EAST HAVEN — For many people, it’s just not summer until they’ve had their first lobster roll from The Lobster Shack, formerly of Branford.
Well, then, summer is finally here.
The Lobster Shack will open Friday in its new, slightly ritzier digs in what used to be The Beachhead at 3 Cosey Beach Ave. in East Haven.
The new Lobster Shack is at the east end of Cosey Beach Avenue, just across the Farm River from the Four Beaches Condominiums.
Doors are open 11:30 a.m.-7 p.m. (8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays).
And while it’s no longer quite the “shack” it was when it first opened as a food-truck-style trailer with a few tables and chairs behind what is now the Stony Creek Brewery on the Branford River, owners Nick and Arlene Crismale have worked hard to preserve the spirit of the old place.
They also aim to at least maintain its ranking as one of the best lobster rolls in America — Number 11 on the Buzzfeed list of “Best Lobster Rolls in America,” according to a 2017 article.
“What we did was, we tried to bring the outside indoors,” Nick Crismale, a former lobsterman, said earlier this week during a walk around the new place, which they’ve spent a few months working to get in shape, in some cases replacing wall and floor framing. They also installed new plumbing and a new electrical system.
Town officials were extremely helpful throughout the process. Crismale said.
The new place — surrounded on three sides by water views from Long Island Sound, the Farm River and the Bradford Preserve salt marsh — has much larger windows than The Beachhead and outdoor decks with dining, some of it pet-friendly, on both the first and second floors.
The outdoor chairs and tables are rustic, wood-look but low-maintenance “composite.”
And just in case, given the location — which flooded during Tropical Storm Irene and Superstorm Sandy in 2011 and 2012, respectively — “the materials we used downstairs are waterproof,” Crismale said. “Whatever happens, we’ll clean it up and go back to business.”
Needless to say, he’s hoping that doesn’t happen anytime soon.
“I am very excited,” said Arlene Crismale, who was working downstairs earlier this week with her daughters, Cara and Alicia Crismale, Alicia’s wife, Lisa Crismale, and Grillman Al Sagnella. In fact, “I’m thrilled over this place! I love it!”
While at one point she thought about retirement when they failed to reach agreement on a new lease with their former landlord, Skip Birbarie of Birbarie Marine Yard, just across the Branford River from the Stony Creek Brewery, “I am so excited about this whole adventure,” she said.
“I don’t think I’m ready to retire, and deep in my heart I loved The Lobster Shack,” Arlene Crismale said.
“I hope people love this. I hope they embrace it,” she said. “I hope that realize that it’s the same shack, but just a beautiful new venue.”
The new Lobster Shack will still be self-service — with a few new items. It will employ 13 or 14 people, up from 9 in Branford, which was its home for 11 years.
The menu posted on the wall shows quarter-pound lobster rolls for $17.99, “The Whaler,” a half-pound lobster roll, for $34, and such new items as “Lobster ‘n Land” — grilled burgers with havarti cheese and lobster meat on a brioche bun for $15.99 — and lobster toasted cheese sandwiches for $13.99.
The menu also features three varieties of chowder, grilled clams, grilled chicken sandwiches, sausage and peppers, hot dogs and hamburgers.
The Crismales will be assisted in the new endeavor by Lisa Crismale, who is married to their daughter, Alicia, who also help out when she’s not teaching 8th grade English in the North Haven school system.
The idea is to eventually turn the restaurant over to Lisa Crismale to run, said Nick Crismale, who is 69. (His wife is 68.)
The restaurant, like the former location, will be open seasonally, most likely from May 1 to Nov. 1, and will be available for rentals and special events the rest of the year. For this first season, at least, it will be BYOB.
Lisa Crismale said she’s feeling some “nervous excitement,” but believes longtime patrons will love the new location.
“It’s like a hidden gem spot,” she said.