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Luke’s Lobster claws its way to the top of Potomac St.
In just three years, Luke Holden (MSB ’07) has shaken up the seafood scene in New York and Washington, D.C., bringing a bit of fresh and affordable Maine down the coast with the widely acclaimed Luke’s Lobster.
Opening nine restaurant locations in three years, Luke’s has become an up-and-coming enterprise—an admirable feat for a 27-year-old restaurateur. But, after pursuing a location in Georgetown for nearly two years, there’s nothing quite like coming home.
“It’s really exciting, probably the most exciting opening we’ve had,” Holden said of the new Georgetown locale. “Particularly just because how much Georgetown means to me and being able to give back to the community and the University.”
Luke’s Potomac location holds a special significance for the Georgetown grad as the restaurant takes the place of the since closed Georgetown institution, the Philadelphia Pizza Company. Explaining the location’s significance in an interview with the Washington Post, Holden recalled, “To say it was the spot I used to eat at most often is an understatement.”
Since buying the property, Luke has utterly transformed the previously dilapidated building. With its whitewashed walls, hand-painted signs, and nautical décor styled with reclaimed products from Maine’s fisheries and harbors, Luke’s captures a laid-back, beach town vibe that offers a welcome contrast to the mayhem of M St. In this way, Luke’s thrives on simplicity and the niche market it has carved out of gourmet lobster rolls.
This simplicity is best echoed in Luke’s menu, which boasts only four offerings alongside Maine-brewed colas and desserts: the famed lobster roll, crab and shrimp rolls, and clam chowder, which is provided by a small family business in Maine. Though the crab and shrimp are savory and tasty, there is a reason why lobster is its signature draw. In a sandwich typically overwhelmed with mayo to preserve a less than fresh product, Luke’s lobster roll tastefully combines a fresh, flavorful crustacean in a light lemon butter sauce that is perfectly complemented by a toasted, buttery bun. Yes, all the hype is well deserved; Luke’s lobster roll is delicious.
“It’s all very traditional to Maine,” Holden said of the restaurant’s recipes. “We really want to let the fresh seafood be the star of the show.”
While the options may seem slight, what Luke’s lacks in menu selection it makes up for in quality. After growing up in a fishing family in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, with experience in all aspects of the lobster industry—from working in his dad’s processing plants to starting his own business catching lobster—Luke founded his restaurant with an emphasis on “creating the highest quality, most affordable product out there by cutting out the middle man…getting our product from sea to restaurant as quick as possible.” To that end, “that traceability, and socially conscious” foundation of his business has made sustainability another driving principle at Luke’s.
Though Holden has transformed the lobster market to ensure that the quarter-pound of lobster meat in each sandwich is both fresh and sustainably fished, the notion of affordable lobster may seem a little oxymoronic to college students unwilling to indulge in a $15 roll—$17 with chips and a drink. Nevertheless, Holden sees the Georgetown demographic as his ideal clientele. “People in Georgetown are well-educated consumers, and they want to know they are eating a fresh, high quality product.” he said. “That’s really the linchpin of out business.”
So while Georgetown students might not all trade up Wisey’s for Luke’s just yet, Holden has cornered the market with his “passion for all things Maine,” and the resulting taste of the coast is well worth the splurge.