in a crowded mall near you. Definitely pay this place a visit when you have a chance (along with the rest of Valley Fair’s new food court), but for the sake of your own sanity don’t go during peak hours.

      Pros
+ It’s in Valley Fair
+ There’s something for everyone here
+ Best “mall” food you’ll ever have
      Cons
It’s in Valley Fair

Portola Valley Lobster Shack / Old Bay Lobster Shack
Multiple locations in the Bay Area
www.oplobster.com

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When was the last time you saw an oyster bar in mall? Yeah, me either.

When was the last time you saw an oyster bar in mall? Yeah, me either.

Gott’s Roadside

meter-greatGott’s Roadside is an excellent place. For my own tastes, it’s damn near the perfect eatery. Gott’s serves burgers, shakes, salads, breakfast, and quite a number of other American-style classics. They upscale things a bit by also offering a selection of wines, and their beer list ain’t bad either. There isn’t any one thing I can put my finger on that this restaurant does better than its peers, but maybe the thing that sets Gott’s apart is its consistency. All I know is that the next time I’m in the mood for a burger, I’m coming straight back here.

” My continued fry pilfering did not go unnoticed “

After an exhausting weekend of really and truly intending to do a better job of eating healthy, my wife and I decided one little burger couldn’t hurt… right? And maybe a shake. With fries of course. Mmmm, fries. We almost tried to talk ourselves out of it, but it wasn’t long before our rumbling stomachs made us get in the car and drive to the new Gott’s Roadside that just opened near Stanford. The road to hell, it turns out, is paved with comfort food.

Great location, right on the corner of El Camino and Embarcadero.

Great location, right on the corner of El Camino and Embarcadero.

Because I think I am smarter than my GPS unit, I decided to take El Camino from the South Bay all the way up to Palo Alto. Twelve years and several months later, we arrived at our destination. The right side of my face was getting a little sunburned from being subjected to the Spousal Glare of Death coming from the passenger seat, so I exited the car quickly and made sure to be as politely expedient as possible. We went inside, placed our orders at the cash register, and sat at a booth to await our grub.

Where is everybody?

Where is everybody?

The first thing that struck me about the restaurant is how empty it was during lunchtime on a Sunday afternoon. It may well be that Town & Country Village – the shopping center where Gott’s is located – is more of a weekday kind of spot, and I certainly hope that’s all it is. On the weekends, every parking lot in Palo Alto is jam-packed with Audis and Teslas, and every business is filled to bursting, largely with snooty people in expensive yoga pants… but apparently not today. Then again, Gott’s did just open, and things might just be taking a little while to ramp up.

If you don't like po' boys, you aren't human. Sorry.

If you don’t like po’ boys, you aren’t human. Sorry.

Suddenly our pager buzzed, interrupting my scornful musings of the upper middle class, and I hurried off to grab our food. Shawn’s crispy chicken po’ boy looked delicious, and so did her side order of fries. I had decided not to order any fries for myself because I didn’t really want any, but I figured stealing a couple of hers would probably be okay. They weren’t anything special, but sometimes regular old fries are just what you want. Having just another couple fries shouldn’t be a problem, I thought, and snagged a few more. Then a few more. Unfortunately, my continued fry pilfering did not go unnoticed. In a calm and pleasant voice, Shawn said, “I thought you didn’t want any fries.” At least I think that’s what she said, because the words I heard inside my head were “If you touch my food again, I will nail your skin to the Stanford tree mascot.” Regardless of what the exact statement was, I felt it was best to focus my appetite elsewhere.

Perfectly crispy but otherwise uninspiring fries. Then again, what else do you really need?

Perfectly crispy but otherwise uninspiring fries. Then again, what else do you really need?

To my delight, I suddenly remembered that I had ordered a patty melt. Hooray! This diner classic is one of my favorites and one I am always looking for. It’s a tricky dish to get right, and all too often the bread turns into a soggy mess where it touches the hamburger patty… but not at Gott’s. The toasty rye bread was crisp and un-collapsed, the whole grain mustard was fantastic, and the grilled onions were flat-out amazing. And the cheese! I give Gott’s a huge thumbs-up for choosing Gruyere as the “melt” part of the patty melt. It was the highlight of the meal for me.

A patty melt! Surprisingly hard to find, but Gott's has them.

A patty melt! Surprisingly hard to find, but Gott’s has them.

We finished up our meal pleasantly satisfied but not overly full, and we agreed that Gott’s Roadside rocks. They somehow seem to have exactly what you want on the menu, and they do a great job of not screwing it up in the kitchen. The quality of the ingredients and preparation receive high marks, as do the speedy service, reasonable bill, and clean dining area. Gott’s may not knock you on your ass in sheer awe, but if you want a great, hiccup-free experience and some tasty grub then this is the place for you. I rate Gott’s an extremely solid 13 out of 14 stolen french fries, more than good enough to justify many repeat visits. Just don’t take El Camino to get there.

Gott’s Roadside
Multiple locations around the Bay Area
www.gotts.com

Gott's Roadside on Urbanspoon


There's a little something here for everybody.

There’s a little something here for everybody.


Standard Restaurant Review Disclaimer
The ambiguous and illogical rating system used in this review is not intended to be pinpoint accurate. It’s only there to give you a general idea of how much I like or dislike an establishment, and it also gives me an excuse to write silly things. If my rating system angers and distracts you, there’s a good chance you have control issues. I would also like to point out that I am not a highly qualified restaurant reviewer person, nor do I particularly care what that job is called. If you were under the impression that perhaps I was one of those people, consider your hopes dashed. Lastly, wow! You read the entire disclaimer. You get a gold star on your chart today.