It's a little sweeter and denser than the New England lobster. Judge for yourself when the California spiny lobster commercial season begins October 3.
From now until the season closes (March 20), area restaurants will be clawing at seafood dealers for the local catch.
Fun spiny lobster facts: This west coast species is in the non-clawed lobster group. It makes a sound like a cricket, says a California Department of Fish and Game rep in-the-know.
Most spiny lobster meat is found in the tail. (A giant one might have some edible stuff in its legs, and Tommy Gomes at Catalina Offshore Products speaks of a creamy lobster butter somewhere in the body that's "Pretty good on a crostini."
Spiny lobster figures: Last season, 750,000 pounds of spiny lobster were collared off the coast of California. Their habitat runs essentially from Lompoc, CA down into Mexico's Bahía Magdalena. Our typical catch weighs between 1.4 and 2 pounds. Fish and Game also says the price on spiny lobsters was expected to be much lower this year, because the Chinese market for the lobsters "closed a little." So we're keeping more local product.
Where to get them: Now that you're up on what these spiny lobsters are (recap: locally caught, sweet, clawless), who will lovingly prepare you a spiny feast? Ortega's in Hillcrest likes to steam and grill them with "Baja seasonings."
Mitch's Seafood is more ambitious than its hoary waterfront digs would suggest: They'll get lobsters right off the boats and kick off their Lobsterfest starting Thursday.
"We are going to have our annual celebration of this great local, sustainable (and tasty) delicacy on (Oct. 4) and continuing throughout Lobster season (or as long as the weather holds up)," their Facebook page says. Expect many spiny specials.
Of course the Fish Market is getting into the spiny game again this year. They work with local fishermen and have featured the lobster whole, Puerto Nuevo-style, basted with butter, and grilled over mesquite charcoal (served with beans, rice, tortillas and fresh salsa).
And we expect the fine chefs at Delicias, Sea Rocket Bistro and George's California Modern to try their hands at the clawless lobster, too.
Read Keli Dailey's full story and get more foodie tips on utsandiego.com